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Review: Altered State – The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House – by Matthew Collin

altered state

I’ve already read a Matthew Collin book – This is Serbia Calling – so I was chuffed when I stumbled upon this work, a history of UK dance music culture. As a DJ and Promoter for 24 years I’m quite aware of a lot of the history of dance music in the UK. This book, however, filled in many of the gaps, and was a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening read. The well known story of how acid house culture came to the UK via Ibiza’s Summer of Love where Nicky Holloway, Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold and Trevor Fung experienced the delight’s of Alfredo weaving magic on the White Isle and brought back their ideas to the London clubscene, is a familiar tale, often recited religiously in club culture publications like Mixmag. The author gives a comprehensive account of the beginnings and it was great to hear the true story and what bliss these guys must have experienced. Shoom, Spectrum and the Milk Bar launched successfully and the early adopters were soon welcoming new ‘Acid Teds’ and a hippy revival based on lush house electronica began to hit the mainstream. The book looks at London and Manchester in detail as well as exploring some of the less likelier destinations of UK club culture like Blackburn and later the countryside free party and rave movement. The study of the fracture of dance music into its various sub-genres and the movement of people that followed each branch provides much analysis and we see Warehouse parties, techno anarchists, drum and bass division and later the emergence of new genres like speed garage, grime and dubstep. The book focuses a lot on the role of narcotics in this new ascendant youth culture. The critical importance of ecstasy (MDMA) to the whole movement which eventually led to a massive increase and normalisation of drug culture across the country, with polydrug use becoming popular and clubbers and ravers exploring acid (LSD), cocaine, heroin, ketamine, amphetamines and the various different types of cannabis. It’s amazing how much anti dance music propaganda was spread by the media. Governments were scared and there was a great deal of legislation set up to counter the whole movement. Enlightened masses were a danger to the establishment and the whole culture was seen as an alternative political situation. The long-running battles between promoters, DJs and the UK Police was interesting and it was…

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Little Disco Biscuit

The best time for dance music in my opinion was the early 1990s. It was the heyday of the Rave Scene and dancefloors were packed with sky high dancing bods. The reason I like this period is not that the floors were filled with ecstasy takers, but that the music was at its peak. Dubby loops of bass and funk with a constant circular rhythm in the tents and clubs drove the E’d up crowd into a frenzy. The beats suited the experience of everyone – It was total unity and I think that over the years as the government has killed off the scene with various parliamentary acts (eg Criminal Justice Act 1994) and the total media frenzied attack on ecstasy, claiming it killed you, and the general shift towards commercialism and business, moved the music towards a different direction. Of course, post 1997 – even the dealers were selling ketamine and calling it ecstasy…It’s as if the disco biscuits disappeared overnight. I think on the music front the DJs forgot the buzz which caused the whole vibe and we saw a scattering of genres and pigeonholing and musical snobbery… Well – a couple of decades on from that and digging about on Beatport, I noticed a trend back towards the old style music. Loops of bass hooks and that driving groove have reappeared. It’s that old Italian sound which is so inspiring. Now most of it seems to be categorised as techno or deep house… but it seems the same old stuff that DJs from Laurent Garnier to Easygroove, from Carl Cox to Sasha, all used to bang out. In this mix I’ve cut up a few old tracks with the new flavours plus slipped in a special edit from a live Universe Rave that took place only a few miles away from me in Magor in South Wales in the summer of 1992… In the news recently there have been claims that Ecstasy cures cancer 100% guaranteed so maybe the pop idol generation will be ditching X-Factor, slipping on their shiny shirts and getting back to a diet of disco biscuits… Who knows? As long as good music thrives and Simon Cowell goes bankrupt I don’t mind one little bit. :::TRACKLISTING::: 1. Vangelis – Blush Response [East West] 2. Joe T Vannelli – Prelude (Scalambrin & Sicily Island Style Remix) [Le Bien Et Le Mal Recordings] 3….

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