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Need For Speed - The Return of Speed Garage

Speed garage is undeniably fun music, the souped-up cousin of UKG that refuses to take itself too seriously. It’s that happy-go-lucky state of mind that prefaces the plethora of speedy g edits, bootlegs and re-rubs that can be heard rattling sound systems across the UK. Sampling everything from Morricone scores to Snoop Dogg to Sweeney Todd’s No Place Like London, speed garage producers proved that nothing was sacred. If it existed, it could be bootlegged

Ahead of our sell-out party with Interplanetary Criminal, we explored what makes speed garage so great, how its idiosyncrasies fuelled the scorn of sceptics and some of the DJs and producers at the forefront of its modern resurrection. We also threw in a few essential beats for good measure.

Pairing the syncopated, swinging drums of UKG with jungle-ish warping basslines and tiiiiiiiiimestretched vocals, you can rely on speed garage to inject energy into the drowsiest of dancefloors. All chunky low-end and big, brash vocals, the genre is an unapologetic recipe for club chaos. At the turn of the millennium, speed garage was booming. As the noughties stretched on, the stars began to fall and the pre-Y2K glory days seemed ever more distant.

Championed by the Hessle Audio crew yet commonly condemned as shallow or one-dimensional, the closure of some of speed garage’s most iconic clubs threatened the scene’s survival. However, the recent revival and boom of UK garage has seen further shine afforded to speed garage, backed by a series of fresh dubs provided by UKG’s prolific new school, and support from genre-hopping DJs like Batu, Call Super, and Shanti Celeste.

187 Lockdown - Gunman

And yet, it seems to have been the fun, loose nature of many speed garage tunes that prevented proponents of the genre from receiving their flowers. Disdained as ‘chav house’ by Discogs chin-strokers and techno purists, speed garage – like its similarly rowdy cousin bassline – often fell short of critical acclaim. Like jungle, and the modern grime scene, there was blatant classism to many criticisms of speed garage, evidenced by the abundance of mid-2000s blog posts that complained about the genre being for ‘chavs’ or ‘drug dealers.’

Todd Edwards – No Place Like London

Despite this, speed garage’s ruff n’ ready sound had mainstream appeal – Double 99’s Ripgroove reached 14 in the UK singles chart – but much of its cult following was cultivated outside of the UK’s capital, in the Midlands, Leeds and Sheffield. Seminal Sheffield spot Niche and Birmingham’s Steering Wheel Club remain revered for boosting the speed garage and bassline scene, as do anthems like DJ Switch and MC Cobra’s Birmingham Town and Sweet Sensation, by Sheffield’s Big Ang.

DJ Switch and MC Cobra – Birmingham Town

Though those clubs are no more, artists and institutions from these regions are helping the new school spearhead the speed garage resurgence. Leeds duo Soul Mass Transit System churn out belters with alarming regularity, often landing on Instinct, the label and garage moniker of another Leeds stalwart, Burnski. Brum digging haven Digbeth Records is headed up by Shorterz, a veteran of the speed garage scene, and its eponymous label’s sought-after releases are comprised of bumpy tunes across the UKG sphere. The aptly-named trio Northern Division proudly produce and play speed garage ‘from the heart of Yorkshire.’

Manchester party-starter and soon-to-be APE-X guest Interplanetary Criminal’s sets are peppered with both classic and modern speed garage, as well as a hearty helping of jungle, bassline and a bit of donk if you’re lucky. A glance at his discography belies a diverse blend of dubs, from emotive 2-step – In My Arms – to jungle – Vapour – to the speed garage seriousness of Take Me Away and Pride.

We can view the future of speed garage with cautious optimism, as the cultural impact of UK garage more generally continues to grow. As producers further afield, like Danish dub dealer Main Phase and French producer Pépé Elle pick up tools to produce UK garage, we’ll (hopefully) hear an increasing amount of speed garage tunes on our speakers going forward. With the quality contributions of the new school and the growing support of both current and iconic speed garage by tastemakers, it seems like we’re in safe hands.

To celebrate Interplanetary Criminal’s imminent arrival, we’ve singled out a few of classic and modern speedy g tunes that are guaranteed to do the business on a club system:

Serious Danger – Battle Plate [1996]

Operate – Sweet Talk (Soul Mass Transit System Remix) [2020]

DJ Shorterz – Out Of My Mind [2006]

Main Phase – This 1 [2020]

Les Indiscretes – Mob Hunter [1998]

Words By: Ethan Jones


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