‘Fell from the Sun: Downtempo and After Hours 1990-91’

❉ James Collingwood reviews Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs’ latest collection, taking us back to the very beginning of the ’90s.

In 1991 the music journalist Kris Needs (talking about the band The Grid) wrote that “Musical barriers are currently falling faster than Russian statues.” This feeling of optimism and change may have been brief but it is brilliantly captured in Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs’ latest Ace compilation Fell From The Sun.

Containing fourteen tracks from the period 1990 to 1991, Fell From The Sun takes us back to the very beginning of the ’90s and reflects the feeling of the time that things were changing and music was breathing and expanding.  In his usual brilliant sleeve notes Bob Stanley states that the key influential records of this time were the KLF album Chill Out and the Andy Weatherall ‘smash it to pieces’ remix of Primal Scream’s I’m Losing More Than I Will Ever Have.

That track metamorphosed into Loaded and would later culminate in the release of Screamadelica in September 1991. This was also a period when Bob and Pete’s group Saint Etienne were releasing their early records and one Saint Etienne track is included on this album

The album begins with Higher than the Sun from Screamadelica. With its drum sample from Wah Wah Man by The Young Holt Unlimited trio and its dreamy texture and muffled sirens this was a landmark track at the time and this version is the Orb edition. This sets down a marker for the rest of the album.

As Bob says in his sleeve notes the critic James Hamilton used to include the beats per minute of tracks in his reviews in Record Mirror since around 1979. The lower tempo of around 98 bpm is one thing all the tracks on this compilation have in common.

Key tracks on the album include the brilliant album version of Fallen by One Dove with its breathy pipes, its Weatherall production and its Justify My Love style vocal by Dot Allison.

Another stand out track Temple Head by Transglobal Underground may be familiar and was originally released on the Nation Records label run by Bradford’s own Aki Nawaz and Kath Canoville.

Floatation by The Grid is a sensual dreamy piece. Simon Reynolds wrote about it at the time as “a single that has perfectly captured the New Age mood that has permeated club culture in the 1990s… like a session in a flotation tank, the track was designed to soothe your soul. Lower your metabolic rate and leave you feeling ‘centred’.”

There’s a great unreleased radio edit version of Saint Etienne’s B Side Speedwell with its hypnotic drums, gospel vocal and piano repetition. Recorded before Sarah Cracknell joined the group it was originally the B side of Nothing Can Stop Us. Future Saint Etienne collaborator Q-Tee (remember the brilliant B side Filthy?) also makes an appearance on the track Afrika with its inspirational Martin Luther King sample.

Other stand outs include the brilliant soul track I Don’t Even Know If I Should Call You Baby by Soul Family Sensation, and Never Get Out The Boat by The Aloof with its Apocalypse Now sample. The one off the one-off recording U Make Me Feel by Elsi Curry has a particularly tragic story attached to it involving Shamen band member Will Sinnott.

The compilation ends with the club favourite Spiritual High by Moodswings, and the compilation is full of club classics, one-off white label releases and other gems that capture the early morning “reach for the sky” atmosphere of the time. A compilation for ageing ravers and indie kids.

❉ Various Artists: ‘Fell From The Sun’ CD (CDCHD 1596) is available from Ace Records, RRP £11.70. Click here to pre-order.

 James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre.  His Twitter is @JamesCollingwo1

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