- When released in 1994, Bob Holroyd's "African Drug" fit perfectly with the psychedelic, Fourth World ambient of the era's chillout rooms. (It also fit perfectly into Coldcut's 70 Minutes of Madness mix; in fact, two Coldcut remixes backed the original release.) Sixteen years later, the heads at Phonica wisely realized its contemporary relevance, given the current vogue for ethno percussion in house, dubstep and nu-disco. A tightly controlled squall of hand percussion and dubbed-out voices, it's really a stunning track. A rarity in dance music, it actually makes you grapple with the rhythm, seeming to shift imperceptibly from a slow 4/4 time to a much quicker 6/8 before coming back down to solid ground; DJs will want to earmark this one, given the way it serves as a wormhole from one tempo to another.
The song's kalimbas and thrumming hand drums make Four Tet an obvious choice to rework it, and if his 12-minute remix might sound exactly as you would expect—weaving rolling percussion, sped-up kalimba lines and various synthesizer counterpoints into a loose, wooly approximation of techno—that doesn't make it any less captivating. It sticks to a 4/4 beat throughout, but, following the spirit of the original, it makes the most of the contrast between more measured cadences and all-out rhythmic mayhem. T. Williams, of the Deep Teknologi label collective, follows the structure of the original even more closely, opening with a long percussive passage in 6/8 time before seamlessly shifting into a taut, synthetic tech-house groove; plangent synths make the connection to cosmic disco, the original's clear spiritual forebear.
A African Drug (Four Tet Remix)
B African Drug (T. Williams Remix)