BPM. Where would we be without it? It first came to my attention when, as an avid reader of Smash Hits during the mid 80s, all the new dance releases had to have this information appended, although what anybody except DJs would have done with these dubious nuggets was beyond me. Moreover, we were treated to risible descriptions of the tracks, usually a collection of adjectives in front of a made-up noun: “shuffling joggling 120bpm mashler,” or something similar.
These days, it’s become more of a technical yardstick to determine the genre your music falls into: if it’s 130-140 BPM, it’s Nu School Breaks, 150-170 is Jungle, if it’s over 200 it’s Cybergrind, and 160-170 is Drum and Bass. Now this is a gross oversimplification of course, and those of you wishing for a more erudite and informed description would be advised to look elsewhere. However, it’s a facile and tendentious way to introduce Panacea (or Mathias Mootz to his parents), a classically trained German producer and musician who goes under a variety of pseudonyms, including M squared, Problem Child and so on. He unites the frantic tempo of drum and bass with dark undertones and speech samples to produce occasionally quite compelling soundscapes, with vocals put on the back burner.
John Peel’s show was going through a period of frantic redevelopment in the mid 1990s and this ridiculously fast tempo stuff was catnip to his exploration of the new and exciting. Panacea’s first and only session used on the fly remixes of tracks put out on the Chrome (subsequently Position Chrome) label (the source of a bewildering variety of 12 inches) and given hefty boots of tambourine and throbbing, visceral bass sounds. John was sufficiently impressed to have Mathias perform at his 60th birthday party in 1999, where a continuous 26 minute aural assault was one of the highlights of the evening.
Panacea, Peel Session
Panacea, Peel’s 60th birthday gig
The 1997 Festive Fifty was a problem child in itself, being reduced to 31 places for reasons which have never been fathomed (and will be discussed here at a later date). There are those that claim the other records played in the show before the chart are actually numbers 32-50 in disguise, and lists can be found on the Net touting them as such. Well, that’s a conspiracy theory I’m not getting drawn into now: but if you believe it, Panacea’s Stormbringer, chosen by John’s son William, would be number 37.
To be perfectly honest, D&B would not be a natural choice for my mp3 player, since it all begins to sound very samey after a while and the ear numbs rapidly, and what John saw in it I have yet to fathom, but it has a massive following, to such an extent that criticism seems irrelevant. But I’m just the postman (as Bob Dylan once said). And Mathias did name Tallis’ Spem In Alium as one of his favourite tracks, so he can’t be a bad lad (said he condescendingly). Many thanks to Stuart and Andrew for the source material.