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Nov 14

ATB – “9PM (Til I Come)”

Popular93 comments • 3,843 views

#829, 3rd July 1999

atb The story of breathy trance* hit “9PM (Til I Come)” begins with producer ATB bringing his girlfriend to his studio to check out his instruments. And it continues with him ignoring her and working on an awesome guitar sound until he looked at his watch three hours later and named the track. The vocals he ported in afterwards, from a TV show he was watching. The girlfriend’s response is unrecorded. (Why did he even mention her in the first place, you might ask. I’m not sure. A demonstration of the monkish dedication of the true dance auteur, perhaps?)

At any rate this origin story puts the emphasis firmly on that pitched-up guitar tone – a kind of scrubbed-chrome take on the wah-wah – and so did ATB’s immediate follow-ups. There’s a really horrible version of Adamski’s “Killer”, for instance, which he ‘makes his own’ simply by dropping that noise all over it. On “9PM” it works better – just as well, since it dominates the track. There’s a sinuosity and bounce to it that makes for a strong hook, and its clean sound compliments the huskier voice parts. Of all the dance records we’ve met – even things as minimal as “Flat Beat” – “9PM” feels most purely for the club, noises designed to cut through the acoustics of a large crowded space like light through dry ice, not linger in a listener’s mind. There’s a confidence in the power of a single sound to carry a record here, one which speaks to how dominant big, expansive trance (and its ultra-high-paid celebrity DJs) had become in European, and global, club culture.

That’s not all “9PM” has going on, though. There’s also the breakdown – an unremarkable one to my ears, of a piece with tens of other big-room dance breakdowns around at the time. But it’s the first showing on Popular of a sound that will eventually return in conquering, tyrannous form: the gradually building keyboard marches so overused in 2010s EDM. A mere formal detail here, they jump ominously out to me as a listener in 2014. One of the less memorable Number Ones in a scrappy year turns out to be the track that points most directly to the present.

*I had a Guardian column for two years, during which time I managed to rouse my readers to anger (beyond the standard grumbles) exactly once, when I innocently named ATB and other late 90s hits as trance. I’m hardly alone in this – Beatport calls it that too – but there’s a hardcore death-to-false-trance contingent out there who spent a day on Twitter calling for my immediate retirement. One asked that I promise never to write about trance music again. That pledge I have kept – until today!

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Comments

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  1. 76
    Patrick Mexico on 3 Dec 2014 #

    #73 I’ve asked this question before on Popular, and I’ll ask it again: is there any good literature criticising the lasting effects of acid house and rave? (Or at least the ugly beasts you mention that it (d)evolved into.) It’s not an angle I’m in overwhelming agreement with, but I’d be eternally grateful for such literature.

    Perhaps it’s difficult to find because many writers would fear taking an “anti-rave” stance = a) “Disco Sucks” and its racist and homophobic overtones, or b) reactionary and conservative in tone due to how acid house was apparently “the antidote to Thatcher’s Britain.” But do tell if such books exist! I have hundreds of pages to write about this myself..

    Hofmeister, I presume with the “shit [people won’t take] off your hands” you mean by-products of such tracks as Ian Van Dahl – Castles in the Sky, Lasgo – Something and Divine Inspiration – Show Me The Way? No doubt commercial trance was adored by a large chunk of my mid/late twenties generation, but perhaps if you were a bit older the reaction would be “It’s like Shoom/the Hacienda/A Guy Called Gerald never happened.”

  2. 77
    Mark G on 3 Dec 2014 #

    Criticising? Why that perspective?

    I mean, it evolved into what we now have as Electronic Dance Music, which is more commercial in nature. But if it was (and is) music that people like, and its not repressive in nature, which it isn’t, um, what’s the problem?

  3. 78
    Patrick Mexico on 3 Dec 2014 #

    I’m not saying I agree with the “criticism.” I’d just like to read about that criticism, as I haven’t seen it much in my time, apart from, perhaps, Alan McGee’s anxiety about people bringing back “hippy” phrases around that time, and Mark E Smith’s autobiography, i.e. “having to leave Manchester in 1989 because 26-stone brickies were trying to hug me. I preferred it when they used to threaten me” and “Ecstasy = state control = Brave New World.”

  4. 79
    Patrick Mexico on 3 Dec 2014 #

    But more on that when we get deeper into the ’00s and the “death of the superclub” plus “big in t’clubs” #1s which sample Steve Winwood. Don’t exactly hold your breath, but I have enough material on this kind of thing to write a trilogy to rival the Godfather.

