During his time as a member of the electronic duo Way Out West, Nick Warren decided to start a music compilation series dedicated to the tunes and sounds that are desired for an after hour setting. The mix albums were titled “Back to Mine,” and since its creation in 1999, the series has seen 29 artists and editions.
The predominantly English mix albums have grown alongside and within the rise of electronica, and to look back upon the talent in the series is truly impressive. The last 20 years of “Back to Mine” has seen fabulous artists pass through the doors, from Groove Armada (2000) and New Order (2002) to The Orb (2003) and Carl Cox (2004).
After losing production support in 2008, electronica enthusiasts have not seen a Back to Mine since. Until this year. On Jan. 25 we were given the 20th-anniversary edition of the series brought to you by legendary DJ Nightmares on Wax. It has been a long wait since the consistent releases of “Back to Mine” tapes, but who better to bring it back than N.O.W. for the resurgence.
George Evelyn, also known by his stage name Nightmares on Wax, is a legendary DJ from Leeds, England, with eight studio albums, four EPs, and countless mixes and compilations spanning his 30-year career. For the majority of his time as an electronica/dance music creator, Evelyn has worked with Warp Records, which holds some of the biggest names in alternative dance music. His music lies within the vast realm of electronica, however, hip-hop integration remains a constant.
In 1991, N.O.W. put out his first studio album “A Word Of Science,” but that event was followed by years of club management and time away from the stage. Four years later, he dropped “Smokers Delight“ and began featuring more reggae and guitar-based melodies, while staying true to his hip-hop influence. Later on, N.O.W. released my two favorite albums of his in 1999 with “Carboot Soul” and in 2002 with “Mind Elevation.” Both pieces showcase his trance-inducing sounds, while, of cours, incorporating the excitement of hip-hop.
N.O.W.’s sound varies drastically through all of his work, however, one thing that stays constant is that hip-hop background. One of the best examples of this is on the EP Sound of NOW (2000), where N.O.W. fully embraces that influence and collabs on a song with De La Soul. His ability to join those concepts is again well displayed on another EP 16 years later titled Ground Floor. Some other highlights from N.O.W.’s career include the eight most watched video on the Boiler Room youtube channel, the 2003 mix “Late Night Tales,“ and his celebrating his 25-year tenure with Warp Records with the album “N.O.W. Is The Time.“
The other notable anniversary of Nightmares on Wax’s career comes from this Jan. with the “Back to Mine” tape. The 13-song, 68-minute project was posted under “Back to Mine” and features work from over ten artists. By the nature of this series, N.O.W.’s edition features sounds from the club, chill songs to end the night, and a few originals to round out the group. Without any further introduction, here is “Back to Mine: Nightmares on Wax.”
This album could not fit its theme if it weren’t for a few tracks taken right out of the club. Massimo Vanoni’s “Exciting Groove” and Chieftain’s “Out of My Life” are trippy, long pieces with solid buildup and thumping bass. Steve Cobby’s “Lefthanded Books (feat. Danielle Moore)” is more jammy with a prominent climax but maintains a discotheque feel. Lastly, “Innocence” by Dim Zach is one of the true dance songs on the project with heavy synth, distant vocals, and droning bass.
Nightmare on Wax’s original pieces on this project brought the album together as a whole. His first track, “Good Ship (feat. Steve Spacek)” is perfect for the after-hours occasion, with piano chords, a deep bassline, and powerful vocal presence. Towards the end of the project, N.O.W. provides two tracks, the first of which is “Look Up (feat. Andrew Ashong & Sadie Walker).” This track evens out the project as a whole with strong ties to his electronica background and ability to integrate vocals to his music. Finally, N.O.W.’s remix of Fat Freddy’s Drop’s “Russia” stands as a fantastic outro to the project and, appropriately, outro for the night.
N.O.W’s work has always been dance influenced and as a byproduct is extremely fun and jammy for listeners. That style was carried into this project by N.O.W. as he selected several jazzy tunes throughout the album. A highlight of the project is SBM’s “Gotta Have It”, which follows a repetitive three-note bassline, but with drum and bell components. N.O.W. explores another disco-esque song in “Step into Midnight (feat. Induce)” by Bosq, and it stands as the most high energy track on this project.
To top it all off, N.O.W. fits in a few tracks that really stand out stylistically on the project. The intro song on the project, “Fear of a Flat Planet (feat. Fullaystop)” is a chill hip-hop track by Children of Zeus that calmly introduces the project. Later on, N.O.W. selects two songs by Ladi6, which also stick out for their ties to the hip-hop genre. “Royal Blue (Silent Jay, Sensible J, and Leigh Fisher Remix)” is a super fun track with talented Baduist vocals, calm drums, and solid buildup. Also, “Ikarus” is one of the most bass-heavy tunes on the whole piece and features hard beats and trippy melodies, all coupled with Ladi6’s vocals.
Throughout his 30-year career, Nightmares on Wax has put out enough music with enough diversity to fit scenarios from seshes to the dance floor, and this year we got insight into his picks for the perfect after-hours setting. Whether or not this occasion marks the resurrection of the “Back to Mine” volumes, there is no doubt that Nightmares on Wax was the perfect choice to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this incredible electronic series.