Pump The Volume : 30 years of a Milestone

Pop went the house

Pop went the house

On August 3rd, 1987, 4AD released this breaking ground track as a 7″ and 12″ single credited to recording act called M/A/R/R/S for the sake of UK Acid house and sampling music development.

The promotion sheet described the single: ‘We’ve used a lot of rhythms and time signatures from old records, classic soul records, but mixed with modern electronic instruments and A.R. Kane guitar sound.’

Originally, the record was anonymous white label mailed to the 500 most influential clubs and dance DJs so that it received exposure six weeks before its official release. A standard process in the musical record industry that fed an immediate response on the dance floor, as repetitive as ‘Pump Up The Volume’ shouting was asking for a name. The real impact came weeks after of releasing its stock version, on the double A 12″ with the added scratches and samples by UK champion scratch mixer C.J. Mackintosh and London disc jockey/journalist Dave Dorrell. It was something new, energy at once, powered by a ‘mix-and-match trickster spirit’ as DJ Rapture would say. More than a regular promo it was an exploratory artifact with a mission: cutting edge should be a reach from the few for the people. Before giving reasons to that idealistic thought, just to remember M/A/R/R/S was an acronym, formed by the forenames of the people involved in the project, all members of two 4AD bands, Colourbox and A.R. Kane. Corresponding to the slash separated initials, in order. First M/ was for Martyn Young from Colourbox. /A was for Alex Ayuli and /R for Rudy Tambala, both A.R. Kane members. Following doubled /R went for Russell Smith (an associate A.R. Kane member), and finally /S for Steve Young, founder member with brother Martyn of Colourbox, who died July 13th, 2016.

It was a factual proof that everything is possible with the honesty of the right proposals, courage for a dared aim and sensibility to presume what is society impelled to say for transformation, even unknowing it shouts for it for so long. ‘Pump Up The Volume’ was a euphoric and straight answer for the demanding. It’s a work of art what we have here, a celebration for a maverick one-hit-wonder that gave us a glorious propelling sound to believe. Nothing was sacred anymore. A precedent that overthrown elite barriers down. The avant-garde was on the radio. It was a stand-up, and one-off was enough. Never there was a follow-up, but a myriad of followers.

The international smash-hit had many difficulties in the making. Electronic group Colourbox and alternative rock band A.R. Kane were dissimilar in styles but were able to propose the same thing by separate ways. The joint-venture created in different studios catch producer John Fryer in the middle but led to happy end by 4AD label founder Ivo Watts-Russell. He smoothed down any disagreement in a Solomonic way, giving creativeness parts to everyone and reinforcing the prospective idea that innovative American house could play the central role in a commercially oriented dance record. ‘Pump Up The Volume’ has the honor to write ‘commercial’ with no blame.

When Chicago/Detroit house pioneers admitted they had been fascinated to listen to British acts on the radio like Human League, Depeche Mode, Ultravox to name a few, they had to go to the import record stores to get their copies. They bought synthesizers, drum-machines, bassline-synthesizers to emulate that primarily electronic sound. They were asking themselves what I can do with this disco/funk/soul record on the turntable to stretch what I have in mind. They weren’t aware but work out a new genre in the try, delivered it on a repetitive 4/4 beat to an added off-beat hi-hat cymbals.

On the other side of the Atlantic, artifact M/A/R/R/S took over that advanced way of making music only British can do; the way always has done since the time of rock and roll. Take what other’s creation is and transform it into something of their own. As American house music grew as the pattern for innovation recreated and tagged in several distinctions to the limits of experimental for the few, ‘Pump Up The Volume’ emerges as the British-made house hit for everyone, marking a turning-point to the popularity of the genre. Its secret is popping the known things up over an unfamiliar rhythm structure. The first is a peak on the art of sampling; the second is the talent to share what is at the forefront in understanding terms. Pop went the house.

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