at the turn of the 80s, there was a largely forgotten exercise in building a more caring and sharing society. new age arrived with ethereal, mystic promise, based on spirituality rather than actions. this wasn’t a rehash of 60s free love by modern day hippies.
for many this was a stark contrast to to the overriding ethos of the 80s – you can believe in what you can see in front of you. those who disagreed with that mercenary philosophy had sought refuge away from the capitalism and excess and discovered likeminded souls by seeking out the new and the strange.
this didn’t just mean jetting off to ibiza, or turning up to shoom and warehouse raves as a means of differentiating from mainstream society. this wasn’t a friday and saturday night revolution. some pranksters – revealed to be the klf -got up in the early hours each day to carve crop circles into fields, leading bemused and excitable farmers to proclaim that the aliens were coming. those who have no recollection can’t imagine how alien ‘1990’ sounded at the time, when it had seemed like the 80s would never end. i remember seeing decimated fields on the news and inwardly laughing at how the adult nation were taken in by this joke. it was harmless fun, a subtle yet memorable message that things needed to change before we descended into weirdness.
the new decade was an opportunity to sweep everyone else up in this movement. i once heard a tv commentator on one of those nostalgia shows, i love 1989, probably, make the insightful statement that the 90s actually started in the summer of 1989 when soul ii soul hit number one. there was no such landmark a decade later, the new millenium was just an excuse for inflated club entry fees. capitalism had returned in 1995.
if peace and love had lasted, i’d have called that summer of 1989 the true turn of the millenium. as it went, it was the start of five years of freedom, soundtracked by emerging house, techno and drum and bass sounds. don’t be fooled into thinking that cream, ministry of sound and renaissance played any part in this – as much fun as they were, i now realise they eventually killed the scene and brought us back to where we are today. there’s nothing new age about paying £30 to get into a club in ibiza – we already live in the UK, things are supposed to be cheaper abroad that’s half the point of going on holiday.
the new age movement grabbed me – well, i liked crystals. at one point in 1990, absolutely everyone wore white jeans, trainers and a lilac tshirt, the new age uniform. we failed to grasp the fact that our levis, reebok classics and topshop tshirt were in direct contradiction to the movement we thought we were representing. like most fads, new ageism became something you could pick up and appropriate without a speck of understanding as to its roots and philosophy, as long as you liked the music.
still, those older and wiser are lucky enough to have experienced the scene for what it should have been before the superclubs took over. they sat outside the cafe del mar before the sunset ritual became a patented experience. they danced in clubs where dj’s played music and were rewarded with genuine appreciation – not a £3000 booking fee. i visited ibiza in 1994, when the tide was turning. it was underground, but the marketability of the island was slowly being realised. when i returned two years later, it was fun but inauthentic.
all the choice we have now started in 1990, but then it was genuine choice, rather than marketing making the decision for you. it was like a trial – many of the the things we did then you can get arrested for now. bubbling resentment hadn’t boiled over into terrorism – new age ethics reasoned that 80s consumerism and power was naive and should be allowed to correct itself, not be punished.
1990 was an exciting and emotional time. it wasn’t just the music and the philosophy. there was the world cup. anyone who can sit through nessun dorma without at least the urge to cry is, well, under 25.
most chillout tracks for me sound like they were recorded in the early 90s. those produced later tried to emulate the sounds and mood and many did so successfully, which is why they’re in the mix. to manage any expectation, i am not a dj. this is a long, inexpertly mixed set that is a blatant attempt to squeeze as many tracks as possible onto my mp3 player, but it sorts me out when i’m drunk or hungover, stressed, can’t sleep or feel like floating away in the sun (rain).
back then we knew we were on the verge of something exciting, and we were, it just didn’t last that long or turn out the way we thought it might. i miss those days, i doubt 14 year olds now feel the way i did then.
90s chillout mix – download here
leftfield – melt
sisterlove – the hypnotist
ibizarre – lazy living
nightmares on wax – les nuits
sofa surfers – sofa rockers
st etienne – only love can break your heart – andrew weatherall mix
the grid – floatation – subsonic grid mix
innocence – natural thing
bentley rhythm ace – bentley’s gonna sort you out
sheer taft- cascades – hypnotone mix
the orb – little fluffy clouds
sun electric – sundance
the beloved – the sun rising – gentle night
aphex twin – xtal
sub sub – past
orbital – belfast
klf – what time is love – original mix
fsol – papua new guinea
altern8 – self hypnosis
moby – slight return
lemon interupt – dirty
sabres of paradise – smokebelch ii – beatless mix
bbe – seven days and one week – sindaar mix
energy 52 – cafe del mar – michael woods mix
moby – go – jam and spoon mix
groove armada – at the river
fc kahuna – hayling
808 state – pacific 202
bbg – snappiness