20th anniversary reissue for the landmark double album that crystallised mid-90s Stateside electronic dance music
Such was the rapid turnover of fads and technology besieging dance music in the early 1990s, “timeless” is not a word that can applied to much that sprang out of those tumultuous years. As original sounds bombarded the marketplace every week, some forged new genres or became epoch-making anthems, but many others often just watered down formulas for commercial crossover. Now, with once futuristic music deemed retro, only landmarks of the highest quality and distinction have survived to stand tall, while the bulk have sunk into charity shop oblivion or landfill status.
As one of the first US labels started by DJs to release music they wanted to play, Hardkiss caused revolutions all round after their first records started filtering into Europe in 1993. Setting up shop in San Francisco, the Hardkiss brothers – Scott, Gavin and Robbie – adopted aliases under which they pursued their idiosyncratic quests for untainted post-acid euphoria, unafraid and unashamed to reference classic rock if it enhanced a track.
Scott recorded as God Within and scored the label’s first major success with the delirious breakbeat incantations of ‘Raincry’, which he continued to hone on soaring, lustrous beauties such as ‘Daylight’ and ‘The Phoenix’. Gavin worked as Hawke, whose gorgeous ‘3 Nudes In A Purple Garden’ echoed the catharsis of jazz and was further heightened by Scott’s sublime ‘3 Nudes Having Sax On Acid’ revamp. Robbie became Little Wing for the label’s furtherest-out but most reflective explorations, such as ‘Mercy, Mercy’ and ‘Diazepam Jam’.
There was a rare spirit at work in the Hardkiss tunes, which could sound deeply ancient or beamed in from the 21st century. Whether wantonly hedonistic or emotionally pure, if dropped at the right time during a night of no holds barred acid house abandon they’d bring a crowd to tears of joy. These tracks and more were joined by like-minded labelmate Rabbit In The Moon’s aptly-titled ‘Out Of Body Experience’ and the Hardkiss rework of the Drum Club’s ‘Drums Are Dangerous’ on the original ‘Delusions Of Grandeur’ double album, which is now getting a 20th anniversary re-release.
After Scott’s tragic death in March 2013, Gavin and Robbie regrouped with his widow Stephanie to revive the Hardkiss name and fly this inimitable flag again. Since the success of last year’s stellar ‘1991’ album, they have turned their attention to their mighty back catalogue, using a PledgeMusic campaign to reissue ‘Delusions Of Grandeur’ along with a fun-packed booklet.
Gavin and Robbie have also thrown open the online Hardkiss vault, a veritable treasure trove containing first forays, demos, B-sides and releases from Gavin’s Sunburn offshoot. There are remixes too, including some hallucinogenic re-imaginings of Elton John. There are also fabulous curios such as Scott’s volcanic ‘The Phoenix’, which was stifled at birth by ELO’s short-sighted Jeff Lynne getting antsy about his guitar riff appearing in the kind of musical hothouse he could only dream of.
For those who profess to love electronic music and have never experienced the transcendental mischief of Hardkiss at play, this stuff is beyond essential listening. For those who know, prepare to explode all over again. Timeless indeed.