Since 2015 Billy "Daniel" Bunter has been documenting the early days of rave through his successful run of books published on his Music Mondays imprint. In December last year, alongside fellow producer Sanxion, we were treated to the musical equivalent - buckle up for an aural history of rave music...
"88 to 94" is a concept album for the rave generation, charting the rise of the rave scene, from the squelchy beginnings of acid house right up to the point where the scene split in two forming drum & bass and happy hardcore. As per the album title each track takes it year by year making it as much a history lesson in the evolution of rave as it does a great album in it's own right. Track titles such as "89 Warehouse", "92 Breakbeat Piano" and "94 Prototype D&B" make the inspiration for each tune perfectly clear, and the wealth of experience held by Bunter and Sanxion really shines through.
The opening track, "88 Acid", begins with a number of soundbites and quotes from the archives - a frightened headline-reading public describing the little they know of the burgeoning youth movement. A news reader opens the album informing the audience that "some newspapers have called acid house music a sinister and evil cult which lures young people into drug taking..." As the many ill-informed opinions of little Britain come to a close, the bubbling 303 kicks in to remind us how this all started. Little did they know that this "sinister and evil cult" would go on to transform the face of modern music, from the underground to the mainstream. "88 Acid" maintains all the hypnotic elements that made acid house such compulsive listening and it's a perfect album opener.
The album progresses through the varied sounds of early rave but does more than just acknowledge the changes over time - it's also smart enough to chronicle the geographical differences within the scene. For example, 1990 is represented here in the form of "90 Bleeps & Bass (North)" (a take on the northern sounds produced by artists like LFO) and "90 Bleeps & Bass (South)" (representing the more London-centric sound of the time).
It's also worth noting that the rave sound of '91 is also given the two-track treatment to acknowledge the differences in sound between the UK and the rest of Europe (particularly Belgium) at the time. It's this attention to detail that really elevates the album beyond it's premise, and is only possible due to the combined experience and technical wisdom of the artists behind it.
As the album progresses you get to see the divisions in the scene start to develop, something I remember well around 1993. A darker sound started to creep in, sowing the seeds for drum & bass to prosper. "93 Darkside" is one of my favourite tunes on the album and is reminiscent of the sounds of Tango & Ratty and Night Stalker. The '94 tunes represent the biggest split of the time - drum & bass and happy hardcore - and each captures it's respective sound perfectly.
The album is still available as a triple-pack vinyl release and well worth adding to your collection. On top of the vinyl release you also get the whole album as a digital download, a Billy "Daniel" Bunter mix CD and a limited edition copy of the album's artwork signed by the artists.
It's a limited edition bundle so do yourself a favour and grab yourself a copy. Whether you're an original raver or you simply have an interest in dance music history, "88 to 94" encapsulates the spirit of the best days of rave and is must-have album.