In the early ‘90s, as jungle’s dark aesthetics split from the hurly-burly of happy hardcore, a subgenre known as jungle tekno formed in the faultline. It was incubated in no small part by Ron Wells, a man of many aliases and even more production credits who ran the infamous Sound Entity Studio, which was responsible for many of the style’s records. Over 70 acts came through Wells’ studio during the early ‘90s—including the likes of Carl Cox—as Ron and his cohorts at iconic foundation jungle imprint Basement Records helped to guide hardcore into jungle and the strain of deep drum & bass that was known at the time as “intelligent”.
After a 20-year hiatus, this year Ron reignited his Sound Entity machines—many of which are the original synths he used to create the genre, all intact and complete with the saved settings he’d programmed at the time—and return to the jungle tekno sound. He’s literally back by popular demand; reissue community the Music Preservation Society invited him back to combat the jaw-dropping £1300 price tag for his Fast Floor album On A Quest For Intelligence on Discogs. Ron has since revisited, remastered, reconstructed and reissued many of his seminal records—and it seems like that’s just the start. “There’s no point in coming back without making new stuff, or we’ll run out of things to revive,” he said. “I’ve been knocking out tunes like they’ve been going out of fashion!”
But before we move forward, we’ve decided to look back in an effort to understand exactly where Ron and jungle tekno came from. Here, in Ron’s words, are 10 of the most important records to come from the original jungle tekno era.
Ruff With The Smooth, “Sounds Superior” (Basement Records 1993)
“Imagine Kraftwerk but miles faster, more clubby and with proper breakbeats under it—that’s how I describe jungle tekno. If it sounds like it was made by aliens and was left on earth for people to discover or was made by cyborgs, then it’s probably jungle tekno. This track sums up those descriptions for me. I made it with legendary Bristol DJ Donavon Badboy Smith and have very fond memories of the session. Sometimes you just click in the studio, and this 12-inch with ‘Art Of Intelligence’ on the A-side was the result of one of those times.”
Fast Floor, “7th Heaven” (Smooth Recordings 1994)
“Fast Floor was myself and Paul Clarke, and we did many projects together over the years. Paul was interesting to write with. He was a traditional musician and pop artist with no dance music experience. I told him I wanted to bring a more musical context and broaden my horizons, and he helped me to compose with a lot more musical integrity. Every Fast Floor release felt a lot more melodic as a result. This one in particular has a very dreamy, atmospheric sound. I’ve always felt that jungle tekno should be very emotional. It’s not necessarily all smiles, but more of a weird otherworldly feel.”
Electronic Experienced, “No 303” (Basement Records 1993)
“If any track sums up the ethic of jungle hardcore, it’s this. And that’s purely due to the technical synthesis. I wrote this with Alex Reece as my engineer, and we had a Yamaha keyboard but really wanted a Roland 303. So I spent a very long time making it sound like one. That was the attitude at the time: making sounds we wanted to hear. When I started out I didn’t have a sampler; it was just about the keyboard and a drum machine. Sampling was never the backbone of what I did. I was much more interested in making textures and sounds than sampling. This 303 sound we got from the Yamaha was a good example of using synths to sculpt the texture we wanted. In a lot of ways this sounds better than an original 303.”
20 Hurts, “The Voice” (Sound Entity 1993)
“This one was a lot of fun. The spoken vocal on it is me saying ‘This is the voice of ecstasy, don’t let me take control!’ It’s not really an anti-drug message—it’s more a bit of a laugh. Musically there’s a bit of a Belgian sound in there, which was a strong influence on hardcore and jungle at the time. That sound was wicked; so dark and exciting and fast. In the years running up to this you could feel the music speeding up almost every month, a few BPM here and there. A lot of my mates who played house music were like, ‘I’m not digging this music. It’s too aggressive, too fast.’ But I absolutely loved the fact it was speeding up and getting more experimental and aggressive.”
Kev Bird & The Wax Doctor, “TBM” (Basement Records 1992)
“This was quite an early jungle tekno record, and it’s significant in a few ways. Firstly it’s a reference to my famous old flat at 14B Hillingdon Hill. It was tiny space, but from it we ran two record labels, a radio station and the Sound Entity recording studio. So many people came through the doors over the years to use the various facilities, from Carl Cox to Colin Faver. Wax Doctor and Kev Bird even named their EP Visit To 14B, on which record this track appeared. Again, there are some key synth sounds on this that, to me, sound like pure jungle tekno. This was very early one in the jungle tekno sound and it felt like the sound was really coming into its own and developing an identity. I remember getting the Korg Wavestation A/D around this time. That was a fabulous synth that opened up a whole new layer of sound textures. It’s used extensively on this tune ‘TBM’, which stands for ‘tough but nice’.”
Fast Floor, Plight Of The Innovators (Smooth Records 1993)
“For me this is all about the lead stab sound. It took me half a day to program on a Korg 01W using wave shaping, and it was incredibly difficult to make. I guess that’s why it’s not been replicated that much over the years. It’s unique and captures that made-by-aliens vibe jungle tekno has to have for me. It’s got something about it and I can still remember really exploring and pushing that synth to the depths of its creativity. Even during my years away from music I kept most of my machines, especially the Korg 01W, just because of this sound. It’s the epitome of jungle tekno.”
Smooth But Hazzardous, “We Are The Creator” (Sound Entity 1993)
“Alex Hazard was a good old boy. He was our lodger and was working at a London DJ store called Sound Division. He was the one who came up with the bedroom DJ packages that enabled a whole generation of DJs. Anyway, this classic sample was a result of an old habit I’d have of leaving the TV on record to see if there’s any snippets to sample. One day I got lucky, as Star Trek had been on. The minute I heard William Shatner saying ‘We are the creator,’ I was like ‘If that’s not a sample, nothing is!’ We built a really nice darkside jungle tekno tune around it. There’s a proper atmosphere to it that really captures what we were doing at the time.”
Hedgehog Affair, “The Pipe” (Sound Entity 1994)
“Hedgehog Affair was myself and my old-school friend Spencer T. He was DJing a lot, so I said, ‘Why not come over, bring some breakbeats and we’ll make a tune.’ We actually made a quite a few in the end and this was our last one. Jungle tekno had long since peaked by 1994. Intelligent drum & bass kicked in and the 4/4 was dropped completely. I hung on to the 4/4 for as long as possible because I loved it—see this track for an example. Sonically for me, it’s all about that iconic stab sound. Once again it’s from the Korg 01W synth and it’s got a really nice, slightly dreamy weirdness to it.”
Wax Doctor & Jack Smooth, “A New Direction (93 Remix)” (Basement Records 1993)
“I enjoyed making the original with Wax Doctor in 1992. It was one of the earlier jungle tekno tunes, and it ended up becoming something of an anthem when guys like Grooverider championed it. I felt like I had unfinished business with it, though, because my name wasn’t actually on the record. So I jumped in the following year with a remix. For me it’s one of the rare occasions where a remix improves on the original. A lot of people fell for the big string breakdown. I never did that many remixes because it was very hard to return to a project with the machines we had back then; I much preferred making something fresh.”
Kev Bird, “This Is A Trip” (Basement Records 1992)
“Kev is amazing. With some guys I’d be very hands on and help them, but I only helped him with a few sounds. He was very clever and had this uncanny ability to make massive anthems like this one. It’s an absolute classic slab of wax. I’m really glad he came to me and I worked on it. He brought the ingredients and I helped with the baking. You can really hear his role as a DJ in this record with the way it’s built, the darkness and those classic Belgian and hardcore influences. Another stone cold classic example of jungle tekno from 1992.”
Published November 27, 2017.