It’s hard to think of many electronic-dance styles more purely enjoyable than UK garage.
Originally, this strain—R&B-based, heavy on glossy electric pianos, stuttering vocal cut-ups, and a bubbly, nouveau riche feel—was termed “2-step garage.” Back when the style first frothed forth from London clubs and pirate radio in the late 90s, the term “garage” confused enough rock-deafened Americans to warrant a modifier—wouldn’t want anyone confusing the skipping syncopations of British producers with guitar-bass-drums-bashing Yanks, after all. (And it wasn’t just Americans—remember, the Strokes and the White Stripes broke in London well before their native land caught on.)
The emergence of Disclosure in 2012 with the singles and remixes that preceded their first album, Settle, a year later, meant that “garage” (pronounce it like the Brits: garridge) would have a new life. Besides, by then “rock” had been dead in the water for . . . let’s not even count. So who needed another modifier besides the obvious?
One of the key production teams behind clubland garage’s '90s rise was Artful Dodger, the Southhampton team of Mark Hill and Pete Devereux, who released their big hit, “Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta),” on November 26, 1999; two weeks later, on December 11, it debuted on the UK charts at number two. And for good reason—the track is nigh irresistible, the peppery snares and piping organ underpinning then-neophyte vocalist Craig David’s laid-back croon. David went on to a career as a British R&B singer; Hill and Devereux went their own ways in 2001. Now the latter pair have rejoined as Original Dodger.
For their FACT Mix 609 (July 17, 2017), as Hill and Devereux told the London web-mag, they’ve sewn together “a bit of an Original Dodger timeline.” The rest of us can call it a “Dummies’ Guide to UK Garage . . . Thank God.”
That means it opens with an American—“Deep Inside” by Hardrive, a pseudonym of Masters at Work’s Little Louie Vega—since “garage” itself came from vocal-driven East Coast house music, named for legendary NYC club the Paradise Garage. Then it takes a brisk gallop through the music’s '90s development with a dozen gems (yes, brisk; there are over 30 tracks in 63 minutes here), followed by several Artful Dodger greatest hits, most certainly including “Re-Rewind,” and a passel of more recent tracks, including one by Original Dodger (“Millionaire”) and, hey, another by Disclosure.
The limits of the UK garage template are manifest here. What’s attractive about the set isn’t its sense of progression, per se, since Original Dodger could have reversed the tracklist and the set would have sounded every bit as suave. It’s the sense that the music’s purveyors found the right formula—and its successors have filled in the blanks with real style.
Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set—often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily—and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.