- Essential UK hardcore and early jungle, remastered and repackaged.
- Sneaker Social Club's new Foul Play compilation, Origins, is a rare treat, collecting the group's first three records onto one album. The Northampton two-piece (originally three-piece) group of Steve Gurley and John Morrow made an instant classic with their first release, 1992's Vol. 1, and started an enviable hot streak that included anthems like "Finest Illusion" and "Ricochet." They would become key artists on Rob Playford's influential Moving Shadow label. Origins is a vital piece of musical history for anyone into jungle. You can hear the genre evolve in the hands of these three producers.
The meat of Origins is the group's first two EPs, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. They find the group at the tail end of hardcore, when the genre was at its most frenzied. Tracks like "Survival" chop up hardcore's classic rising-and-falling chord progressions into a hyperactive flurry, while early classics like "The Alchemist" feature endearingly rough vocal samples. The group would rapidly improve. Take the rocksteady-inspired "Dubbing You," from Vol. 2, with an extended vocal hook and an unusually loved-up mood. It's especially fascinating to hear the development between the originals and the more nuanced, remixed versions of "Feel The Vibe" and "Ricochet."
Though the compilation only spans one year of output, the growth is even more remarkable thanks to the two remaining tracks, "Finest Illusion" and "Screwface." Here, you can start to hear jungle take root, with more complicated drum patterns. If Foul Play has an anthem, it's probably "Finest Illusion," available here in its sought-after vocal version. "Finest Illusion" is frenetic jungle built around an ecstatic vocal break taken from an SOS Band record. Gurley recorded the vocals from the original record onto a DAT tape, because digital sampling memory wasn't big enough to hold the entire verse.
It's that kind of resourceful genius that sets Foul Play apart. Instead of the clipped, repetitive samples we're used to from early jungle and hardcore, we get a full verse, highlighting the songcraft and savvy that defined the outfit from the beginning. It's the same sensibility that Goldie and the Metalheadz crew would use to take drum & bass mainstream only a few years later. Origins is a welcome profile of the early days of one of UK hardcore's most forward-looking acts, whose ingenuity still shines through clear as day.
01. Finest Illusion
03. Dubbing You
04. The Alchemist
05. Feel The Vibe
06. Feel The Vibe (Again)
09. Ricochet (No Stopping The Remix)