Two The Hardway / Who Said? / Betonska Records 

Amsterdam-based Betonska Records have an amazing archival release from Manchester duo, Two The Hardway. I say duo, but on the Who Said? E.P. Phil Kirby and Martin “Sugar” Merchant are joined by 808 State`s Graham Massey, and Howard Walmsley – both of whom were in Kirby`s former band, Biting Tongues. Kirby was also in Yargo, and went on to work closely with Mr. Scruff, while Merchant later fronted Audioweb – who would be remixed in a shot for stardom by a whole host of names, including Andrew Weatherall. 

The title track here is a cracking, skanking, collage of sampled cartoon sound effects – via Mikey Dread`s African AnthemDouble Dee & Steinski steals, and tumbling techno tones / bleeps, all topped off by a territorial toast. There are echoes of Massey and 808 State`s ace Ancodia. 

Hot Number takes the tempo right up, to something like 130 BPM, and showcases the jive of Walmsley`s jazzy sax. With energy to spare, the tune fits / sets the template for proto-hardcore / jungle, and spins stylistically alongside 12s by contemporaries Smith & Mighty, and Darren “Dee Patten” McDonald.

The real beauty for me, though, is Blossom Street Dub – a downbeat diamond that`s a ringer for J. Saul Kane`s Depth Charge project. Amidst the scratching, dubwise thunder, and this little melodic shamisen-like lick, the song surfs on, is characterized by, super familiar hypnotic sonar blips. These are the same blips borrowed – from Kane? – by Balearic classics such as History’s Africa and Paul Oakenfold`s remix of Happy Mondays` Wrote For Luck, and as such instantly – in this old fella, at least – induce flashbacks of E`d up reverie / revelry. 

Two The Hardway`s Who Said? is out now, on Betonska Records.

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