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Groove Chronicles: Civilization and its Discos – Part 2 (2002)

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Kodwo Eshun
London – Hyperdub HQ

Originally published in 2002

If Wookie is a newcomer to the Church of What’s Happening then Groove Chronicles is one of its grey eminences. At 30, Groove Chronicles aka Noodles aka Stephen Jude is a house music veteran, something audible in his mix for the latest Black Market Presents 2 Step Volume 2 compilation.

It’s full of delicious segues-the turbocharged b-line of Zed Bias’ Neighbourhood with the Oliver sampling lovestruck vocalism of T-Tree featuring Guess’ Anything, the infectious videogame cyberskank of Reservoir Dogs’ Death Moves with the hyperglottal robolust of Capital T featuring Rhalia’s Ooh Do You Want Me.

Track down his 12’s and it soon becomes audible that there’s at least at least 2 GC production styles. First there’s his slow style- call it glide-by garage- exemplified by his 1997 Johnny Gill’s Angel Body remix and his ‘minimal, 4 to the floor, jazzy’ mix of Conor Reeves’ Read my Mind.

It’s steady state 120 bpm tempo, heavy drum sounds and lush pads that gives these tracks an even temperature closer to Nervous Track/Mind Fluid style Masters At Work than Dem 2. Here keyboard stabs and processed beats trade roles, doubling the other until synths become rhythmelodies and beats become texturhythms

Then there’s the reverse style-monsters from the lowest end like 1999 and the sinisterly titled Black Puppet. 1999 is discomfiting- voices pared back to murmurs, a terse male voice barking ‘Represent’, all the song scraped away to make room for skeletal breakbeats and bass like a bad dream.

‘Beat wise,’ Jude says proudly, ‘1999 really turned it around with that stripped down sound. When I played it at Brixton, Danny Foster, the Underground Solution producer, wanted to know why the track was so angry. He said ‘This is nasty. What`s this about ?’

A good question. Like the ambience of The Blair Witch Project or the disenchanting mood of Company Flow, Groove Chronicles are funcrushers double plus, fired up by a desire to spoil the 2 Step Party for everyone. Black Puppet is more implosive still, cyberragga at it’s most sullen, punctuated by a dread droidmuttering ‘Watch this’ while an inhuman voice hisses ‘Peace’ like a threat.

Unlike the boisterous swagger of Dee Kline et al, Black Puppet is a total bummer, an out and out downer dead set on demoralising the world. It’s the difference between aggro and autism and it’s worlds away from chart smashes like B15 Project and Sweet Female Attitude. Throughout 1999, Groove Chronicles systematically infiltrated Bad Company style bad vibes into the House of 2 Step.

The evil b-lines and maleovelent mood that UK garage recoiled from in ’96 and ’97 had reemerged, this time inside the scene, announcing a discontent with 2 Step protocol that has bloomed into this years strain of gangsta/hardcore garage.

Until late ’99,Groove Chronicles functioned as a duo of producer Steven Jude and engineer Lewis Beedle, a collaboration which ended acrimoniously in a dispute over money. The two don’t talk anymore. Still, neither appears to have been even slightly derailed by the split.

Lewis now records as El B and runs the Ghost Trax label. Check out the bruising sweetness of When I fall in Love and his loveless mix of 702’s sparkling vocoderized R’n’B gem You Don’t Know. Both tracks feature acrid basstones more akin to RAM Trilogy 12s than 2 steppers.

Noodles maintains a punishing schedule: running the labels D.P. R. Records and Unknown Plastic, recording as Groove Chronicles and Masterplan, collaborating with Sunship as Future Funk Vol 2 remixing Benjamin ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ Diamond`s “In Your Arms” while somehow squeezing in dj stints at Buddha Lounge in Croydon, World Dance in Romford, Littin Tree in Wandsworth, Camouflage at the Complex in Islington, and the Open in Charing Cross. As if all this isn’t enough, he’s just returned from the Spot Club in Ayia Napa with Pure Silk and Experience at Ibiza with Twice as Nice.

First and foremost though, Jude defines himself as a ‘shop person’, as someone who turns you on to tracks you never knew you wanted. ‘By selling a DJ music,’ he explains’ I actually influence them to make music.’ Now he´s turned 30, he says he’s retiring from selling tracks, passing the reins to younger hands to concentrate on djing and production.

Jude’s 15 year across the counter culture career effectively encapsulates London`s still unwritten record shop history. The man’s a walking catalogue of a decade of digital dance music-and he remembers most of the djs he’s met and nearly all the parties he’s played

Although he’s a quintessential insider from specialist hell, Noodles is far from the smug attitudes of that world. He’s an impurist, eager to mix Theo Parrish with Artful Dodger, Victor Duplaix with Monsta Boy featuring Denzie. He tells me how people laughed at him in 99 for playing It’s Not Alright (But it’s OK) at Cookies n’ Cream. He tells the story proudly. And something tells me Noodles will always laugh last and longest . . .

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Copyright © Hyperdub 2002 – Reprinted with permission.

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