This was THE best label in jungle/drum and bass for a few years there in the second half of the 1990s, in my opinion of course.
I really only started listening to the harder edged sound in 1996 having gotten into jungle via the most cantankerous tear-out jump up I could find, particularly through Micky Finn, DJ Hype, DJ SS and copies of tapes from Dreamscape, Helter Skelter, Moondance and so on.
The 1996-1999 period is probably the strongest in terms of their label output across No U Turn, Saigon and Nu Black. It co-insides with the time that I started buying vinyl to play on my second hand belt-drive turntables which is why I started this blog here. The No U Turn influence – and a lot of the individual artists – are still present today: Ed Rush, DJ Trace, DJ Fierce, Dom & Roland, DJ Kane and of course Nico.
The run of releases from Ed Rush’s West Side Sax/August (NUT-013) through to the seminal 1997 Torque LP represent the creative high point for me on the main No U Turn label but I’ve always been at least as fond of the output on the fairly short-lived sub label Nu-Black http://www.discogs.com/label/2883-Nu-Black from around the period. Trace & Nico’s Amtrak (NNU2003) is probably the most well known track on that label and, at a guess, would have shifted the highest number of units at the time, but the more experimental and anonymous releases that followed in the subsequent couple of years deserved (and still deserve) a lot more attention.
The Hidden Face and Deep Rooted/Roots releases are the highlights for me – Hidden Face had taken the (by this point) notorious tech-step sound into a new dimension creatively and technically and – in the best possible way – the Roots 12” sounds more like 1993 than 1999. Clearly the unit sales didn’t reflect that and the Nu Black output has still not received the attention it deserves.
The long running Saigon sublabel is now mainly notable in my mind for seeing Dom & Rolands first named/credited release (as well as probably another 20 tracks he worked on without a credit!) but the output was very strong from 1995-98 in particular. The picks for me usually feature DJ Unknown Face AKA Stacey Bouche but also props to Special K and Ghostrider. Incidentally, I always assumed the artist Hidden Face who released on Nu Black was one and the same as DJ Unknown Face but there I have never been able to get to the bottom of it, so drop me a line if you can help.
DJ Unknown Face – Step up
DJ Unknown Face and Nico – Turbulance
Special K & Ghostrider – Conflict
Having been hooked in by the darker sounds I discovered the early history of No U Turn and Saigon was also to my – again, by this point – more discerning ears. Unfortunately the output from all three labels slows and falters after 1999 as a lot of the key talent moves onto new labels, new ventures and bigger things.
Trouble on Vinyl’s nasty (D Bridge A&R-managed) offshoot Renegade Hardware had been on No U Turn’s heels since 1996 and at this point comes into ascendancy in my collection. DJ Trace had set up DSCi4, Ed Rush had teamed up with Optical and Launched Virus Recordings a year earlier, Dom and Roland had signed up to a 3 album deal with Moving Shadow. I remember seeing Fierce play very much No U Turn style sets at Renegade Hardware at the end around 2000/2001and he makes a clean break and sets up the excellent Quarantine Recordings at the end of 2001.
Some of the seminal No U Turn releases have been remastered and are available via JunoDownload:
I assume Nico set up this both this soundcloud account https://soundcloud.com/messingaboutwithsounds (read the great bio on that page) and this Youtube channel NoUTurnHD https://www.youtube.com/user/NoUTurnHD
Nico’s soundcloud playlist
This is a pretty comprehensive playlist from Nico which spotlights particularly the earlier No U Turn label output:
DJ Unknown Face aka Stacey Bouce has a youtube channel with lots of Unknown Face and No U Turn uploads:
Probably THE seminal recording of No U Turn in that era is the DJ Trace and Ed Rush One in the Jungle show from 1997 with MC Navigator on mic duties.