GOLDIE Timeless (FFRR)
Now assured of his place in rock histories as the man who took jungle to the masses, the top ten and out on tour (and also the man who dated Bjork and introduced the concept of dental jewellery, if these things matter), Goldies debut album is a daunting prospect, even in its short double vinyl version (which clocks in at a mere 56 minutes) - like, how many breakbeats can the human ear take, especially if theyre all by the same person?
Fortunately, amidst its frenetic rattly drum tracks that sound like a warehouseful of demonic Duracell bunnies, theres real variety: the beats may provide the backbone, but its what Goldie does with them that makes the tunes, whether its swirling dub effects and sparse samples ("Saint Angel"), swooning vocalising ("You & Me") or the compellingly off-kilter loops that power "This Is A Bad". The man with the Midas teeth has proved that jungle can last an entire album: how about a whole career?
GOLDIE Saturnz Return (ffrr)
Having taken jungle/drum n bass/mad breakbeat music/call it what you want to the masses with his 1995 debut album "Timeless", "Saturnz Return" seems to be an attempt to bring the masses back to this, essentially limited, genre. The double CD opens with an hour long autobiographical experiment in orchestral drum n bass, "Mother". This track is, perhaps thankfully, excluded from the vinyl version, but it still weighs in pretty heavily, spanning eight 45rpm sides.
Initial impressions are not good. The first three sides, which contain "Ill Be There For You" (written for an imprisoned friend, apparently), "Chico - Death Of A Rock Star" and "Fury - The Origin" (which contains samples of his debut albums "This Is A Bad") seem clanging and one-dimensional, furious but unable to articulate their rage; even the manic guitar stabs throughout "Chico" seem cliched.
When side four opens with Diane Charlemagnes vocals bobbing atop some scorched, desolate Miles Davis-esque trumpet lines (a la Alex Reeces "Pulp Fiction") the clouds begin to lift. Like many post acid-house attempts to weld vocals to dance music the lyrics to "Crystal Clear" may border on the meaningless but youre so grateful for something warm and human sounding in contrast to the pummelling of the first three tracks youre prepared to forgive the gold-toothed one for not squaring up to Paul Simon or Donald Fagen in the poetry stakes.
The weather stays fair for "Demonz", which sounds like someone clearing up a recently shattered bus stop to a jerky breakbeat accompaniment - unlikely but enjoyable. Side six contains the big singles, "Digital", featuring the currently renascent KRS-1 (it was released within weeks of the rappers superb Blondie-rifling "Step Into The World" single), good, but not great compared to what follows. "Temper Temper" is the obligatory Noel Gallagher collaboration, which provides further evidence that the guitarist should sack that pub-rock rabble he hangs around with and go make blistering dance tunes like he used to (allegedly). The formula is simple: Goldie sings (for the first time ever!), except that in practice his vocalising amounts to little more than screaming the title hoarsely over and over again, whilst Gallagher Sr conjures up all kind of metallic mayhem just like he did on the Brothers Chemicals "Setting Sun". A blistering track, it convinced me that the album was a must-have.
Then the cacophony ceases, and were presented with the bizarre concept of a track on a drum n bass album that features neither drums nor bass. "Letter Of Fate", mysteriously credited to "Goldies inner soul", features him singing (again!) what sounds like a suicide note over an Enoesque ambient backdrop. Then, strangeness of strangenesses, the oldest junglist on the block, one David Bowie, turns up to do not dissimilar things on a tune entitled "Truth". Groovy. Finally all is sweetness, light and breakbeats again for the lengthy closer "Dragonfly", which is surely how ambient jungle would sound if it were ever done properly, all rattling drum machines and rainbows of sound.
When I reviewed Goldies debut album I wondered how, having created probably the most successful drum n bass album ever, hed manage to progress in a form which seemed to have as much longevity in prospect as punk. "Saturnz Return" answers that question with some authority: Goldie isnt making drum n bass music anymore - well, not just drum n bass. Hes bringing in elements of jazz, soul, ambience, heavy metal, rap, bringing music into a genre that historically is more concerned with rhythms than melodies. Its a bold move thatll probably get him lumped into the big bucket marked "new prog" by his detractors (yknow, like Radiohead are new prog...) but one that works for this listener. And you never know, if not now then maybe a few albums into the future, it might work for you too.
GOLDIE Ring Of Saturn (ffrr)
"Ring Of Saturn" is, I suspect, a parenthetical (as Beck would have it) mini-album designed to expand/explain some of the themes of Goldies "Saturnz Returnz" opus, released earlier last year. (The term mini-album presumably reflects that fact that "Ring Of Saturn" occupies a mere six sides of 45rpm vinyl, as opposed to "Saturnz Returnz"s eight.) Unfortunately it ditches the major plus point of "Saturnz Returnz" the unlikely collaborations with musicians such as Noel Gallagher and David Bowie - before ramming the specialist nature of this release home with a brace of remixes of two of the tracks present ("Mother", thankfully both shorter than the hour long version that appeared on CD copies of "Saturnz Returnz", and covers of Bobby Caldwells "What You Wont Do For Love"). None of the other three new tracks approach the range, colour and vibrancy of the best parts of "Saturnz Returnz", being for the most part yer standard Goldie take on drum and bass and nothing revelatory. Unfortunately, as its title may suggest, "Ring Of Saturn" spends much of its time running around in circles.