Way back in October 2016 I first became aware of a forthcoming album from UK rave pioneers Ratpack. Billy "Daniel" Bunter dropped one of the new tracks in a Music Mondays session on Kool FM and from what I'd heard I definitely wanted more. And so I waited... and waited. And in the new year I started to think the album might not materialize...
But, as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait! And wait I certainly did, and good it certainly is. In fact, it's VERY good.
A 19 track behemoth of an album, clocking in at over 90 minutes of music, (co)LabRats delivers on many levels. For original fans of the old skool you'll be delighted to see the inclusion of 2017 remixes of "Searching For My Rizla", "Captain Of The Ship", and "Clipper". However, as much as these tracks remain huge anthems even today, this isn't an album designed to cash in on the nostalgia for the early 90's. Elements of breakbeat, house, reggae, techno, acid and garage all feature in this mature and tightly produced album from one of the original and best rave PA's.
The collaborations featured on the album are testament to the reputation of RatPack as trailblazers of the 90's rave scene. MC Skibadee, Ragga Twins, Baby D, Slipmatt, The Wideboys, Freestylers, Billy Daniel Bunter, Shut Up And Dance, and King Yoof all contribute to it's rich and varied sound.
RatPack consists of Lipmaster Mark (DJ) and Evenson Allen (MC), a duo that have stuck together since the mid eighties, and when listening to this album I find it hard not to reflect on that shared history. I truly hope that the time spent in production was as much fun as the final product, and having had the good fortune of seeing these guys perform live, it's hard to imagine otherwise. Their shared love of music and the rave scene is always evident and infectious whenever they're together, and that vibe really comes across in (co)LabRats. Just listen to Evenson's vocals on the beautiful, summer-tinged drum and bass of "Hot 4 U" and I defy you not to sing along with a smile on your face.
In terms of delivering on the dancefloor, the album drops more bangers than a butter-fingered butcher (try saying that after a few pints). The hard-edged acid-piano stabs and driving kick drums of "Carry On" are a real treat (just one question - is Mark delivering the beatbox on this track? He's not called Lipmaster for nothing you know!), and the first single from the album - Hands of Time" is a breakbeat / garage vocal track that will get any dancefloor jumping (see the video below). Of course you also have the remixed '90s classics (the Clipper remix in particular is outstanding) which will never lose their appeal.
With 17 tracks I won't be going into each and every one but particular mention has to go to the following:
I've had (co)LabRats pretty much on repeat for the last week and consider it a solid album from two guys on top of their game. This album, alongside the recently released "Energy Flows" from Liquid, are perfect examples of how some artists from the "old skool" days are still firing on all cylinders and producing material that will appeal to audiences old and new.
It's an exciting time for us original ravers, as something of a renaissance seems to be taking place (just look at recent album/book projects from RatPack, Liquid, Mark Archer, Billy "Daniel" Bunter and Slipmatt" for further proof).
Long may this run of great new music from the originators of the rave scene continue. In the case of (co)LabRats the bar has been set very high - I just hope it won't take a further 30 years for the follow up!