As a DJ, Grooverider helped spark the fire that would eventually engulf the London club scene--legend has it he invented drum 'n' bass with partner Fabio at the popular club Heaven, and many of the genre's biggest names started out under his influence or tutelage. He came fairly late to producing his own music, but the tracks he has made since '95 can stand up next to anything he drops into his sets--and they frequently do. The singles he recorded as Codename John, collected on Grooverider Presents the Prototype Years, exemplify the fearsome dystopianism of the "hardstep" he championed as a DJ; his only proper album, 1998's Mysteries of Funk, gooses that engagingly sinister sound with unexpected, almost poppy juxtapositions. "On the Double," for instance, mixes blaxploitation horn stabs, cornet chirps, and funky synth ostinatos with rigid snare action and thick, mutating bass lines. Fusion is an influence throughout, but there's little of the slack pseudojazz or tedious melismatic emoting that debases the worst work of former Grooverider proteges like 4 Hero and Goldie. Still, drum 'n' bass, with its rigor mortis grind, has grown a bit tiresome in recent years, and though his music has evolved, the don's not completely out of the woods. Here's hoping he can coax the same kinetic menace from his dubplates that he did when I saw him in '97--'cause when I caught his live act last year it was a bore. Friday, 11 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Phil Knolt.