Records Revisited: Speedy J – Ginger (1993)

With his début album »Ginger«, producer Speedy J made a contribution to »electronic listening music« that was as versatile as it was minimalist. He released the energy to be found in the clubs in a refined way that is still sometimes misunderstood today

People had little contact with artificial intelligence in their everyday lives 30 years ago. The fact that the British bleep pioneers released a series of records under the title »Artificial Intelligence« on Warp sounded like the promise of something new. It became clear to the open-minded public that something was afoot in the world of electronic music. It was somewhat surprising to see producers who had recently been producing hard club bangers suddenly producing soft sounds on their synthesisers.

Perhaps the most striking example of this contrast was Dutch producer Jochem Paap, aka Speedy J. Paap had already made techno history with tracks like »Pullover«, proving that you can do a lot with just a few elements. »Ginger«, his début album in collaboration with Richie Hawtin’s label +8, was also minimalist, but very unusual.

At the start of the record, the title track kicks off in tried-and-true techno style with a dry, barely perceptible echoing bass drum. Only the occasional bell-like sound hints at what is to come. The result is an inconspicuously complex interplay of beat, offbeat bass, sporadic background effects and a tabla that complements the discreet hi-hat. The whole thing gradually builds up, but not with the expected maximum amount of oomph with intermediate drop, but marked by highly effective restraint, just like the rest of the track. An opening that is unexpectedly subtle and su

Maximum oomph with intermediate drop is not part of the programme.

From there, Paap navigates through a variety of styles without you even noticing. In order: »Fill 4« is subtly influenced by marimba patterns. »Beam Me Up!« then offers a boiled down sci-fi disco groove. For this one you also have to know which release I’m talking about. On the Warp release, »Beam Me Up!« is track three, while on the +8 version it closes the album. Warp closed »Ginger« with »De-Orbit«, released a year earlier on the »Artificial Intelligence« sampler, with its slow, rumbling breakbeats and echoing, grinding melody. It is one of the album’s hits and a blueprint for the space that has since opened up for electronic music beyond the confines of the club.

Unseen Innovation

What is also interesting about »De-Orbit« is that it did not, as one might think, provide the occasion for a change of style on Speedy J’s first LP. Apparently he already had a number of tracks in the back of his mind, but he hadn’t able to make proper use of them because they didn’t fit in with the mood of his techno EPs. Any notion that Paap was a youthful, martial speed merchant—he was still in his early 20s when »Pullover« was released in 1991—who had suddenly discovered his »tender« side can therefore be confidently dismissed as nonsense. Incidentally, he has since returned to raw techno whenever necess

The fact that both +8 and Warp created a platform for more open sounds with the »Artificial Intelligence« collection seems prescient in hindsight. For while the practice of strictly »functional« club music may have existed throughout the techno era, many of the developments that have taken place in electronic music since the nineties can be traced back to things like the colourful, shimmering ambient surfaces over the cleverly constructed rhythmic framework of »Ginger«. These pointed in all sorts of different directions, many of which left the structures of club music behind or existed alongside them.

Many of the developments that have taken place in electronic music since the nineties can be traced back to things like the colourful, shimmering ambient surfaces over the cleverly constructed rhythmic framework of »Ginger«.

It goes without saying that this intelligent form of life, which has now spread into music as a completely natural phenomenon, is not of artificial origin. With artificial, vulgar electronic means, however, it has contributed to a new aesthetic in the sense of »artificial paradises«, loosely based on Charles Baudelaire’s epynomic essay on drugs, with musically induced »states of intoxication«.

With Speedy J, this innovation sometimes went unnoticed. Even the more recent reactions to the album have sometimes been cautious, with some people listening to »pale« IDM instead of the more refined methods. There’s no need to judge that, however. But if you were to spend an hour with your ears and the rest of your body listening to what is created on »Ginger« over and over again, you might come to a different conclusion.