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Bizzy B
Retrospective Noel Gardner , July 13th, 2009 09:23

Bizzy B's music captured the arrow's arc as it passed between the purist-decried dystopia of pitched-up rave and the tuff-as-old-boots, ruff-as-new-sandpaper darkside that housed the earliest, most bloodclotted jungle. There are certainly better known and more successful producers from the early 90s scene, but none who could, in the space of one tune - shit, the space of a few bars - explicate the links in the chain. These were the links that people like Goldie would go out of their way to pretend were never there - understandable that he might get a touch prickly at people talking about his 20-minute mix of 'Inner City Life' in the same breath as something involving the theme from an 80s cartoon and a piano at +16. But half of these tracks were actually made by skilled and respected producers, and the ones that weren't at least honoured the lovable Arfur Daley DIY chancer spirit that British dance has thrived on post-acid house.

Anyhow, Brian 'Bizzy B' Johnson. Expressing scant interest in either raising a chuckle or profiting off gangsta culture (unless a repeated "bad bwoy!" sample counts), in the first half of the 1990s he banged out vinyl at a prodigious rate. Often released through his own Brain imprint, this cuts appeared with a zeal and stardom-dodging modesty that made him a kind of producers' producer. Retrospective features 14 such tracks, mostly solo but also including hookups with Peshay, Pugwash and Equinox, who's now his labelmate on Planet Mu. Completists should also note that the presence of two unreleased pieces, 'Rubadub Style' and the mental, downward-spiral locked groove of '10 Inch VIP'.

'Twisted Mentazm''s title betrays the formative nature of jungle at the time ('93). The 'mentasm' or 'hoover' was the name for an especially fierce and atonal synth riff associated with a '91 track of that name, by New York techno prince Joey Beltram. Employed thereafter in a glut of rave and jungle jams, a few years of purported evolution later one would find almost no crossover of influence between techno and drum'n'bass. Retrospective, though, is soaked in this two way traffic, and buzzes with possibility. 'Temptation' switches between flashes of the plaintive ambient jungle emerging at the time and some of the most fucked percussion you ever heard - more industrial than industrial, literally sounding like deadline time in the steel mill.

If you're lucky enough to remember, rather than having to imagine, what the fuck it was like when 'Take A Deep Breath' collapsed in on itself 150 seconds in over a limit-pushed system in a room with weedsmoke substituting for light... well, do your worst, lord it over us. It is probably true that while folks can still assemble in a sweaty room and get a beatdown through sound at the hands of one of jungle's children - breakcore or dubstep for example - the rhythm of the blows are never going to feel that new and original again. Still: given that labels like Planet Mu are keeping the work of Bizzy (and contemporaries like Remarc, among others) in print for a new generation, plenty of DJs (including the two just listed) are rinsing the classics in the UK most weekends, and the DNA twist of evolution has produced plenty of killer music using jungle as a jumpoff, you'd have to be pretty myopic to just sit there and wish it was 15 years ago. You'll get your Tory government soon enough, laddy.

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