Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Grande Illusions

GI IllustrationWe're suspending downloads of Naphta's Grande Illusions LP from September 1st 07. If you missed out, it will be available again at a later stage from The Fear website.

Welcome one and all to the wonderful world of Naphta’s ‘Grande Illusions’! A feast for the ears, a challenge to the mind, and ultimately a poison to the heart! Step this way!

So, a collection of some of my many, many unreleased drum n bass tunes… Why? you ask. Good question. Well, like unrequited loves, unreleased tunes deserve an ending, even if that ending is shot on super8 rather than on 32mm. Probably too ambitious to be fully realised by my meagre production skills, these tunes were out of place, out of their time, and thus, ultimately, out of luck. But this collection now offers them a peaceful resting place, and perhaps even the possibility of an after-life…

Here's how this works. Above the text for each track you'll see a play button, so you can preview the tunes as you read. At the bottom of this post you'll find a link to a ZIP file containing a 320kpbs MP3 version of the album, along with a printable CD booklet and disc label. So if you like what you've heard, download and enjoy!

Rise [2000] was intended for release on Bassbin, but as proved to be the case with many of the tunes I made over the next 3 years: while the ideas had merit, the execution was lacking, particularly with regards to the mix-down. By 2000 the ‘techno-isation’ of drum n bass was complete in the wake of Ed Rush & Optical’s ‘Wormhole’ and Bad Company's linear synth-driven style, so from an engineering point of view, dance-floor drum n bass had become an extremely demanding arena to operate in. Ironically, Techno itself seems to have avoided becoming hostage to the “louder-is-better” logic that eventually strangled drum n bass as a creative force, perhaps simply because it’s big enough to encompass that many more styles and variations, and thus isn’t held hostage to any one particular production aesthetic.

Ganja Time [2000] was another potential Bassbin release. I guess I was (as ever) searching for some meeting point between Jungle, dancehall and hip-hop, and spawned this mutant curiosity as a result. It still has a kinda cheeky oompah-loompah quality that I like - despite my reservations regarding the production (hearing it played off dub-plate in a club nearly put me off production for good). The breakdown actually samples a little live jam that Droid n Slug laid down for a joint project with me around this time, and it lurks there still… like a ghost in the machine. Oh yeah: I let the sax sample run on just a little too long right at the very end of the track 'cos, when appropriate, I like taking the opportunity to flick a torch across the mechanics of my tracks – to issue a reminder that this is sample-based music… I wanted to do something similar with the main piano motif in ‘Jealous’ (the second bar in the original song from which the piano loop was culled features some god-awful panpipe action) but I never pulled it off… and probably for the best. Anyway, there you go; not quite sure how well I ever communicate these little things, but I do plant 'em in there nonetheless…!

U Ready [2001] got a lot of support from L.A.’s Pieter K, who signed it to his Metaformal label just prior to its demise. It was a tough break all round but there was simply no way that a track like this was ever gonna shift any units at that time in dnb. I’m rather fond of this, despite its weak execution – it has a vaguely romantic 80s Euro/James Bond/Skiing Channel feel to it that I find appealing, despite its er... naffness.

Vendetta Remix [2001] never reached anything like completion and just a rough demo edit now survives. I had in mind a techno/hip-hop hybrid, with a sort of slave-like rhythmic driving behind it… it sounds a little like Amit-inspired ‘half-step’ drum n bass now, although that style had yet to emerge in dnb at the time.

Enter the Shamen [2001] was my first Amen track proper – I couldn‘t resist the vocal sample once I’d found it… I’d always had a notion that maybe some sort of ‘ambient/jump-up’ style was possible, and thus while inspiration in the b-line department came from the likes of vintage Dope Dragon, I cut in some melodic reprise in the form of some old skool-style strings. However, I think I eventually came to the conclusion that if you made tunes in a truly Junglistic style, then the question of which sub-genres (liquid, techy, jump-up, dubwise, neuro etc.) to fuse would no longer matter… cos the structure of Jungle proper would allow you to switch between vibes more than once within the confines of a single tune… It just took me another few years to really absorb that lesson!

Jealous [2002] was another labour of love, a tune that saw countless mixdowns and variations. This version was mastered by Düffah (, who spent some considerable time fine-tuning it to bring out the best from my original shabby mixdown… much thanks to Düffah for that, and for his enthusiastic support of this tune. I must confess to loving this track, mutant unwanted offspring of some YMCA disco-meets-Ryan O’Neal ‘70s melodrama though it sounds… I think of it as my attempt at a pop song in a Junglistic style, and while I didn’t pull off anything to rival the likes of Omni Trios’s perfect pop-tastic Jungle, I wouldn’t hesitate to get back on this vibe again in the future…

An edited version of the remix aka the
Love’s Gonna Lead The Way Mix [2002] also survives here. I re-sampled huge chunks of the original mix of the tune and then rearranged them, time-stretched 'em, pitched 'em, layered 'em up and played with the panning… all bog-standard arrangement techniques, but a good reminder to me at the time (when I was taking months to complete individual tracks) of the effectiveness of a rawer, more immediate approach to writing tunes...

Returning to the studio after a year’s absence in late 2003 / early 2004 I made immediate headway by taking a deliberately Junglistic approach to writing, and immediately laid down ‘Soundclash 1’. Nonetheless, despite my best efforts, I remained afflicted by the urge to melodic orchestration and
Hum [2004] was worked on for many months around that time… only to eventually get bogged down in endless rewrites. The mix that remains offers a suggestion of what might have been. I very much like the atmosphere suggested by this one, and while only a short edit remains, I think that its production taught me a few important things about economy in sample-based music.

