"Rare SSR Electronica ’88-94 (Crammed Archives 1) "

As previously announced, we’re celebrating the label’s 42nd anniversary by shedding some light on two fragmentary, opposite portions of our label’s diverse history and catalogue. 

On one hand, we’ve reactivated the Made To Measure composers’ series, with remastered vinyl reissues of classic albums as well as new releases. 

On the other, we’re now highlighting electronic music trends we were exploring during the ’80s and ‘90s, by digitally releasing no less than 250 rare tracks which only ever came out on vinyl (or on now-deleted CDs). These digital reissues will be rolled out over the next 18 months, in several phases, each consisting of a compilation plus several related EPs (see the release schedule at the bottom).

The first wave of archives reissues comes out on June 17 under the Rare SSR Electronica ’88-94 banner, and is devoted to the first period of our electronic music imprint SSR (which - alongside sister imprints Language and Selector - released scores of albums and EPs by artists including Carl Craig, Snooze, Juryman aka Ian Simmonds, DJ Spinna, 4hero and Tek 9, Bleep aka Biosphere, Telex, DJ Morpheus and many more).

This first phase consists of a 24-track compilation, and five standalone EPs or albums, by The Gruesome Twosome (aka Samy Birnbach/DJ Morpheus + Per Martinsen), Scottish rave & ambient master Solar QuestSyamese (the aforementioned Per Martinsen, aka Mental Overdrive), Avalon (US/BE) and the T.O.S. EPs (a project which laid the foundations for the entire electronic music scene in Norway).

The Rare SSR Electronica ’88-94 digital compilation contains key tracks by artists described in the SSR story below.

Here’s the track listing:

01 The Gruesome Twosome - Hallucination Generation 
02 Syamese - Drum
03 Mr Big Mouse (Hollander & Kenis) - Drop That Ghetto Blaster! (feat. Karen Finley)
04 + (Positive) - Change This Circus !
05 Farida International - Security (feat. Mr Big Mouse & Foreign Affair)
06 Bleep (Biosphere) - Sure Be Glad When You’re Dead
07 Syamese - Absorbia
08 Alegria (Bjørn Torske) - Danger
09 Avalon - Linked (Move D remix)
10 YBU - Keep It Up (Instru-mental)
11 YBU feat. Jonell - Soul Magic - 5.12 Edit
12 YBU feat. Anneli Marian Drecker - Keep It Up (Mixed By Bwana Mpuku For Mr. Big Mouse)
13 Hans G - Camanche
14 Photon - Doin’ Our Thang (Alien)
15 Solar Quest - One Nation
16 Anything You Like - A1
17 Hans G - Geronimo
18 Photon - Doin’ Our Thang (Radiant)
19 Solar Quest - Acid Nation
20 Bobvan - Go With The Flow (Coconino World Remix by Mr Big Mouse)
21 Twin Freaks - Agent Cooper Lurvs Coffee (Loglady Remix)
22 Sacher Musak - Gorba The Chief
23 Avalon - Midsummer’s Night Dream
24 Bleep (Biosphere) - The Launchpad (Boomerang Mix))


Standalone EPs / albums:


The Gruesome Twosome - Hallucination Generation (7 tracks)

A wild breakbeat track with metallic, sinister/ironic vocals and cinematic horn fanfares, Hallucination Generation burst onto the unsuspecting dancefloors sometime in 1989. It was the first track concocted by the unholy alliance formed by one Lord Solomon Pearbrook (aka Samy Birnbach from Minimal Compact, aka DJ Morpheus), and Norwegian techno wunderkind Per Martinsen (aka Syamese, Mental Overdrive and Illumination), collectively known as The Gruesome Twosome. The flip side was entitled Hollywood Babylon Revisited (a nod to filmmaker Kenneth Anger’s scandalous book). Pearbrook aka Morpheus went on the record the Candy For Strangers album in collaboration with Bertrand Burgalat, a record teeming with corrupt TV evangelists, serial killers, cracked actors, reformed drug cases, gamblers and assorted psychopaths, all portrayed with ferocious humour. Released in the US as part of SSR’s Sampler et Sans Reproche compilation, Hallucination Generation became a club favourite and appeared in the Billboard and Rolling Stone club chart as well as in underground dance chart Rockpool (where it was described as “angst-ridden industrial sampling set to a hip-hop beat”). This EP also includes two tracks produced in collaboration with Mute artists Fortran 5 & Paul Kendall, and a Solar Quest remix of I’m The Light.

