It’s not normal to take 31 years to release a follow up album. But then Network was never a normal sort of record label, and often opted for the quirky rather than the quick buck. The logo was launched in 1990 and that year, along with a slew of startlingly good singles, created and issued two bio-rhythm compilations, each of which showcased cutting edge USA techno rubbing shoulders alongside its’ sparse UK bleep counterpart.
At the time the words quality and dance music compilations were not phrases shared that much. bio-rhythm 1 and it’s almost instant follow up bio-rhythm 2 bucked the trend with groundbreaking exclusive tracks, iconic minimal artwork and surreal sleeve notes.
Each of the albums have been hailed by many as piece de resistance primers to electronica music.
As well as capturing the zitgeist of a blurry everything of that moment experimental time, they have endured to be acclaimed as all time iconic classics. So why was there no follow up? One reason was that things were moving so bewilderingly fast at the time for Network that the emphasis was always on the next thing, not regurgitating repetitive beat ideas.
Another was that the opportunity arose to direct the acumen gained from the bio-rhythm experience at the release of two (now equally acclaimed) compilations from Frank and Karen Mendez’s cult Nu-Groove label.
The current Network reconstruction meant an opportunity to re-indulge and finally release bio-rhythm 3. Matt Anniss’s splendid sleeve notes are reproduced below and tell you all you need to know about the carefully selected (and mostly exclusive to this collection) tracks on 2 x 12 vinyl for increased sonic joy. Network. We continue.
whatever happened to sueno de niro? he was the undisputed star of john mccready’s vivid liner notes for network records’ first bio-rhythm compilation way back in 1990: an “ex italian pirate” who had been incarcerated after reportedly running micro-raves in a chain of laundrettes scattered across the west midlands.
the impact of these “bio rhythm raves” on birmingham nightlife was such that mccready and network records’ co-founders neil rushton and dave barker not only named the label’s first compilation in their honour, but also dedicated it to de niro, an “originator with a plan that sent the dance world spinning”.
sadly, the story of sueno de niro turned out to be too good to be true (he was in fact a figure of mccready and rushton’s vivid imaginations), but network records did genuinely send “the dance world spinning” in the first half of the 1990s.
for all the cheekiness and myth making of their promotional techniques, the birmingham-based label was obsessively serious about underground dance music, offering an unbeatable mixture of hot american tunes licensed from labels in detroit, chicago and new york, and – as the first bio-rhythm compilation put it – “dance music with bleeps” from a new generation of british artists based in the midlands and the north of england.
network records was launched in the spring of 1990, at a time when british dance music was finally beginning to find its own distinctive voice. key to this was the sparse, weighty, mind-altering sound of bleep techno, an alien and otherworldly style that rapidly spread from the post-industrial cities of yorkshire down the m1 to the midlands.
along with warp records, network spearheaded this sub bass-powered revolution and rapidly became one of the most talked-about labels within uk dance music. while the label’s acquisitions from overseas were very successful (rushton, the man behind the ground-breaking techno: the new dance sound of detroit compilation on virgin records, used his relationship with kevin saunderson to snag multiple inner city and the reese project releases), network’s desire to discover and promote homegrown artists was arguably more significant. as a result, the impact within the uk club scene of network acts such as stafford’s nexus 21 (later to go on to even greater success as masked rave heroes altern8) and nottingham’s rhythmatic was notable.
the first bio-rhythm compilation, and its speedy sequel, proved to be significant moments in the bleep techno story – collections of cutting-edge cuts that captured the zeitgeist and introduced bleeping, bass-heavy house and techno mutations to a whole new generation of aspiring djs and producers. while bleep’s influence began to wane towards the end of 1991, network records continued to showcase high-quality techno, hardcore and house music until 1996.
three decades on, the return of network records with a brand-new bio-rhythm compilation – this time not dedicated to the phantom sueno de niro – seems like perfect timing. buoyed by a reappraisal of the role of bleep techno in the uk dance music story and a growing acceptance that network was one of british dance music’s most significant labels of the early 1990s, rushton and his family of artists have stepped back into the spotlight with a collection of timeless “dance music with bleeps” that’s every bit as alluring as its predecessors.
fittingly, much of the material comes from producers and remixers based in and around the midlands, while there are also plenty of nods towards the label’s storied past scattered across the compilation. it begins with a brand-new re-edit of neal howard’s ‘indulge’ – originally the first single to be released on network – from birmingham’s discomendments (real name lee fisher) and ends with a timely airing of the first compilation’s unofficial theme tune, c&m connection’s detroit-meets-yorkshire classic ‘bio rhythms’.
sandwiched in between are on-point (and previously unreleased) works from label stalwarts mark gamble (rhythmatic) and mark archer (nexus 21/altern8); a never-before heard slab of acid-flecked, sax-heavy dancefloor futurism courtesy of minimalArchiv (aka hebden bridge–based simon chisholm); a pandemic-themed, funk-fuelled disco-house stomp from discomendments; an unreleased, subheavy 1991 nexus 21 recording of clonking live favourite ‘silicon’; and a previously unheard slice of 1989 bleep magic from doggy (real name peter duggal), a birmingham-raised producer making his first appearance on network 31 years after his debut single came out on rham! records.
part retrospective, part celebration and part renewed mission statement, 2021’s instalment of the ongoing biorhythm saga is an engrossing new chapter in the network records story. sueno de niro would be proud.
matt anniss, may 2021
Published: 23rd August 2021