Home [2004] offers improved production and thus rolls along a little more successfully than some of the previous offerings here, despite its vaguely proggy frills and meanderings. I like the naïve, playschool sorta ambience of this, and how it unfolds into something a bit darker over time… or at least, that’s how I intended it. It certainly has more than a little of what a friend calls that “Hansel & Gretel” vibe that Jungle seems to bring out in me from time to time. This tune previously saw a limited availability as a download from the Dublin Electronic Arts Festival.

My Bitter Sweetness [2005] represents one of my last efforts to make ‘drum n bass’ proper. My relationship with the drum n bass scene in general felt stretched at that point, worn-out, past its expiry date. I no longer had anything to offer it – nor it me. Very little drum n bass was being produced that grabbed me, and while interesting deviations from the accepted norms appeared very occasionally, I tended to admire them rather than feel actually moved by them. As such I guess that some dnb fans might find this track a little too… emotionally demonstrative in a current dnb context i.e. too ‘old skool’ in its intent and execution, not musically ‘mature’ enough. But the way I see it: most everyone claims to love old skool; why then rule out big hooks, or big emotive gestures when writing supposedly intelligent dance music? If ‘evolution’ in musical terms means becoming less overtly emotionally expressive, then I will happily endure the label of ‘regressive’... For me, Hardcore and Jungle demonstrated that it was possible to marry brains and soul in this music; hence I’ll always favour naivety over slickness, rawness over smoothness... emotionally expressive over emotionally restrained.

You see, the way I see it, for all its supposed technological innovations, as a form of music, drum n bass has become extraordinarily conservative, caught in a tragi-comic self-referential loop for some years now. So, ultimately I came to think that grounding new breakbeat music in Hardcore and Jungle offered opportunities to break out of that, to reinvigorate the music with the raw enthusiasm that made it sound so urgent and so vital in the first place…

Finally, another epic (in my tiny world) endlessly reworked:
Remember (Imperial Mix) [2005] doesn’t deliver like it should, but it has a place in my heart nonetheless. I loved what I called the ‘Space-Jungle’ styles of the likes of DJ Crystl, Pete Parsons and Intense back in the day, and this track was conceived of in a similar vein. Ultimately though, I think the ambient parts here probably work better than the dnb parts – an accusation that could be levelled at most of my efforts in this genre, I do believe…!

Included in the ZIP file you will find everything you need to create your own CD version of this release: 11 320kbps CBR Mp3s, a high resolution PDF document of the CD label and booklet for printing (see below for clickable previews), a low resolution JPEG preview of the front cover and a text file with full details and tracklisting. If you have any technical queries or bug reports please leave them in the comments below.

GI CD LAbelGI CD BookletAnyway, that’s it, a load off my mental back, I hope you enjoy, or at least find something to amuse in there… Big Up to Droid and The Fear cru for facilitating this exorcism. Look out for the 'Long Time Burning' album, soon come through The Fear, later this summer.



Anonymous schmee said...

nice one naphta. lovin' it so far!

3:10 PM  
Anonymous backpacker said...

cheers, Naphta! on the DL

3:55 PM  
Blogger Paul Reset said...

Nice! Grabbing now!

5:03 PM  
Blogger Jürgen said...

treasures from the deep... why did u never release all that tunes? such a great music, mate!

speak soon...

11:37 PM  
Blogger Malcolm said...

Big up Naphta...

1:06 AM  
Anonymous J Bostron said...

wow man
thats a wikkid release man
nuff respect

Jamie / JBostron

4:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice one for this, always thought your 12 on bassbin was the best thing they released. Keep up the good work, hope to see new records out soon.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous sickhead said...

big up m8 alltime killer

7:59 AM  
Blogger danny said...

nafter has me in the rafters

10:44 AM  
Anonymous esb said...

^^^above comment was me :)

10:45 AM  
Anonymous QuietRiot said...

Big up Naphta!!

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Simao said...

excellent! :)

3:18 PM  
Blogger Mully said...

Just keep releasing over the net Nafter boy. Nice community out here. Delighted its finally out. Big up

7:58 PM  
Anonymous FaltyDL said...

Nice one man! I enjoyed reading the words to each track!

10:39 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Gwarn! :D

7:23 AM  
Blogger ramadanman said...

nice one! on the download

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent stuff old bean!

11:41 PM  
Anonymous kidkut said...


11:42 PM  
Blogger Jonny said...

Nafta that's fricken awesome. Thanks.

4:23 PM  
Blogger dan said...

cheers for this


2:30 PM  
Blogger János said...

Thanks for these tunes, they're great!
Kacsa / Hungary

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Righteous sounds.

That track Jealous.....phucking sweet as.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous DJ Finny said...

Very nice naphta, will play these!

3:45 PM  
Blogger William said...

This post has been removed by the author.

9:14 PM  
Blogger William said...

The album downloads are not working - shame I was looking forward to it!

To you think you could email if you get them up again?

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where zip? help

10:38 PM  
Blogger droid said...

Hi Guys. Sorry its not available right now. Check later this month and it may be back up (at Naphta's discretion).

7:44 PM  
Anonymous lovenaphta said...

cannot find anywhere a link for an album.

could you post a link to it please to my e-mail: w00ten [/at/] hotmail [/dot/] com


3:32 PM  
Blogger droid said...

Sorry fella. Its not available anymore. Try asking

4:24 PM  

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