Levins is taking it back even further post a blistering 'Sydney DJs: Then and Now 2007 - 2015' article that got that nostalgia flowing with plenty of readers.
This time he's squashed a decade of good tunes into a measurable and slightly more digestible '21 essential Australian dance tracks from the 90's' that'll have you dusting off those slap bands in no time.
It all comes in the lead up to his The Rhythm of the Night party this Saturday night at Goodgod which will, you guessed it, feature nuthing but the 90's all night.
Take it away Levins...
Note: this is a pretty personal list and by no means a best of. These are the songs that made an impression on me that I was growing up, most of them positive but I included a few of the negs because they were still important, I guess? I’ve definitely left out some important hits so please yell at me with as many swears as possible if your favourites aren’t on here.
Boxcar - Insect (1990)
Brisbane’s answer to The Human League were one of the biggest acts on the super important Volition Records label in the early 90s (Volition was also home to a lot of the artists who pop on this list). The club remix of this is a banger too.
Euphoria - Love You Right (1991)
Eurodance via Sydney, Love You Right was Euphoria’s first number one single and the film clip featured both E Street’s Kelley Abbey (E Street even had a scene where her roommate is watching the film clip in an episode and loses his mind when he sees her) and a pre-Mentalist, post-shirt Simon Baker.
Quench - Dreams (1993)
I guess this is trance? Certainly not the trance I grew up forcing off the stereo at house parties in high school. This track has everything you want in a dark 90s banger - big synths, thumping kicks, a tubular bell build up and a massive drop. Best heard while being chased from an illegal warehouse rave by cops.
Severed Heads - Dead Eyes Opened (Remix) (1994)
Severed Heads were a groundbreaking post-punk group who originally released this track in 1983. In 1994 they released a remix for it out of nowhere and it was a hit. Triple J used to play this late at night and that vocal would scare the shit out of me.
Itch-E & Scratch-E - Sweetness and Light (1994)
The first release to win an ARIA Award for Best Dance Release, Itch-E and Scratch-E were Paul Mac and Andy Rantzen, although they also called themselves Boo Boo & Mace for a stint of time. When they won the ARIA they shocked the nation by thanking the ecstacy dealers of Sydney in their acceptance speech. A great deal of dance music coming out of Australia in the mid 90s featured sampled breakbeats and now sounds dated, however this song has held up and is generally what comes to my mind as soon as I think about what the best Australian dance song of all time is.
Nik Fish & Southend - The Winner Is… (1994)
As a 9 year old in 1994, the only thing more exciting to me than hearing the announcement that Sydney was going to host the Olympics in 2000 was mimicing the the announcement by the Olympic Committee chairman, Spaniard Juan Antonio Samaranch. “The winner is…. Syd-don-knee!” we’d yell in between games of handball. Then Nik Fish and Southend turned the sample into the most energetic song of all time and watching the clip on Rage each weekend became the most exciting thing to me.
Kylie Minogue - Confide In Me (1994)
Not strictly a dance song but how can you put out an Australian dance list without Kylie on it? She actually had a weird output in the 90s, releasing two nu-jack swing albums at the start of the decade, winning an ARIA for her gloomy song with Nick Cave in the middle and completely shunning her “Indie Kylie” persona in 2000, reinventing herself as the disco queen everyone knows her as now. Her self titled album in 1994 was her biggest success, and Confide In Me is a hot contender for not just her best song ever, but also her just video.
TISM - Greg! The Stop Sign / (He’ll Never Be An) Old Man River (1995)
The perfect band to turn to whenever you need something to feel proud of, TISM were an odd mix of drum machines, guitars, politics and balaclavas. It’s impossible to choose which is the more important single from their best album Machiavelli and the Four Seasons, so you should just learn the words to both of them.
DJ Darren Brias VS DJ Peewee Ferris - I Feel It (1996)
I always thought this was a Bizarre Inc song! Four years after this came out, Peewee Ferris did the soundtrack to the Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony and sadly didn’t play this once.