The T.O.S. EPs 
(10 tracks)

A collaborative effort by half a dozen young producers from the Norwegian town of Tromsø, these two EPs came out in 1991 and laid the foundations for what later became a vibrant electronic music scene (with acts such as Todd Terje, Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas and more). The atmosphere and landscapes of Tromsø (situated way north of the Arctic Circle) might partly explain the special sound created by the T.O.S. crew (T.O.S. being the code for the local airport), as it does for Bel Canto’s ambient pop sound. The ten tracks on the T.O.S. EPs were mostly written and produced -in various combinations- by Per Martinsen (aka Syamese and Mental Overdrive, here appearing as Alien Nation Corporation), Geir Jenssen (aka Bleep, who became a leading ambient artist with his Biosphere project), Hans Grottheim (aka YBU), Ole Mjøs (later of Ismistik) and, last but not least, Bjørn Torske (Ismistik), who produced his debut tracks on these EPs, and went on to collaborate with Röyksopp (who also emerged from the Tromsø scene) and influence most of the subsequent Norwegian techno scene. The T.O.S. EPs were recorded partly in Tromsø and partly in the SSR/Crammed studio Brussels, where Martinsen, Grottheim and Jenssen were based at the time.

Solar Quest - A+B=C in D# (9 tracks)
Clocking in at one hour and forty-five minutes, this collection includes the three Solar Quest EPs recorded for and released by SSR in the early nineties. Solar Quest is Scottish musician George Saunders, who made a name from himself in the festival and rave scenes across Europe, and went on to write and record one of the most emblematic albums of ambient techno of that era (Orgship, released in 1994 on SSR), which has lately been gaining renewed interest on streaming platforms. The nine tracks on this collection range from Solar Quest’s trademark, acidy dance tracks to the more mellow atmospheres pointing towards his ambient work. Incidentally, we’ll soon be reissuing another ambient album of his, the droney Sonic Bloom, released under the Entropica moniker.

Syamese - Pure Sickness (7 tracks)

Per Martinsen is undoubtedly one Norway’s most prolific and influential techno musicians. As mentioned, he came to Brussels to join his friends from the band Bel Canto, who were signed to Crammed, and started producing his first tracks for SSR, under the Syamese moniker. He also collaborated with Samy Birnbach for the Gruesome Twosome project, with Bel Canto’s Nils Johansen for the +(positive) EP, and with Hans Grottheim (Photon) and others. He went on to release a string of hardcore records for R&S (as Mental Overdrive), ambient techno tracks with his Illumination project, and many more projects which came out on labels such as Virgin, Smalltown Supersound, Prins Thomas’ Full Pup label, and Per’s own Love OD Communications imprint, which he still runs. The Pure Sickness EP contains some of the best examples of Per Martinsen’s early, inventive work, and is complemented by two versions of his track Drum, an underground club classic at the time.

Avalon - Earth Water Air Fire (17 tracks)

US-born Tim Handels was twenty when he released this fine album and EP on SSR. Tim explains: “I started my musical adventures back in 1992, with SSR Records/Freezone. My first 12 inch (‘Tetra’) came out under the name THC, and was followed by my debut album ‘Earth Water Air Fire’ under the Avalon moniker in 1993. Fast-forward and I am now producing music for TV, placing tracks with channels such as Canal+, BBC TV, CNN, Channel 4, ITV, ABC, National Geographic TV and many more”. Never previously available on digital platforms, the Avalon album is complemented here by the Fish/Linked EP (1995), comprising two originals as well as remixes by London duet The Arc and by German producer Move D aka David Moufang (of Deep Space Network fame), as well as great ambient techno track Midsummer Night Dream, mixed with Solar Quest. This album “sounds as though it was recorded in a spacecraft high above the Andes… Deep”, wrote Mixmag. 

The SSR story - part 1

From the late ‘80s and through the ‘90s, Crammed released over sixty albums and dozens of EPs of cutting-edge electronic music on its SSR sub-label (and sister imprints Language and Selector). As eclectic as its parent Crammed Discs, SSR put out music in a variety of styles, ranging from house and techno to downtempo, ambient, broken beats, drum’n’bass and hip-hop.

Here’s a description from a recent article on SSR in The Vinyl Factory (UK):
It was the end of the eighties and label founder Marc Hollander was mostly following his gut feeling. He had already released electronic music with Crammed Discs - the proto techno track 
Saure Gurke with his own band Aksak Maboul is a good example - but SSR was meant to fully experiment with the still young and exciting new musical genre. Far ahead of their time, SSR Records released music by European and American artists that often hadn’t had their breakthrough yet. The Crammed Discs sublabel followed a headstrong path meandering between diverse styles. It was A&R’d by Hollander, later joined by Minimal Compact singer Samy Birnbach aka DJ Morpheus. SSR can look back at around 200 releases and the long list of exciting names on their Discogs page almost reads as an all-star line-up of a modern dance music summer festival. (Koen Galle).

