Lee Gamble Lee GambleDiversions 1994-1996
While his first releases are from 2006, mainly on deeply experimental labels such as Entr’acte (an extremely specialised stronghold where people still cultivate concrete music), the story of Lee Gamble goes much further back, and, most of all, even though it's paradoxical to say it like that, much further forward into the future. Furthermore, although he's dedicated the better part of his work to the renovation and updating of the electro-acoustic sources of sound, and to creating sonic spaces more typical of a museum than a private room (not to mention a club), his origins in music are in the early 90s, with his first set of turntables and a strong obsession with jungle. The latter was on the rise at that time (and particularly in the years mentioned in the title of this EP, from 1994 to 1996), both popularity-wise and on a creative level, in a way that we've seen only very few times in electronic dance music (and never as massively as in the British scene). Lee Gamble was one of the many anonymous youngsters, enthusiastic and not leaving a real trace in history, who were part of the pirate radio fever and drum'n'bass passion, and “Diversions 1994-1996” goes back to those days as a tribute. But he's not recreating jungle here, it's something much more subtle than that. Something which, moreover, is without precedent.
Gamble is part of the recent scene of re-contextualisation of the past which we have often identified with (already out of use, but not less necessary) terms like hauntology and hypnagogia: his strategy is to turn to the past, a practically blurry past, remembered fragmentarily, and with more shadows than lights. His focus of attention is drum’n’bass; not so much its rhythmic dimension (the breaks constructions sculpted at different speeds and from different angles, the astonishing polyrhythms that bounced off and mixed with each other on tracks by Doc Scott, 4 Hero, early Goldie, and Omni Trio), but its care for atmospheric details. Generally, in the jungle of those days (coming out of the darkcore tunnel of obscurity and drugs as described on Origin Unknown's “Valley Of The Shadows”, towards the light shining on LTJ Bukem's “Music” and “Horizons”), there used to be an atmospheric intro before the multidimensional breakbeat would kick in and the first bass stabs were provided (a pause that would usually be repeated around halfway through the track, like an oasis of peace). Lee Gamble has dissected some of those tracks from back then and, like a surgeon, taken out all the rhythmical muscles, leaving only the intros and interludes. He then processed that material with sepia filters (as if the music were uploaded to Instagram), and ended up with 25 minutes of calm intertwined sketches in a continuum that sounds ghostly rather than euphoric, closer to Oval or The Caretaker than to legendary labels like Moving Shadow, Reinforced or Metalheadz.
In some titles, like “Helicopter” and “Rufige”, you can sense that the original sources of “Diversions 1994-1996” are, or could be (it's all blurry) tracks like “The Helicopter Tune” (Deep Blue, released in December 1993 and popularised several weeks later by Moving Shadow), or the pivotal “Terminator” (Reinforced, 1993) by Rufige Kru, Goldie's first alias. It's precisely at that moment, near the end of side B (and preceded by “Dollis Hill”) when Lee Gamble finally lets go of his prey, opening the floodgates, and the first breakbeats start pouring out, only to fade away quickly and crown a strange, very well measured climax that leaves the 12” at a point of anxiety and burgeoning euphoria. It forces you to play the record again, start over on the labyrinthine and diluted path that the producer laid out so well (and which, frustratingly enough, he's not about to take again on “Dutch Tvashtar Plumes”, the album he's releasing on PAN later this year, which we'll talk about here in due course). Because besides the originality of the idea (no record like this has ever been released before, so we can safely say it's the first hauntology album inspired by jungle), what's most comforting and surprising is the perfect execution, to the point that we can fully subscribe to what John Twells (Xela) wrote on his Twitter page: “if you don't like Lee Gamble's 'Diversions' LP then you can't be my friend any more”.