“Birmingham And Beyond” excerpts from feature in Trance Europe Express by Susan Corrigan.

Grim, Grey, and home to white, plastic pub rock from ELO through to Duran to Duran, Birmingham was never really a breeding ground for musical movements or cultural icons. In the past to admit you had roots in Brum was tantamount to confessing that you wore high waisters or supported Aston Villa. And with a Quaker council putting the lid on club culture with Draconian licencing laws, the second city has hardly been a breeding ground for cultural revolution, right?

Wrong. While the rest of the country merrily swung its pants and raved all night, a quiet storm was raging through Birmingham. With collectives such as Groove Corporation and Origional Rockers in the Area, sinking their creative teeth into the vibes of the Asian and black community, a deeply dubby sound has emerged from the underground. And with the birth of Beyond, a Birmingham label dedicated to compiling the seminal sounds of ambient dub, linking up to the laid back sounds of a club called Oscillate, the concrete jungle has been invaded by peace, pulses and little fluffy clouds.

“I wouldnt even call our stuff ambient now“ says Mike Barnet the music maestro behind Beyond, “what Beyond is dealing with now is electronic music that encompasses a variety of moods. Electronic music, in terms of performance especially, seems to me to be leaning towards the kind of ethos you’d find coming from jazz musicians, the best electronic artists seem to have performances that are improvised, adjustable, or extendable, just like the best jazz artists. I do see Beyond as a modern Blue Note - thats what I’d like to be regarded as. Underground, positive and experimental.”

Its an ethos that extends to Oscillate, a natural hangout for disciples of Beyonds’s back catalog. Run by the HIA collective, including the super-serene Magda, who manages to keep her head when all around her are loosing theirs, Oscillate consolidates this self contained scene.

More wind me down selector than pump up the volume, Oscillate is where musical misfits meet, wild ideas come to fruition and Birmingham’s ambient infrastructure lets it all hang out. Beyond the spyrographics, sculptures, and the kinetic soundtrack, Oscillate represents the other side of midnight.

Habitual clubbers recount tales of the night Mixmaster Moris slowed down to the extent that not one beat resonated. Or the time Jony Easterby, student of sound sculpture Max Eastly, decided to give an impromtu performance, melting blocks of ice with mics frozen inside with blow torches and setting fire to sheets of metal - cutting up the mix, so to speak, and giving the club manager a hernia in the process.

For the seasoned clubber used to tempo facists, set musical menues and communication through the basics of body language, Oscillate is a strange fish to get your head around. But then Oscillate is there to feed your head and open your mind to the endless possibilities of cybersonic soundtracks, to generate change and not meekly obey the rules

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