ALEX REECE – Pulp Fiction 2000
It starts with bass. The deepest, warmest bass you’ve ever heard, like swimming in amniotic fluid while outside the womb earthquakes level the city. The crowd cheer instantly, despite the lack of real change from the previous track the dj spun – the bass line is that familiar. If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d think this was some popular dubplate, the latest underground anthem to emerge from drum & bass’s svelte Liquid Funk scene. In fact, the track is six years old.

Alex Reece has been slagged on Freaky Trigger numerous times, once by me, indicted with the offence of taking the fun out of jungle. Between 94 and 96, his tunes were partially responsible for the demise of jungle’s polyrhythmic exuberance, bad boy energy and sci-fi experimentalism, replacing them with the “refined” textures of house and jazz and increasingly simplified breakbeats. But six years after “Pulp Fiction” first tore through the clubs, having watched drum & bass work itself into a creative cul-de-sac in an attempt to rebel against Reece’s legacy, its difficult to hold grudges, and its easier to see the song’s qualities.

The first thing I notice now is how astonishing prescient “Pulp Fiction” was. Who would have thought that after the rise of techstep and Reece’s banishment from the jungle scene that the next sonic twist in drum & bass would be a style that was little more than a homage to his most famous track? Liquid Funk may be the most singularly unsurprising new dance style yet, but its fundamental sound – thick bass, lush keyboard sweeps, oversexed horns and breathy female vocals – is endlessly delightful, and great to dance to. It strikes me that with this new style, jungle is going through the same state of partial regeneration that hit Chicago House in the mid-nineties wit the rise of Cajual and other labels committed to making unoriginal but damn-effective house music. But the same sounds that are celebrated in Liquid Funk have also crept into UK Garage, on more dancefloor-oriented tracks like Future Underground Nation’s “The Way”, and repositioned within music that actually is on the forefront creatively, Reece’s trademark tricks sound even more undeniably effective.

More surprisingly, the track’s sharp, rigid 2-step beats and radioactive bassline are both forgotten ancestors of the punishment-aesthetic techstep that still dominates the clubs, and this appreciation is acknowledged and reciprocated on this millenial update of the track; the beats are ever so slightly harder, and the bassline suffers partial surface damage at the hands of nasty wah-wah filters. However, unlike techstep, which sounds great on the dancefloor but pales at home, a headphone-listen to “Pulp Fiction” reveals just how excellent an arranger Reece is. It’s like one of RZA’s hip hop productions gone jazz: the tidal ebb and flow of the bass, the unchanging breaks, the unfinished motif of the diva’s orgasmic sigh, the spare, haunting trumpet figure, but most of all the constantly building but never resolved tension of the entire piece. Six years on, and its become difficult to remember why anyone could dislike this track, when so much of what it used to represent has become irrelevant. Six years on, and its even harder not to give up and just dance.