It’s been a long while so I can’t remember for sure now, but I think the first time I heard anything by Barada was on one of those CDs that you used to get free with music magazines back in the days when paper music magazines were still a thing.
The quality of these CDs typically ran from pretty poor to shockingly awful, with only a couple of genuine exceptions to prove the rule. The situation was often made worse if it was mixed. I say ‘mixed’ but mostly this was a euphemism for flumping the beginning of one track into the dying moments of the last. Perfunctory doesn’t begin to describe it. Every so often, though, you got lucky and heard something that took you off in a new direction. It was a rare occurrence, but an important one, especially for nerds growing up in the middle of nowhere, with no record shops or easy way to find anything out, and with the infant Internet still many, many years away from becoming the font of all knowledge it is now.
I don’t remember who else was on the CD. Heck, I can’t even remember which magazine it came from. I’d love to say something cool like Jockey Slut – one of the best music publications in any genre ever, and one that was essentially my bible for a bunch of years in the 90s. It was more likely Mixmag. Even in those days Mixmag wasn’t quite as cool as it thought it was. It was Blue Peter to Jockey Slut’s‘ Magpie, Multi Coloured Swap Shop to JS’s Tiswas, and many other clever references to things I am suddenly aware are making me look very, very, very old. Old but cool, right? Oh Yes.
Still, Mixmag wasn’t quite as much of a vacuum back then as it seems to be nowadays, and it was probably a more accurate gauge of most people’s experience of electronic music than any other magazine of the time. It was also never the most underground of publications – but that was less of an issue in an era when the gap between the underground and the big names may have been more apparent than it is now, but was paradoxically far less important. Jockey Slut was always pitched at a different audience (a fact you can’t help but wonder may have contributed to it not being around anymore).
I’ve never been a Chemical Brothers fan, but it was Jockey Slut who first interviewed them. It was the magazine that icons such as Mike Banks chose to speak to. And it may (or may not) have led to Daft Punk adopting their masked robot-head shtick because of a terrible Slut photo shoot. Not bad for a fanzine that started life as a slogan on a T-shirt. Not bad at all.
For those of us who were far too young to even particularly remember the punk era let alone be a part of it, there was always a sense that we had just missed out on something important. But house music, and techno, was our cultural moment in the sun and Jockey Slut felt like it was our own Sniffin’ Glue; written by the sorts of idiots we ourselves were, and far more likely to introduce us to something that would stay with us forever.
The fact is very little stays with us forever. Jockey Slut didn’t. It never became the bloated style mag that some critics claimed it did, nor it really ever become part of the established musical press. There was a faint drift towards bands and themes I wasn’t so interested in, a drift that grew stronger as the years went by. Gradually, I detached myself from reading it; every spare penny I had went on records instead of magazines. And by the time it eventually folded in 2004 it had been several years since I’d even so much as seen a copy.
Barada’s Detach/Observe wasn’t the track from that CD. Rather it is their tune I loved the most. Barada were a good outfit, especially in the early years when they were still tingling from old school acid house. And while that sound eventually took a back seat to one which was far closer to tech-house, they could still put out tracks like this: tight electro, and coloured with IDM, tinged with funky techno. It’s a rubbery, fluid take on all of that. A stand out tune on their first album. And without a crappy, free cover-mount I might never have heard it or of them. I wonder how much else I owe to that form of lucky education? Probably everything, and then some more.