  5. 80
    Hofmeister Bear on 3 Dec 2014 #

    #76: In my experience the most common 12” pot boilers from this period are the two big Alice DeeJay singles and ‘On The Beach’ by York which was released on Manifesto, the other major label imprint that was churning out this stuff in quantity alongside the aforementioned Positiva.

    I can’t think of any notable screeds against Acid House and it’s legacy although I’m sure they exists. The only book I know of which covers the commercial peak and post-millennium collapse is ‘Superstar DJs Here We Go!’. It’s supposedly a light read and since it was written by a former editor of Mixmag I can’t imagine it being too scathing about that era either.

  6. 81
    ciaran on 8 Dec 2014 #

    One big shrug-of-the-shoulders type record. A minute in and I’m already losing interest.No surprise that this was massive as it was more or less the soundtrack to scorching hot summer days and nights.

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  7. 82
    Patrick Mexico on 11 Dec 2014 #

    #80: Will still give it a read, thanks. I guess it won’t cover one of my (many) controversial pop hypotheses (albeit one I stand by defiantly until proven otherwise) – acid house, though for many a thrilling, fantastic subculture and era to be young in – and in particular Ecstasy – was a false dawn for British society. The main reason being the football hooliganism it supposedly diluted and “cured” was moved off the terraces, but the beast wasn’t shot and put down, the “nastiness” simply spread its tentacles into other, wider parts of British life, and is to blame for a myriad of social ills today, including the most extreme, violent forms of anti-social behaviour, the parents too lazy to bring kids up in even the most basic form, and the underlying materialistic, “booze Britain”, “excess”, “everyone has to be a celebrity” aggression to society that’s alienated people from having a drink in many of their own town centres. I’m sure these problems existed before 1987, but not in a way where most of the younger generation considered it “normal.”

    (Please don’t think I’m being a naive snob – I had this theory long before 2010 and the Tories got in, again, and people were relying on food banks, again, and I am trying to help local people in this situation myself; nobody should have to go through this. But go to towns like Blackburn, which held plenty of the iconic illegal raves in the late 80s/early 90s, and you’ll probably see plenty of twentysomething people born around that time around moments of E-fuelled passion who have simply given up – sharks-on-leads dogs, spitting everywhere, swearing in front of their children, arses hanging out of their tracksuit bottoms – and ironically, the prime set of bigoted, uneducated (i mean, “couldnt be bovered at skool books r gay” [sic]) attitudes that is one reason fuelling the sizeable “angry white men” support base for the far right around the north west.

    Now the almost entirely left-liberal (and a lovely bunch of left-liberals they are, don’t get me wrong) Popular literati might crucify me for this, but go to any small Northern town and talk to self-styled “respectable” working-class people, you will get a much stronger response that people like the above are responsible for their own actions – and own mess – rather than the London dinner party set you risk guilt by association with, who have to draw some dumb “oppression” sociological explanation and excuses for the wastes of space who beat a father to death in Warrington who was stopping his wife’s car from being vandalised, or a young woman in Rossendale just because they didn’t like her wearing Goth clothes. (Both these incidents happened in summer 2007, a long way from anyone discussing ‘austerity’. In the latter, the parents of one of the attackers were accused of not taking the interview seriously and “laughing” through the interview, completely disbelieving, unable to recognise how they raised such a monster.. so yes, I can probably blame the families here.)

    I wish people like the above in Blackburn could be helped, but they need to be helped through tough love as well as blaming the system. If, say, Michael Stipe reformed R.E.M. and wrote a song attacking Deep South rednecks and the dodgy NRA attitudes, I bet my house that you’d all be applauding him.

    I do believe rave culture gave people a sense of naive arrogance, that dreams were more important than reality, everyone – even indefensible c**ts – were to be respected equally, and everything was to be regarded of equal worth, because ASPIRATION AND STANDARDS WERE FOR BAD EVIL NASTY PEOPLE LIKE MRS THATCHER. Oh come off it, she certainly had bad, evil and nasty traits, and I’m sure it was great for millions when she stepped down as PM, but that just popped a tiny zit on a world that needed a million boils being lanced, and as the bad sides of the 80s have reproduced, we have ten million more boils.)

    I know people may accuse me of supreme arrogance and delusion for running the rule over youth culture that peaked when I was five, but I stick to my guns and believe there are no sacred cows in this game. After all, I’ve no qualms about saying some middle-aged white men in say, Accrington or Stockport who loved Northern Soul in 1975 probably still have deeply bigoted opinions about the Ferguson and Staten Island shootings, namely because that genre didn’t promote racial integration positively – it tucked black American artists, revered for their “obscurity” in a nice little corner where they couldn’t bother the Roy Chubby Brown minions too much, a bit like the maid from Tom and Jerry.

