Nov 14

ATB – “9PM (Til I Come)”

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#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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  1. 31
    Patrick Mexico on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Re 6: I thought it was “Do you like cum?” I’m so sorry. But best to be honest, as it really unsettled me at 14, especially when Now 43 was on a constant loop in my parents’ car on holiday in Cornwall. (Yes, the total eclipse one.)

    Was too young to have a clubbing/raving/Ibiza “moment” to this and as my teens progressed I found trance pretty limp, lifeless and hippy-drippy compared to most nineties dance genres whether they were Italo-house, chart Eurodance, jungle, breakbeat, dickhead-funk… Six is fine though, just for the nice summery guitar pick (that’s enough accidental Partridge for now.)

    Would have preferred #1s for the two tracks which follow 9PM on NOW disc 1: the bold lunacy of Basement Jaxx* – Red Alert, and more for “This is beyond cheese, and goes against my better intentions, but it’s got a certain something”, Turn Around by Phats and Small.

    * Great debut, Remedy. Though perhaps not the best sleeve to get your mum to buy you for Christmas 1999.

  2. 32
    wichitalineman on 7 Nov 2014 #

    NOW! Watch:

    Thanks for reminding me, Patrick. The full glory of Now 43 can now be revealed. I love Turn Around myself, no issues with it at all. It reminds me, oddly, of a holiday in Newton Stewart, trying to track down the site of every scene from The Wicker Man (shortly afterwards, of course, this would be a piece of cake but the internet was still “new” and we had to rely on the local paper). A few things here, towards the end of Disc 1, that I don’t remember at all (Precious, Culture Club, Fierce). Last hurrah of Britpop on Disc 2 – I think this was Cast’s last Top 10 hit; James would surely be gone soon; Supergrass having a late moment of glory; Gomez were dadrock at its daddiest.

    Also, what a spectacularly flabby start! New Radicals has Disc 1 Track 1 written all over it. And why stick Alice Deejay at the end of Disc 2?

    DISC 1
    1. “Perfect Moment” Martine McCutcheon 3:53
    2. “You Needed Me” Boyzone 3:29
    3. “I Want It That Way” Backstreet Boys 3:34
    4. “Sweet Like Chocolate” Shanks & Bigfoot 3:33
    5. “Bring It All Back” S Club 7 3:31
    6. “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom” Vengaboys 3:22
    7. “9PM (‘Til I Come)” ATB 2:33
    8. “Turn Around” Phats & Small 3:32
    9. “Red Alert” Basement Jaxx 3:35
    10. “Without Love” Dina Carroll 3:35
    11. “Look at Me” Geri Halliwell 3:42
    12. “I Breathe Again” Adam Rickitt 3:46
    13. “Viva La Radio” Lolly 2:47
    14. “Doodah” Cartoons 3:12
    15. “Say It Again” Precious 2:59
    16. “Love of a Lifetime” Honeyz 3:37
    17. “Private Number” 911 3:32
    18. “Your Kisses Are Charity” Culture Club 4:19
    19. “Greatest Day” Beverley Knight 4:00
    20. “Word Up” Melanie B 3:40
    21. “Dayz Like That” Fierce 3:47
    22. “Forever” Tina Cousins

    DISC 2
    1. “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” Baz Luhrmann 5:05
    2. “In Our Lifetime” Texas 4:04
    3. “You Get What You Give” New Radicals 4:40
    4. “Pumping On Your Stereo” Supergrass 3:20
    5. “Lovestruck” Madness 3:50
    6. “Ooh La La” The Wiseguys 3:41
    7. “Hey Boy Hey Girl” The Chemical Brothers 4:49
    8. “Right Here Right Now” Fatboy Slim 5:56
    9. “Saltwater” Chicane featuring Maire Brennan of Clannad 3:23
    10. “Cloud Number Nine” Bryan Adams 4:10
    11. “Coffee & TV” Blur 5:02
    12. “Beat Mama” Cast 3:40
    13. “Pick A Part That’s New” Stereophonics 3:31
    14. “Bring It On” Gomez 3:56
    15. “Secret Smile” Semisonic 3:47
    16. “I Know What I’m Here For” James 3:56
    17. “Synth & Strings” Yomanda 3:17
    18. “Better Off Alone” DJ Jurgen presents Alice DeeJay 3:03
    19. “To Be In Love” Masters At Work presents India

  3. 33
    James BC on 7 Nov 2014 #

    The Phats and Small song was OK but I always found it a poor knockoff of Music Sounds Better With You.

    That Gomez song is far from their best – no idea why they chose it as a single over Revolutionary Kind, which was the obvious stand-out and a rare self-contained track on a very albumy album.

    I’m surprised the Cast song went top ten because the album it came from sank utterly without trace, apparently because they departed from the trad-rock formula they had always been vilified for sticking to. Very unfair.

  4. 34
    wichitalineman on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Re 33: Never heard the album but I remember hearing Cast’s Magic Hour as a single on Radio 2 and thinking it was very pretty, and an interesting deviation from their usual meat-and-spuds. It broke their run of Top 10 hits quite dramatically.

    Phats & Small’s Turn Around is just so ridiculously upbeat. An odd comparison, I know, but like the title track to Pet Sounds it never fails to lift my mood.

  5. 35
    Billy Hicks on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Re: The different edits, this is a song known in the UK by a completely different mix to the one that initially charted in Europe, and causes confusion today as different music channels/radio stations play different versions.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ri6Efk1SPJc This is the original, but the one we all know better – and the one mentioned by Weej and Shiny Dave above, is this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmGQMmtXAF0 This is the UK radio edit of the song and one that definitely features on both the CD single and Now 43.

  6. 36
    Rory on 7 Nov 2014 #

    #32, “James would surely be gone soon”: boo! (By which I mean you’re right in chart terms, of course, but what a shame.) Millionaires was where I got on board the Good Ship James, and it’s a cracking album, as was Pleased to Meet You a couple of years later. They’re still doing impressive things today.

    Supergrass, similarly, had life left in them yet. Their self-titled third album (with “Pumping on Your Stereo”) was great, but so was Life on Other Planets in 2002. Several Britpop and ’90s indie bands released great albums circa 2000 that struggled to get their due.

  7. 37
    wichitalineman on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Now Phats What I Small Music. That was the name of their album, really.

  8. 38
    James BC on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Ah, I was wrong. The Magic Hour album did OK, it was the Beat Root album that had the big change in style and sank without trace. I thought Beat Mama must have been the lead single from Beat Root, but it wasn’t.

    Magic Hour may have been beautiful but it wasn’t a huge departure. I’m So Lonely from the second album does the same thing even better in my opinion.

  9. 39
    Steve Mannion on 7 Nov 2014 #

    For me Trance’s Year Zero was ’92 with Age Of Love, Jam & Spoon, Vath, the original version of ‘Cafe Del Mar’, much of it coming from Germany.

    The millennial surge of Trance is its commercial peak and although it includes a bunch of tracks I love (Binary Finary’s ’1998′, Carte Blanche’s ‘Veracocha’, Space Manoeuvres ‘Stage One’) I wouldn’t say these are more or less…Trancier than the earlier stuff, but some kind of evolution accommodating technological developments. I couldn’t be doing with much of the Goa/hallucinogenic stuff though (apart from some Perfecto-based exposure).

    Might as well thank the Lineman at this point though for making me like a track involving Paul Van Dyk which hadn’t happened until ‘Tell Me Why’ :)

  10. 40
    enitharmon on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Once again I’m in a quandary because I really can’t get a handle on this sort of thing. Each and every one of these electronic “dance” tracks sounds pretty much like any other and I worry about this because it was a complaint of old fogeys back in my youth that all pop sounded the same (I think Eartha Kitt once caused a bit of a stir by saying something like it while refusing to pass judgment on Juke Box Jury). Hence I couldn’t even begin to decide whether this is good or bad of its type. There is some electronica in my collection, some Underworld for example (I particularly like the long track called Dirty Epic/Cowgirl “I get my kicks on channel 6”) but somehow I don’t think that’s the same thing as these tracks with the relentless and unvarying beat. The niceties that lead to extended debates as to which box each piece falls into are even further beyond my ken – does it really matter? Anyway, assuming that I was into things like the Ibiza club scene (which I’m not – islands in the Med are surely for the three S’s; sailing, swimming and snorkelling, not sleeping all day and then doing at night what I could perfectly well do at home, and anyway it sounds to me like being dropped in the middle of a Club 18-30 event on speed which is my idea of hell on earth) I would probably cherish this sort of thing for its affective value associated with an event rather than its intrinsic value as music. So, once again, I must pass on a valuation with the observation once again that this is not music to be listened to but rather to stand as a memento of a holiday. As such I’ll risk social death by clipping it together with Agadoo and the Birdie Dance. After all, who is anybody here to set themselves above the sombrero and stuffed donkey package holiday crowd!

    [Dives for bunker]

  11. 41
    Tom on 7 Nov 2014 #

    I actually think the link between acid house and package holiday hits is pretty underexplored, Rosie! (I’m sure I cheekily made it in some entry). What I took from it is that the same impulse can express itself artistically in ways that are complete dead ends and ways that are very vibrant and productive. Both Y Viva Espana and Ibiza anthems being hits back home are coming from the same place – wanting a blissful experience to last or be remembered. But the difference is that straw-donkey pop goes no further: it’s simply importing a memory back home. Acid house was more utopian – “let’s build what we experienced over there back here”. Which is why it changed pop music where Black Lace didn’t.

    By THIS time, a decade-plus on, the transmission routes are well established, so we’re back to something close to the routine holiday hit, except there’s a clubbing infrastructure here to support it.

  12. 42
    Matt DC on 7 Nov 2014 #

    This stuff was everywhere in the summer of 1999 and this isn’t even the worst offender but it’s a pretty shonky sounding record even now. At the time it felt like the end of something – does any image scream ’1999!’ as much as the fluorescent lollipop-sucking Gatecrasher kid? Is any image so out of place with the fashions immediately preceding it and succeeding it? It was like this one explosion of bad taste that later gave the rock press the excuse they’d been waiting for to declare dance music dead and normal service resumed now the 90s were finally out of the way.

    I’ve no idea whether this record was ever actually played at Gatecrasher (or Ministry, or any of the soon-to-be-cringeworthily-unfashionable superclubs) – my guess is not. But this is the beginning of the end of dance music as a genuinely mainstream high-street phenomenon, for a good few years at least.

    (Of course, we’re also in the early days of 2-step here, the first sleight-of-hand recategorisation of something from ‘dance’ to ‘urban’, but if anything that semantic shift is a symptom of the same thing). At the time though, it felt like an all-conquering sound, the idea that dance music might be about to go out of fashion entirely seemed ridiculous.

    The sound starts to reoccur a few years later – first in minimal house, but then all-conquering in EDM-friendly pop, which of course was unfashionable from the get-go, just like this.

  13. 43
    Tom on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Peak ATB shonk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrPN8TtouuA

    Though annoyingly for the integrity of my review there’s no “9PM” sound on it – I’m positive I remember that but apparently not.

  14. 44
    Steve Mannion on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Just before this the Chemical Brothers had unveiled ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’ as their take on the stadium Trance trend (there’s a bit of hat-tipping to RnB on the ‘Surrender’ LP so they were keen to show their appreciation for populist movements aimed at people too young to have been clubbing in the earlier part of the decade).

    As a dance-is-dead catalyst for critics I don’t know – they seemed just as bothered by Craig David and co. as discussed previously after all. But whereas UKG was very London/SE, stadium Trance seemed a much more Northern affair (like the hard house scene that emerged before it). But as I said before I’d still have rather been in Paris :)

  15. 45
    katstevens on 7 Nov 2014 #

    #34: Saltwater is still a goose-bump-inducing banger.

  16. 46
    Kinitawowi on 7 Nov 2014 #

    #36 and 37: James were briefly planning to call their first B-Sides album “Now That’s What I Call B-Sides Volume 1”, but settled for “B-Sides Ultra” (the one that looks suspiciously like a box of washing powder).

    And yeah, Millionaires (parent album [the one with the pig] of I Know What I’m Here For) was a beast – robbed of the album top spot by Shania Twain, as I’ve bemoaned before – until Pleased To Meet You finally saw them off before the inevitable reunion six years later.

    The Millionaires tour was, I seem to recall, supported by Cast.

  17. 47
    Patrick Mexico on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Re 34: I should have been kinder to Phats and Small! Hardly “beyond cheese”, many would kill for that hook. Perhaps confused them with someone else. Hey, what’s wrong with me? But it’s all about personal context (bunny warning):


  18. 48
    Billy Hicks on 8 Nov 2014 #

    Tom at 43: Again, different edit for the UK release. All three of ATB’s big 1999 tracks charted here as remixes, this is the UK edit of Killer complete with guitar sound.


    Also on Now 45.

  19. 49
    swanstep on 8 Nov 2014 #

    Some very nice suggestions and links in this thread. Thanks to everyone for those.

  20. 50
    Auntie Beryl on 8 Nov 2014 #

    Re Phats And Small, erstwhile frontman Ben Ofoedu is married to Vanessa Feltz.

  21. 51
    Erithian on 8 Nov 2014 #

    #29 – yes I’ve done a 24-hour playlist for (nearly) each hour – back when a friend and I used to exchange mixtapes of our recent discoveries. Here’s mine with a few sleevenotes.

    1am: Ocean Colour Scene – 40 Past Midnight
    2am: Iggy Pop – Nightclubbing
    3am: The Smiths – Oscillate Wildly
    4am: Manic Street Preachers – No Surface All Feeling
    5am: Pretenders – I Go To Sleep
    6am: Lightning Seeds – Marvellous: Think of this as being in dreamland, then the radio alarm comes on and yippee, it’s another day.
    7am: Queen – My Life Has Been Saved: This one’s for those leaving home happy in the morning – for those who aren’t there’s…
    8am: Manic Street Preachers – Mausoleum
    9am: Kraftwerk – Autobahn: “Up on your way, hit the open road, there is magic at your fingers…”
    10am: Blur – Yuko And Hiro: “This is my workplace and these are the people I work with…”

    1pm: Lightning Seeds – The Life Of Riley: in the pub…
    2pm: Levellers – Sell Out: for those people in the LIFFE getting very excited in their loud jackets.
    3pm: Pretenders – Revolution: Show me someone who hasn’t thought like this during the afternoon.
    4pm: Ocean Colour Scene – Policemen And Pirates
    5pm: Ray Davies / Damon Albarn – Waterloo Sunset: this and the next one from a compilation tape of The White Room,
    6pm: Noel Gallagher / Paul Weller – Talk Tonight
    7pm: k d lang – So It Shall Be
    8pm: Sting – I Was Brought To My Senses
    9pm: Memphis Slim – I Believe I’ll Settle Down: For those having a quiet night in.
    10pm: Pulp – I Spy: For those spending the evening outside in the undergrowth.
    11+pm: Sting – 25 To Midnight: And meanwhile there are people still travelling home.

  22. 52
    weej on 8 Nov 2014 #

    #51 – think the idea was a mixtape with each hour in the song title – i.e in the midnight hour, 3am eternal, 6 in the mornin, 9pm (Til I Come) and so on, but those are the only four that I can think of off the top of my head.

    On the topic of themed mixes (pass the crowbar!) I’ve just finished my annual Chinese zodiac mix on horses – please excuse the linkspam, I just spent way too long making it and want people to hear it.

  23. 53
    Chelovek na lune on 8 Nov 2014 #

    I can get as far as the following… certain hours (midnight, 3am, 5pm, could easily have other options). The lyrics generally make clear whether the time being referred to is a.m. or p.m.

    3am: KLF – 3am Eternal
    4am: Faron Young – It’s Four In The Morning
    6am: Six O’Clock – Tyrrel Corporation
    7am: 7 heures du matin – Jacqueline Taieb
    9am: 9am (The Comfort Zone) – Londonbeat

    5pm: Five O’Clock World – Julian Cope
    7pm: Seven O’Clock – Quireboys
    10pm: Dix Heures En Été – Françoise Hardy
    12am: The Lilac Time – The Lost Girl in the Midnight Sun

  24. 54
    Auntie Beryl on 8 Nov 2014 #

    Katy B’s “5AM” is a good little single from the last couple of years. Captures the psychosis and euphoria of still being in a club at chucking out time. I’d imagine.

  25. 55
    Ed on 8 Nov 2014 #

    Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Roadblock) – Bob Marley and the Wailers
    Just who is the 5 O’Clock Hero? – The Jam
    11 O’Clock Tick Tock – U2
    11.59 – Blondie

    Some times are obviously more rock’n’roll – or pop – than others. You’re spoiled for choice at midnight; at 4pm, not so much.

    If we allow lyrics, the closest I can get is “it’s quarter to five, and the shops are all closing their eyes” from the Blue Nile’s stunningly lovely Saturday Night. *

    It has always worried me, though: do the shops really shut at 5 on Saturdays in Glasgow? Must be a bugger if you need something at the last minute.

    *EDIT: Google reveals that the lyric is actually “it’s quarter to five, when the storefronts are closed in paradise.” Which is just as baffling, really: you’d think that in heaven, they would at least stay open until 6.

  26. 56
    iconoclast on 8 Nov 2014 #

    I suppose The Triffids’ “25 to 5” is pushing it a bit?

  27. 57
    Ed on 8 Nov 2014 #

    @29 “Why 9pm?”

    From my – long-ago and very limited – experience of Ibiza, isn’t that about the time the evening starts?

    You watch the sunset, have a couple of drinks, maybe go and change, and then head out.

    I am sure someone with greater knowledge than me can put me straight on that one.

  28. 58
    Kinitawowi on 8 Nov 2014 #

    #56: I’ll see your “25 to 5” and raise you “4:35 In The Morning”.

  29. 59
    Lazarus on 8 Nov 2014 #

    ‘Twenty-five or six to four’ even.

  30. 60
    Erithian on 9 Nov 2014 #

    Weej #52 – yes I know, but the original question did send me straight back to that old tape! A couple more – Godley and Creme did one called “Five O’Clock in the Morning”, and there’s the David Castle song “Ten to Eight” that was on TOTP a while back. Plus the Simon and Garfunkel album “Wednesday Morning 3am”.

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