16. Rockers Hi-Fi – ‘Rockers to Rockers’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Breakbeat, Downtempo, House | Tags: | No Comments »

Rockers Hi-Fi - 'Rockers to Rockers' 2

Rockers Hi-Fi * Rockers to Rockers * 1995 * Different Drummer / Island Records

Glyn Bush and Dick Whittingham hailed from Birmingham, England. Along with MC Farda P., they took a similar tack as Leftfield, fusing hip hop, house and dub reggae into a soulful blend of dance music. Rockers Hi-Fi, who were originally Original Rockers — rockers of the reggae variety, not rock ‘n’ roll — also took a big page from Afro-Caribbean music, striking a more hazy, kick-back vibe than their edgier peers.

Rockers to Rockers was their call to arms for a reclined generation. It was about grooving in a sunny sandbox and chilling in an island shack more than city fashions, fast cars or nightclubs. But the gents behind this Birmingham blunt-itude were no slackers either. Behind their garage sensibilities were solid rhythm rides, inventive drum patterns, bees and beats that put wings on words and sweet melodies lasting far out into the fading echoes.

Adding to Rockers Hi-Fi’s street cred was their own label, Different Drummer, which would later sponsor serious talents like Noiseshaper and Appaloosa. None of this would save their brilliant first album from a promotional letdown at Island Records. But it attests to their unique genius and underground initiative all the same.

Theirs is a story of survivability after all, inspired by the West Indian music scene of cold Birmingham. The blues credo of finding dignity and comfort amid long suffering is another key touchstone on Rockers to Rockers, where laidback raps on ‘What a Life!’ and soul singing on ‘D.T.I. (Don’t Stop the Music)’ urge the listener to look on the positive side and keep the community-building joy of music close to heart.

The album embarks with a bold heaping of Johnny Osbourne and The Scientist on ‘Push Push.’ Like a hurricane, it whips the listener inside winding columns of sub-bass and stabbing steel piano. It’s at once a bellicose and soothing introduction, its buzz-saw synth pulling you faster and faster into a calypso freak-out. ‘Rockers to Rockers’ follows with a quaking bass line and punching drums, its call-and-response answered by an elastic frequency bending like an ocean waterline while ‘More and More’ samples a black preacher from the Deep South, tying the music to another folkways blueprint, giving the electronic fervor an anchored gospel.

‘Round Reversion’ jumps Rockers into a higher gear, choo-choo-ing and chugging with a slick house beat and drum rattles, speeding through splashes and tunnels of roomy reverb. Closer ‘Seven Shades of Dub’ comes on from a distance with a deceptive chill, entrancing with its stepping keys and skanking syncopation before dropping out the floor with rumbling bass that begs for fancy footwork.

But the real golden dragon here is ‘Stoned (Manali Cream Mix),’ a dance floor classic that bombards the brain with gentle diving pings, its interlocking lines of delirious marimba and bass notes spinning the listener inside a reggae yellow submarine. Just as steam builds to a breaking point, a rocking beat knocks the knees while high-hats spit overhead to fever the mind, propelling the feet to glorious new heights as bells and whistles shadowbox the air. It’s light and heavy, keen and serene, moving the body and the spirit in all the right ways.

Rockers to Rockers would be Rockers Hi-Fi’s finest hour before they languished in major label hell. Subsequent albums failed to muster the same creative spark. The push for radio-friendly singles undermined their kinetic knack. Instead Rockers Hi-Fi would continue their impact behind DJ decks, as remixers (e.g. Music Is Immortal) and with their independent label.

As Whittingham and Bush quoted in the liner notes, where Different Drummer got its name, Henry David Thoreau wrote:

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

Indeed, for electronica lovers who ever falter or stumble, Rockers to Rockers is always there to remind us: Keep on stepping, keep on rocking.

Tracks:
1. Push Push
2. Rockers to Rockers (come again)
3. What A Life!
4. More and More (the hidden persuader)
5. D.T.I. (don’t stop the music)
6. Round Reversion
7. Dick from Outaspace
8. Look for a Spark
9. Stoned (Manali Cream Mix)
10. Seven Shades of Dub



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