  8. 83
    Mark M on 11 Dec 2014 #

    Re82: I know that one of the things that Popular does is look at the intersection between pop and the wider culture, but you seem to be pushing that a little bit far. Your starting point seems to be an idea that is highly contentious at very best – that acid house brought about the end of football hooliganism – and flipped it on its head. Now, while I don’t doubt that there were certainly a reasonable number of people who used to have scraps before matches who then started going raving and had a change of their ways, I suspect that is a fairly small part of the reason going to watch football matches is much safer now than it was in 1987. It’s very easy to be taken in by surface noise and to mistake correlation for causation. It applies equally to acid house dreamers and to the architects of NYC’s hardcore policing policies of the 1990s, who oversaw a massive decline in violence and (entirely understandably) took credit for it, when the perspective of time and space has shown that similar things were happening all over the economically developed world, regardless of law & order approach.

    (Just for a bit of political balance, I would also argue that when we’re talking about Ghost Town, for instance, it’s worth acknowledging that places like Coventry had massive problems some time before the ascent of Mrs Thatcher, although the fact that unemployment almost tripled in a very short space of time after 1979 certainly didn’t help).

    So just as I don’t believe that acid culture had the magic effect ascribed it by its supporters, so equally I think it is unlikely it had the negative influence you’re claiming. For a start, most people in slice of the generation concerned, never took ecstasy, never went to an illegal rave. Of those that did, I’m pretty sure most of those didn’t buy into the full ideology. It was just another night out.

    Against this, we’ve got rather more tangible factors to take into account, such as deindustrialisation and the end of the concept of full employment, a massive rise in inequality (a long-term process, but the biggest jump came in the late ’80s), changes in family composition (again, something that was happening long before 1988), immigration, flight to the suburbs, town planning mistakes of the 1950s and ’60s… Just for starters. A lot of the ‘everybody is a star’ attitudes you are blaming on acid house are widely blamed by right-wing commentators on the progressive education policies of the 1970s (much more significant than rave, surely) – I’m willing to bet you could find newspaper columns from the ’80s moaning about exactly the same thing.

    And finally, I’m always very sceptical in the face of particular shock one-off stories of inhuman behaviour – it’s fairly easy to find these from any point in history. People can be vile. Always have been, almost certainly always will be. But only sometimes. It is very easy to take one story – say the murder of James Bulger as one notorious example – and falsely extrapolate the signs of the apocalypse.

    Also, you seem to think you’re saying something unsaid, but the whole line about respectable working class having no time for excuses for anti-social behaviour was the core idea by which Tony Blair and Jack Straw pitched New Labour as a tough on crime party. Hence ASBOs.

    All of which is to say I’d like a lot more evidence and clearer thinking before I take what you’re saying seriously. (And also, no, if Michael Stipe wrote a song about rednecks, I wouldn’t pay any attention.)

  9. 84
    Mark M on 11 Dec 2014 #

    By the way, the classic early piece of writing on the relationship between acid house and football violence is Gavin Hills’ Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?, from The Face in 1991. Hills was far, far too bright to swallow the simplistic ‘pills stopped the kickings’ line – it’s a terrific, nuanced piece. In it’s original magazine layout, it’s online here, but I’m not sure how readable it is there. If you spot a copy of his (sadly posthumous) collective writings, Bliss To Be Alive, in a second-hand shop or online, I heartily recommend it.

  10. 85
    Tommy Mack on 11 Dec 2014 #

    Great article. Just about readable on a proper screen as opposed to a phone.

    Re: 82, 83 – it’s just as easy (and just as over-simplistic) to blame mindless thuggery on the ‘me first’ sharp-elbows ethos of 80s economic liberalism. As my Dad said recently, you’re always reading about how kids today are feral, out-of-control etc but when he grew up, the entire British countryside was dotted with borstals, all of them full of youth offenders, so clearly society has always deemed youths to be a menace, long before Thatcher or Acid House. Or punk or casuals or even mods and rockers.

  11. 86
    Mark M on 11 Dec 2014 #

    Re85: Absolutely. In any case, in broader statistical terms – there are obvious specific places where this is not the case – ‘mindless thuggery’ is less common now than it was for much of the 20th century, despite the predictions from across the spectrum and the nonsense peddled daily by the newspapers. Neither Grand Theft Auto nor rising inequality has caused a general wave of street violence. The best current academic guess is that the phasing out of leaded petrol has had a profound effect.

