Been gradually working my way through "Bring The Noise" (no skipping chapters!) and of course it's a wonderful read, even when about artists who I personally detest, like Morrissey. Inevitably the book has been inspiring me to re-listen to a lot of old stuff (maybe leading to a few more blog posts in the future) particularly the 'Feminine Pressure' piece, a survey of 2 Step/UK Garage, originally published in The Wire, April 1999. The first thing I reached for after reading it was Woebot's excellent "Noir Desire" mix, and then riffling through my own (very meagre) store of 2 Step records. In truth I was never really a fan at the height of it's popularity, perhaps due to the genre's emphasis on vocals and slik production; my re-connection with the 'nuum occurring with the discovery of Eskibeat and dubstep around 2003-04. But I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Listening through the double compilation Blackmarket Presents 2 Step (Azuli Records, 2000) gives a pretty good account of the sound at it's most accessible, with the emphasis on full vocal tracks, rather then those using chopped-up diva samples (generally more favoured by enthusiasts like Simon and Matt) with the notable exception of Groove Chronicles' wonderfully stealthy "1999". It's a nicely presented package, with lots of close-up photos of the turntables in the Blackmarket shop, although the printed tracklist order doesn't tally with what's on the actual vinyl grooves. Thankfully the previous owner wrote the correct running order on the labels, saving me some serious confusion. But hidden amongst all those glossy vocal numbers is "The Phone Tune", by 212, which I absolutely adore partly for it's stripped-back minimalist approach, succulent subby bassline and eerie synth melody. But also the complete lack of soulful vocals (sampled or otherwise) instead substituting matronly female phone operator phrases and other tele-tones. It's like a 2 Step update of Kraftwerk's "The Telephone Call" or B12's "Telephone 529", but the really genius bit is the use of that annoying interference you get when a mobile phone signal cuts through your hi-fi speakers. The first time I heard it, I actually grabbed my mobile cos I thought I had an incoming call! It's the sort of track I could imagine starting life as a jingle on a pirate station.
I know absolutely nothing about 212. According to Discogs, "The Phone Tune" wasn't even released as a 12" in it's own right - it only appears on this collection. Who was this mysterious producer? Is this an unusually 'empty' example of 2 step?