It's fitting that maverick DJ/producer T-Power, aka Marc Royal, is outlining ten influential tracks this issue in this drum & bass special of DJ Mag. Royal has had a schizophrenic relationship with d&b over the years. He started off making hardcore and jungle before concocting groundbreaking tracks like the dystopian 'Police State' and the seductive 'Mutant Jazz', and then going super-ambient. Teaming with Shy FX, he then immersed himself in the heart of the drum & bass scene and co-wrote memorable scene anthems with Shy which became chart hits, such as 'Shake Ur Body' and 'Don't Wanna Know'.
Leaving d&b behind and moving to Canada in the mid-noughties, he briefly reincarnated as Mr Sofalumpkins and is now working on his first solo album as Marc Royal. “It is a microtonal ambient project titled 'The Lazy Nine', utilizing vortex-based maths that include hexadecimal and digital root numbers,” he tells DJ Mag, starting to make our heads spin as usual. “The reasoning is this: Bach left us in a mess after he moved us away from 432hz. The issue is now compounded by electronic music, as the errors of equal temperament are firmly fixed in place unless you become familiar with tuning tables, but this leads to other problems. How does one overcome the pythagorean comma with just twelve tones?”
Answers on a postcard, please. Here's his ten...
1. HARRY PARTCH 'The Bewitched'
“Singular in his sound, Partch created his own tonality diamond and then built the instruments to play his own strange creations with. Though it is interesting to note that this tuning table does not work so well for chords, it is perfect for complex percussive work. Partch spent much of his life homeless, a very poor reward for such great genius, though I guess the choice to take such a route makes him undeniably unique — food for thought for those shouting so hard in the social media age to be heard. Sometimes it is more applicable to whisper.”
2. PETE NAMLOOK 'Dreamfish'
“I was lucky enough to meet the late, great Namlook via a mutual friend in the '90s, I had never heard the term microtonalism before then. Here Pete teams up with another ambient hero of mine Mixmaster Morris, and together they deliver a seamless ride into hyperspace. 'Dreamfish 1 & 2' are as good as ambient gets, tie yourself down for the ride if you find yourself in control of vehicles capable of traversing hyperspace.”
3. CLAUDE DEBUSSY 'Clair De Lune'
“The antithesis of Chopin, every note is purposeful, every tone intentional, nothing is wasted here, including the spaces between the tones. I will die a happy man if I compose a single piece that comes close to the beauty of this. Now everything I compose starts life as a piano composition, I find that grounding my music in a single instrument gives clarity and purpose to my arrangements. This is a bottom-up over top-down process.”
4. COCTEAU TWINS 'Evangeline'
“I could have picked many, many tunes from this outfit, but this is the tune I want to die to. Their sound still amazes me, Elizabeth Frazer should be legendary as her nonsensical lyrics transcend language in a way that is other-worldly. This is what I wish all my dreams sounded like. Their music washes over and dissolves me, like salt my problems are washed back into the ocean, it's always a cleansing experience.”
5. MILES DAVIS 'Prayer'
“Taken from Davis' interpretation of Gershwin's 'Porgy And Bess', this is a clinic in how to arrange horns. By overlaying mute/stopped versions of the horns with their open variants, Davis creates a wall of evolving harmonics that overpowers and eventually breaks the levy. You simply have no choice but to give in to its sheer onslaught.”
6. ROY AYERS 'Keep Walking'
“There are of course other more famous tracks on his Ubiquity 'Everybody Loves The Sunshine' album, but I absolutely love this track — it's pure soul, and music lacking soul is incomplete. Ayers was very prolific during this period, and no self-respecting music fan should be without this in their collection.”
7. TOM WAITS 'Mr Henry'
“In a beautifully simplistic way, Waits demonstrates how character can overcome the biggest of deficiencies in tonal range, along with his unique piano-playing style that appears to breathe awkwardly — no doubt in tune with his own strange cadence as a human being. How can you not love this guy?”
8. KRAFTWERK 'Man Machine'
“I don't know if I would go as far as to say that there would be no electronic dance music without Kraftwerk, but this band was pivotal in creating the original electro sound. 'Man Machine' still stands out, though my ageing b-boy balls may still have a strange affinity for the Fearless Four's 'Rockin It', which used this as a sample way back in 1982.”
9. STEELY DAN 'FM (No Static At All)'
“I would argue that Steely Dan are one of the contenders for best band in the world ever, though I'm sure it would be a very long argument. On this particular track that was made for the 1978 movie of the same name, their hooks are beautifully thought-out and are thoroughly complimented by Fagen's sardonic take on post-modern life.”
10. THE SLICKERS 'Johnny Too Bad'
“Reggae more than any other genre has taught me the benefits of being off grid, so why not start at rocksteady itself? This song is pretty much perfect, the story is told in a simple fashion, you don't need to know the details, it's an age-old tale, the vibe just flows through you and I defy anyone to not be singing along to this by the time it's finished.”