  12. 87
    Mark G on 11 Dec 2014 #

    I did notice, they have just repealed the ‘anti-rave’ laws, I guess they feel it’s safe now…

  13. 88
    katstevens on 11 Dec 2014 #

    #82 I don’t have it to hand but ISTR Jane Bussman’s (largely positive!) book on acid house had a theory that it was always going to be a short-lived era of peace & love for a combination of reasons: 1) towards the arse end of the era the downgrade in quality of E meant that people were ‘topping up’ with speed, (temporarily-slightly-cheaper) coke and (permanently on special offer) sugar-filled booze, all cancelling out all the hippy vibes 2) people had ended up the duff while off their face and now suddenly had wailing kids to be responsible for – or not, according to your comment above 3) the human brain’s ability to generate serotonin gets worse the more you hammer at it: one pill might kick off your epiphany but it ain’t going to do the job weekend after weekend, and eventually the Tuesday blues start lasting the whole week. Of course this is all stuff I’ve read rather than experienced: I was ten years old at the time and all I remember was how exciting these orbital raves looked on the news.

  14. 89
    Tommy Mack on 11 Dec 2014 #

    We should put MDMA in the water supply. Not enough to get the nation gurning but just enough to encourage more positive vibes. There should be more of it in expensive bottled water because a) rich people are more sour-faced to begin with and b) their dickery has more far reaching consequences than that of yer standard hoolie. To avoid tolerance setting in, phase it out in summer when no-one does any work anyway so people can have a nice gentle comedown in the sunshine. Obvious drawback: we will be invaded and enslaved by countries like Russia who will start putting crack in their water.

  15. 90
    Patrick Mexico on 17 Dec 2014 #

    Re 83: Thanks for your detailed and potent reply.

    I’ll admit it wasn’t the most “evidential” or “clearly thought” post I’ve made on Popular. Originally I’d planned the “acid house messed the country up!” as a humorous, light-hearted, not-very-serious-at-all way to play Devil’s Advocate, as in my nearest major city you allegedly can’t move for people warmly reminiscing about “Madchester” or the Hacienda. (Just like the second nearest which allegedly mutually despises the first, and their alleged 60s fetishisation, but that’s another story..)

    Or, a decade earlier with my parents’ generation, and in many smaller and more modest Lancashire towns, the Northern Soul revolution. They were two big youth cults which I’ve loved and owned a lot of the music from, but born in 1985 in Blackburn, raised around Accrington and Clitheroe, I have a natural bitterness I missed out on this and had an adolescence soundtracked by Semisonic and Alice Deejay. I can laugh at the overall naffness and send up my innate jealousy I was “born in the wrong decade.” So I was not intending to be “contentious” or overly serious with post #82.

    Unfortunately I posted this early in the morning after a few pints and with alcohol my sense of humour often actually weaken, and due to personal psychological traits, my emotions can quickly plummet into the realm of outright morbidity, and I’m very sorry if I came across as misanthropic and/or used genuine human tragedies for point-scoring. This isn’t the first time I’ve mucked up – see some of my inane dribblings on the Don’t Look Back In Anger/Firestarter threads. I’ll try to only post here on future when we’re not in the wee small hours, and I’m on a full stomach and a clear head. Indeed, this week’s events, having a sister who lives and works in Sydney, have taught me not to rashly jump to conclusions at the expense of the dignity of human life. Thanks for your time.

  16. 91
    Mark M on 17 Dec 2014 #

    Re90: No worries – your original post was scarcely dickish at all, just a bit contentious. Your sense of having missed out is interesting, because at least for the media boosters of acid house, at least some of the appeal seemed to come from finally being able to turn to the one-time hippies and punks and say, ‘See, you wrote us off as a dull, conformist, unoriginal generation, but look – we’ve got our own thing, and the tabloid moral panic stories to prove it.’

  17. 92
    Chinny Reckon on 29 Mar 2015 #

    @Tom- The vocal sample is ultimately lifted from the a cappella of this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUYQQF3Ijrg I’m not sure what the television has to do with it. As for people claiming this record is not trance, they are all purist trance snobs who hate admitting anything they don’t like is trance because it ‘sullies’ ‘their’ genre. The fact is, it is trance, just a different style of trance to the one they like, but apparently it’s not enough for people like them to call it ‘crap trance’ or whatever, they have to deny that it even is trance.

    You should have told them to get off their high horses and piss off.

  18. 93
    flahr on 16 Aug 2015 #

    Very much a “oh, THIS one” this, although it hides it by having the guitar hook be teasingly incomplete the first runthrough or so. I like it but it’s difficult to really think of anything to say about it [6]

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