Regurgitator - ! (The Song Formerly Known As) (1997)
Possibly the most important Australian band of the 90s? They were to me and my mates in high school anyway, and played an all ages show almost every month, meaning that I’d seen Regurgitator more than 30 times by the time I finished my HSC. Unit was a huge album filled with hits, from Black Bugs to Polyester Girl, but none were as perfectly pop as this one, an upbeat Prince tribute for a generation of kids who probably wouldn’t get into Prince for another decade or so.
Sgt. Slick - White Treble, Black Bass (1998)
Another “oh shit this one’s Australian?” track, a killer slice of groove based house with an amazing use of a Parliament sample, an infectious vocal hook and a great saxaphone solo to mime along to in the club.
Gerling - Enter Space Capsule (1998)
The first of many dance songs by the formerly guitars-and-backpacks band Gerling, whenever this was played live they’d just put their instruments down and dance around for three minutes, which I thought was terrific. If you play this at the right moment in a nightclub, three people you don’t want to talk to ever will come and tell you how much they love you for playing it.
Endorphin - Satie 1 (1998)
A hot slice of euphoric piano breakbeat house that Endorphin probably stays rich off thanks to being featured on every Ministry Chill Out and Cafe Del Mar mix for a good five years. A great song to spill your first ever chai to at Homebake 1998.
Josh Abrahams & Amiel Daemion - Addicted to Bass (1998)
There was a period of time where Triple J was just breakbeats, trance bass and a jazzy female vocal. This song was the king of that movement and the pair would continue teaming up for a series collaborations that culminated in the fake-edgy break up anthem Love Song.
Pauline Pantsdown - I Don’t Like It (1998)
The fact that a drag artist who based their entire act on a political figure released an anti One Nation song that made it into in the Australian top ten is incredible. The fact that it was done in a pre-Pro Tools age is even more incredible, but the fact that it’s actually kinda funky and dance-able is the most incredible.
Pnau - Discone (1998)
This is a personal favourite from Pnau’s debut album Sambanova - you’ll notice a few tracks on this list featuring the use of an odd sampled vocal which Triple J seemed to be more comfortable adding to their playlist rather than a potentially cheesy sung vocal. All of Sambanova has aged well - certainly better than some of the music Pnau put out in the following decade - and can stand up with some of the better French house albums of the 90s.
B.Z. featuring Joanne - Jackie (1998)
One of the only truly inescapable songs on this list, this generic pop house cover of Blue Zone dominated commercial radio and Supre store speakers for most of the year before immortalising itself as an entry level Mardi Gras anthem or a go-to song whenever Today Tonight features a gay nightclub.
B(if)tek - Bedrock (1998)
Writers, academics and producers Kate Crawford and Nicole Skeltys made a series of great sample based dance tracks in the late nineties and early noughties. They were also members of Clan Analogue, a collective of DJs and producers who would probably make a WAY more credible list than this one.
Sonic Animation - Theophilus Thistler (1999)
Most of Sonic Animation’s other radio hits were a pretty forgettable dance rock hybrid but this nutty breaks track gained a following with its tongue twisting nonsense lyrics and goofy film clip mascots. The perfect song dance introduction for a rural Triple J fan who’s run out of Tool albums to memorise, the year this came out saw a confused Boiler Room at the Big Day Out trying to mosh to dance.
The Avalanches - Electricity (1999)
Slightly different to version that would appear on their classic album Since I Left You in 2000, Electricity was the first single The Avalanches released on Modular and was a huge change from their earlier Beastie Boys-ish live tracks, the combination of samples and french filtered disco giving a lil’ taste of what was to come.
Madison Ave - Don’t Call Me Baby (1999)
This one just squeaks in, released in November 1999. The combo of catchy disco sample and vaguely empowering female vocal was repeated a few times by this duo but this is the only song of theirs that’s still close to listenable.
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