As described in the notes presenting the Rare Early SSR Electronica EP (out on May 27, 2022), the first handful of EPs released on the imprint blended early techno stylings with flavours from around the world. Some of these tracks immediately made an impression, and appeared in underground and mainstream club charts in the US and Europe: The Gruesome Twosome’s Hallucination Generation (see above), A Byte of AMC by Bleep aka Biosphere (which paid tribute to Manchester hip hop duo Kiss AMC and their cheeky track A Bit of U2, and also included a bit of Sussan Deyhim’s recently reissued Desert Equations album), and two productions by Mr Big Mouse, an alias briefly used by Crammed/Aksak Maboul’s Marc Hollander & Vincent Kenis (their Drop That Ghetto Blaster! track - an answer track to Theme from S’Express - was said to play around with and push against the boundaries of house… utterly intoxicating - New Musical Express).

SSR’s early roster also included some of the best exponents of the budding Norwegian electronic music scene, whose connection with Crammed happened via the band Bel Canto: both Bleep (aka Geir Jenssen, later known as Biosphere) and Stakhanov (i.e. one half of +(positive), aka Nils Johansen) were members of Bel Canto. The band had moved from Tromsø (in northern Norway) to Brussels to be close to their label, and they were soon joined by their friends Per Martinsen (aka Syamese and Mental Overdrive) and Hans Grottheim (who released records under a variety of monikers, including Anything You Like and YBU). Hans’ two singles as YBU respectively featured vocals by Bel Canto singer Anneli Marian Drecker, and by English vocalist Jonell. They both enjoyed notable success, Soul Magic (with its repetitive “yeah… feeling…” vocals) even becoming a proper club anthem, marking the funky/chill turn which took place around 1991.

Another, quite different Hans Grottheim track also did very well: “A1 by Anything You Like is the looniest of tunes, and is backed by two other hair-raising cuts, B1 and B2, wrote UK music weekly Melody Maker in August 1991. The press release went: “Producing the music isn’t the problem. But with all these Triangle 909, Amoeba Gene Factor Warp, 200 Zillion Something On Acid band names, it becomes more and more difficult to name a new project, so after much thought SSR proudly presents Anything You Like and their tracks A1B1 and B2

This gathering of the rising Norwegian electronic music scene later led to the production of the groundbreaking two-volume T.O.S. EP (see above).

Other interesting personalities soon joined the fun: Sacher Musak  (produced by Bobvan) released a couple of singles inspired by political events («Van Den Beat» and «Gorba The Chief”), and Bobvan’s Twin Freaks was inspired by you-know-what. Young American-Belgian producer Avalon signed to SSR and produced an album. So did Scottish musician & DJ George Saunders aka Solar Quest (see above).

By 1994, our electronic music output started shifting and branching out, first with the inauguration of the Freezone ambient electronic music series, then with the launch of two sister labels: London-based Language (with Tony Thorpe aka Moody Boyz at the helm), and Paris based drum’n’bass imprint Selector (headed by Catherine Piault), while DJ Morpheus took co-A&R duties over at SSR. That next phase will be reflected in our 3rd batch of archival reissues. 

Incidentally, during that entire period, we at Crammed Discs managed to keep doing many other things: it’s our very same small team, headed by Hollander and co-director Hanna Gorjaczkowska (& supported by in-house producer Vincent Kenis) which not only worked on the production and release of all these electronic music records, but also on albums by Zap Mama, Taraf de Haïdouks, Dominique Dalcan, a score of albums on Made To Measure etc. A fact that may have been hard to comprehend, in a period where music styles and tribes were way more separated than they are today.


Crammed Archives - digital release schedule:

May 27, 2022
The Rare Early SSR Electronica EP

June 17, 2022
Rare SSR Electronica 1988-94 (Crammed Archives 1) 
: 24-track compilation
The Gruesome Twosome 
Hallucination Generation
Various Artists
 
- The TOS EP
Solar Quest
 
A+B=C in D#
Syamese
 
Pure Sickness
Avalon 
Earth Water Air Fire

Autumn 2022

Phase 2: 
Rare Global Pop 1980s (Crammed Archives 2)
+ 6 rare EPs


Spring 2023

Phase 3: 
Rare Electronica 1994-01 (Crammed Archives 3)
+ 4 rare EPs


Autumn 2023

Phase 4: 
Rare Electronica B-sides 1988-97 (Crammed Archives 4)







Releases

CRAMMED ELECTRONICA ARCHIVES - Rare SSR Electronica ’88-94 (Crammed Archives 1)
CRAMMED ELECTRONICA ARCHIVES
Rare SSR Electronica ’88-94 (Crammed Archives 1)
digital
CRAMMED ELECTRONICA ARCHIVES - Rare Early SSR Electronica EP
CRAMMED ELECTRONICA ARCHIVES
Rare Early SSR Electronica EP
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