When looking back at British labels over the past twenty years, Peacefrog looms large, if only for its sheer variety. In the last five years alone, they’ve been known for releasing records from Little Dragon and José González, and in the 2000s put out absolutely seminal records from underground legends like Moodymann, Kenny Larkin and Robert Hood. The 1990s though, were when the label was especially schizophrenic, releasing everything from downtempo to pounding techno. The only thing that united all the records at that time was that they were unmissable.
This is a collection of ten of the best, in chronological order of Peacefrog’s back catalogue, with special preference to some of the less well-established artists on the roster (notable in his absence: Glenn Underground).
Solid State – ‘Neuron’ (1992)
The early days of Peacefrog clearly showed the influence of the early 1990s acid house scene, with many of the records from 1992-1993 using the ubiquitous 303. This is the best of the bunch, using rapid fire 303 riffs to really sound like a dying cyberpunk AI.
Apogee – ‘Sunrise on the 2nd Moon’ (1993)
One of the finest acid tracks that never became a classic. More atmospheric than most early acid, but still with a slamming drum machine to keep things close to the dance floor.
Luke Slater – ‘Expectation #2’ (1993)
Luke Slater made his name with his run of Peacefrog records under his Planetary Assault Systems alias but, for my money, this stands up better than all of them. What seems like a simple techno track is quickly subverted by a woozy pad that hangs in the air, never quite in tune with anything else.
DBX – ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ (1993)
Talk about ahead of your time. Daniel Bell releasing a record in 1993 that anticipated Klock and Dettmann’s mega hit ‘Dawning‘ by well over a decade.
The Other World Collective – ‘Artificial World’ (1993)
The centrepiece of an incredible downtempo record. It should feel like it goes on for far too long, but manages to carve out such a charming space for itself that it’s a place you’re glad to be in for fifteen minutes.
St Vitus Dance – ‘Bliss’ (1994)
Fleet-footed 140bpm electro, which manages to tie the feeling of mystery and reservation to high tempos, as the best abstract jungle was doing around the same time.
Purveyors of Fine Funk – ‘Intombe’ (1995)
Sometimes tracks have a synth line that suggests the primary beat, before the kick drum comes in and is actually on the offbeat. Such tracks usually orient themselves quite quickly, your interpretation of the synth changing to give primacy to the kick. ‘Intombe’ never quite does that. It’s always possible to flip between the two interpretations, Necker-cube-like, to unique, disorienting effect.
Tim Harper – ‘I Feel A Groove’ (1996)
By 1996, Peacefrog were well and truly diversified, as shown by this slamming disco-house number from Tim Harper. Far more intelligent than most disco-house released nowadays, a nervous pad hangs over the proceedings, always nagging, and never quite letting the song become one-dimensionally euphoric.
Anthony Nicholson – ‘Tribes Of Chant (World Dance)’ (1998)
An incredible piece of tribal house, which is already achingly beautiful even before the chanting vocal is brought in to complete the package.
Josh Brent – ‘Raw Honey’ (1999)
A strangely anachronistic piece of music that, aside from the string sample, could easily have fitted on a Hessle Audio release. Delayed vocals, deep bass, stop/start breaks at 130bpm – Peacefrog anticipated it all.
As a final thought on Peacefrog’s legacy, a notable mention goes to Glenn Underground’s seminal 1996 release, Atmosfear. As it proves difficult to single one track out as the highlight, we decided to feature it in its entirety instead.