I’m not—and have really never been—much of an electronic dance music fan. I just can’t listen to it at home and these days I’m too old for nightclubs. I’m not putting it down, it’s just not my bag, man.
However, one EDM group that I was wild about back in the day (when they were still calling it “techno”) was the Grid, the partnership between David Ball (formerly of Soft Cell) and Richard Norris. There was always something poptastic and earworm-catchy about their (primarily) instrumental formula, which was more or less to take galloping Goa trance beats and overlay them with exotic vocals, opera singers, Timothy Leary, flamenco guitars, gospel choirs, esoteric pop culture samples and even a lead banjo. Along the way they’ve collaborated with Robert Fripp, Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera, Yello’s Dieter Meier, Henry Cow’s Dagmar Krause and noted songwriter/producer Chris Braide (Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Lana Del Rey, the new Marc Almond album, etc).
Although they were never that well-known Stateside, the Grid had several hit albums and singles in England, Europe, Asia and Australia in the early to mid-90s. One of their singles, “Swamp Thing,” sold over a million records, rare for an instrumental number. They went on a long term hiatus in 1996, a stretch broken by a stellar, but little noticed album called Doppelgänger in 2008.
The pair first joined forces while Norris was collaborating with Genesis P-Orridge on Jack the Tab: Acid Tablets Volume One, a fake “acid house” compilation album that was released in 1988 and had a fair amount of influence as to where rave culture would go for the next few years. It yielded the dancefloor hit “Meet Every Situation Head On” that was credited to Norris’s “R.Noise” pseudonym and released as a 12” single under the name M.E.S.H.
That still sounds fucking amazing some 25 plus years later, does it not?
Here’s “Swamp Thing” with Roger Dinsdale on banjo. I could listen to this on repeat for hours on end (and often do):
“Crystal Clear” was chosen by Homeland actor Damian Lewis for one of his Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio recently:
“Floatation” from 1990:
“A Beat Called Love”:
2008’s “Pleasure Control”: