In 1992, Dave Stone and Norton Blue, owners of the Trinity Studios in London, set up the UK hardcore label DJ Only Records, renamed a year later to the Sound Of The Underground Records* (SOUR); one of the most influential collectives of the mid-90s jungle/drum and bass scene.
The first signing of the label was the break beat hardcore outfit Bass Selective (Royal, Samuel, Hay, Clarke and Elizabeth Troy on vocal duties). Bass Selective went on to record four EPs; the highlight of their outputs being the piano-driven anthem Blow Out part 2.
Bass Selective disbanded in 1993 and one of the founding members, Marc Sebastian Royal emerged with the recording alias T.Power. He was readily signed as a solo artist by SOUR; a flying start for an illustrious and prolific recording career. It was only two years later however, that he would create serious waves in the drum and bass proceedings.
Fast forward to 1995, a year that proved pivotal for both T.Power and SOUR, Marc Royal started to experiment with new sounds, abolishing the stereotype that SOUR was a strictly “ragga jungle” label. The result has been the impeccable, genre-defining Mutant Jazz; co-written with Nigel Samuel (also a former member of Bass Selective, who had adopted the one-off moniker MK-Ultra), Mutant Jazz brought jungle closer to the abstract jazz territory of Ninja Tune and Mo’Wax and is still considered today as one of the genre’s absolute classics.
A few months later, T.Power’s first personal album, entitled The Self Evident Truth Of An Intuitive Mind, was released to critical acclaim; a pioneering, ground-breaking release that pushed the drum and bass boundaries even further. That same year T Power also launched his short-lived own imprint Deep Thought Records recording under the alias Atomic Dog.
In the aftermath of T.Power’s album success, came the Police State EP. The title of his album had provided a hint about T.Power’s views, who had always insisted that drum and bass is a form of intelligent music; however the Police State EP made the connection more apparent.
Thought-provoking, exhilarating and reminiscent of the “Intellect” part of his album, the EP is profoundly influenced by the works and lectures of Noam Chomsky, an American linguist, philosopher, political commentator, activist, cultural figure and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA.
Prospect For Democracy
The tune of the day is the dystopian Prospect For Democracy, taken from the the Police State EP (SOUR029/TPOW001, 1995). The title is inspired from the eponymous Noam Chomsky speech at the MIT, which was recorded live in November 1994.
Prospect For Democracy is a 13-and-a-half minutes composition, fusing ambient, techno and drum and bass flawlessly.
The track starts with two-step trademark T.Power drum beat, over warm synths and a desolated sax riff until the first breakdown, when vocal snippets** from Chomsky’s aforementioned lecture are introduced. In the second breakdown, the tempo changes for 3 minutes, with kick-in-the stomach gong percussions and additional chords, until the track resumes to a glorious climax.
A shorter version of the track is available on YouTube:
The next year T.Power released his second album entitled Waveform and decided to take a sabbatical from drum and bass. The album was engineered by Chris Stevens, with whom he formed the group Chocolate Weasel, recording for Ninja Tune. In 1999, Royal re-surfaced as T.Power, experimenting with nu-breaks for Botchit & Scarper, a breakbeat-oriented label established by members of the SOUR managing crew ca. 1995.
Return To Drum & Bass
In 2001, T.Power returned to drum and bass teaming-up with Andre Williams (widely known as Shy FX) recording a string of releases, under a variety of guises (Agent BLK, Automaton, Ebony Dubsters, Shy FX & T Power), on Shy FX’s labels.
Their collaborative work made an immediate impact; blending their highly credible drum and bass with pop sensibility, Shake Ur Body (featuring the vocalist Di), released on EMI’s subsidiary Positiva, climbed to #7 of the UK singles chart and received widespread support from both club and commercial radio djs, contributing to the introduction of drum and bass to wider audiences.
As a follow up, Shy FX & T.Power released the album Set It Off on Pete Tong’s F.F.R.R. in 2002. In 2005, Shy FX decided to consolidate his releases onto a new label and launched Digital Soundboy Recordings. In collaboration with T.Power, they subsequently released the album Diary Of A Digital Sound Boy the same year.
In 2009, Royal reincarnated into Mr. Sofalumpkins; an alter-ego (described as a trans-dimensional gestalt entity, embedded through divergence of time and space in our reality, as several inanimate objects) for his live Ableton performances and improvisations.
A short re-appearance in drum and bass took place in 2013 for a single co-produced with John Rolodex on V Records. As of 2014, Marc Royal announced that The Lazy Nine, the first album under his real name, is scheduled for release on his new imprint Adastra Recordings later this year.
In his own words:
“If you want to know all about Adastra Recordings, you might want to brush up on your Latin. “Ad astra” is a Latin phrase meaning “to the stars”, but unless you’re a songwriter for Broadway musicals, “to the stars” just doesn’t cut it if you’re known for abstract basslines and unfathomable melodies.
Adastra Recordings is the most obvious step forward for a music producer like TPower who, after more… than twenty years of defining and redefining his craft, continues to indulge in the relentless pursuit of the purity of tone and the injection of science into sound that’s external to the creative process itself.
In essence, there is a much deeper understanding of music going on here and an immense feeling of reverence for the artistic methodologies from which music is born. It is TPower’s continuous exploration of the humanization of the electronic process and the seemingly effortless translation of waveforms into an orchestration of sounds that are relatable and communicable that characterizes the bulk of his extensive collection of work”.
*”Whatever happened to … Sound Of the Underground Records?” coming soon
***excerpts from Chomsky’s lecture about democracy, education, financial institutions and the new world order, as viewed 20 years ago. The live recording is available for online streaming and on audio cd. Parts of the transcript appear in a wide array of Chomsky’s bibliography.
A music enthusiast hailing from Greece and blogger about all things jungle/drum & bass at godisnolongeradj.wordpress.com