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A magical dream...
on 17 May 2001
Perhaps one of the most important techno albums of all-time.
Despite having disappeared into relative obscurity within recent years, today's UK club scene would be very different without 808 State's influence. We're now a couple of generations removed from the "Madchester" explosion and the fledgling Ibiza pilgrimages of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but 808 State's influence remains.
As their peers continued to churn out repetitive, uninspiring Latino house music, 808 State refined their innovative blend of acid house, Detroit techno, ambient, jazz, hip-hop, disco and rock. Despite a couple of low-key (but nevertheless groundbreaking) albums on Creed Records and a devoted following in their native Manchester, it wasn't until the awesome, gorgeously melodic and uplifting "Pacific State" hit the shores of Ibiza that people began to sit up and take notice. Not least 80s uber-producer Trevorn Horn, who immediately signed them to his cult ZTT Records label.
"Ninety" succeeded on two levels. Not only did it have the power to crowd out the dancefloors, but it was also something you could chill out to on your stereo at home. Whilst this duality is common (if not essential) in this day and age, it was a very rare thing back in 1989.
Part of 808 State's success lay in the diversity of experience of each of the group's members. Graham Massey was an experienced jazz musician and electronic experimentalist, Martin Price ran his own record shop, whilst Andrew Barker and Darren Partington were two fresh-faced young DJs who gigged endlessly around Manchester. Despite having left the band a few years previously, Gerald Simpson's appreciation of funk and soul also left its mark upon 808 State.
To this day, "Ninety" remains a refreshing, exciting slice of progressive dance. After all, it was considerably ahead of its time upon its initial release in 1989. From the sparkling album opener "Magical Dream" (a casual pro-'E' anthem), through the dirty jazz-funk of "Ancodia", the iconic "Pacific" and blissed-out ambience of "Sunrise", "Ninety" pretty much maps out the evolution of British dance music right through to the mid-1990s.
Anyone out there interested in exploring the formative years of British progressive dance should pick this album up as a matter of course. Then check out S'Express's "Original Soundtrack", Bomb the Bass's "Uncharted Territory", LFO's "Frequencies", Orbital's "Green Album", Orb's "Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld" and Future Sound of London's "Accelerator". To listen to them is to experience history in the making.