By 2001, Dave Jones had grown tired of being Zed Bias. Following the runaway success of his rambunctious 1999 UKG anthem “Neighbourhood”, he was being hailed as some kind of saviour for two-step garage. Given that UK garage had largely fallen out of favour with clubbers and DJs, bar certain London venues and the odd oupost in northern England, he felt like he was going backwards, fast.
In an interview with the now long-gone dance music magazine IDJ, Jones had vented his spleen, explaining that it wasn’t garage that inspired him any more, but rather broken beat and jazz. He felt shackled not only by the garage scene, but also by monster of his own creation.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see why Jones was frustrated. While Horsepower Productions had begun the process of twisting garage into new forms with their first few releases on Tempa, they had yet to formulate what would become known as dubstep. Their earliest releases still followed a strict garage template, even if they were far more musically adventurous than the slick, organ-heavy two-step that passed as garage at the time.
Jones’ answer was to create a new pseudonym with which he could let his hair down. These days, the name Maddslinky conjures up certain connotations – slick, jazz influenced bass music for polite dinner parties, perhaps – but it wasn’t always this way. Jones’ first few Maddslinky releases were, if anything, resolutely dark. While not particularly grimy by today’s standards, there was a creepy, claustrophobic feel that was certainly at odds with the prevailing mood of the time.
The first Maddslinky 12”, the double A-Side of “Dark Swing” and “Future Chicano”, set the tone. Surprisingly released by the pleasingly eclectic but decidedly hit-and-miss Sirkus imprint (run by the brother of the man who launched the nu-jazz/broken beat stable Laws Of Motion), it caused little more than slight ripples on its 2001 release, but has impressively stood the test of time.
“Dark Swing” was built around spooky, horror-chic chords, fluid but sturdy beats – two-step with a hint of jazz swing and a sly wink towards the West London broken beat scene – and sparring basslines. One of these, a rumbling, foreboding sub, is pure UKG. The other, a tactile synth line influenced by ‘80s electrofunk, came straight out of the leftfield. Throw in some cut-up guitar stabs and murky spoken word samples, and that’s pretty much it; a picture of moody simplicity, with the funk-fuelled swing of bruk.
“Future Chicano” was similarly spooky, but stuck more rigidly to Jones’ two-step upbringing. Less claustrophobic, it was nevertheless smothered in stoned paranoia. With its off-key string stabs, delay-laden noises and angular jazz shuffle, it was the perfect companion-piece to the revelatory A Side. Even now, it still resonates as a forward-thinking example of experimental garage. Arguably, the inevitable follow-up – the pre-dubstep dark roller “Reject” – was even more revolutionary, but by then the formula had been set. For that reason alone, “Dark Swing”/”Future Chicano” should be essential listening.
Title: Dark Swing/Future Chicano
A. Dark Swing
AA. Future Chicano