Upbeat and euphoric, but with a few surging dark elements to their sound, Brighton-based trio Try Unity are leading a revival in hardcore breakbeat music. They share an undiminished passion for an uplifting sound which packed out fields, warehouse and super-clubs back in the 90s. “It was a movement with all creeds, colours, professions and ages,” says Sammy Purell. “That style of music and love of unity is something resonating through the sound we’re creating now.” Sammy, his wife Francesca and her brother Jim Shimmer have reinvented the spirit of the early rave scene with a series of compelling and thoroughly modern productions.
It started as something of an experiment. “It was at the end of a family do,” says Francesca. “We were like: ‘shall we get into the studio for a laugh?’ It was just an opportunity to be more creative. But it all snowballed from there.” They are buoyed by a resurgence of interest in the hardcore scene. Labels are now rushing to buy the rights to long-forgotten classics and new parties celebrating this very British dance music are emerging everywhere.
Sammy has been DJing for over two decades, including stints on Ill FM, Renegade Radio and Urban Beats. Currently he presents Code South’s Rave Radio show, a moniker transferred to the trio’s record label. “Radios been a big thing for me over the last 20 years. I’m also been very involved with the sound system scene.” He’s one of the people behind Calling The Hardcore, a Brighton night which marries the best of the old school with some exciting new artists. Suitably enough, the club is set to host Try Unity’s first live show in March. “We’re going to get really creative,” says Sammy. “We’ll have a mixture of live and electronic drums. It’s going to be fun…”
Jim started playing drums at primary school, scoring a development contract with EMI in the 90s with his punk indie band. He couldn’t be bothered to carry a drum kit around anymore, so decided to buy a drum machine and produce tracks in his bedroom. “My mum was my biggest fan,” he tells me. In the early 2000s he experimented with breakbeat hardcore and scored some sizeable hits with Triple 7 – a subsidiary of Aquasky’s Passenger Records.
Each member contributes something unique to Try Unity. Francesca brings the soaring vocals, and Jim and Sammy co-produce – the former engineering while the latter concentrates on arrangements. Conjuring memories of mattress-sized tape packs and all night-long dancing, their recent 12″ release features two brand new vocal hardcore breakbeat tracks – Time To Believe & Energy Impact. Full of rave stabs, original breakbeats and synths, it aptly platforms the euphoric, atmospheric side of Try Unity’s productions.
The trio all collect records, and have found find the whole process a humble and gorgeous experience. The aim is to keep their releases ‘DJ friendly’, releasing early on vinyl before the tunes eventually hit digital platforms. “I think it’s about echoing some of the behaviours of the past,” says Sammy. “That scene has its foundation in vinyl. We have a deep love for vinyl, it’s form and beauty.”
Rave was born when cheap production technology enabled a new wave of home-grown music. Samplers enabled the pilfering of soul vocals, subverting of public information films and the speeding up of hip-hop loops. With only the briefest of musical knowledge, kids were releasing records which liberally stole elements from other tracks and repurposed them under one incessant groove. “The reason you still hear the same loops and synth sounds is because they are tried and tested,” says James. “People simply like those sounds.” “The breakbeats are very much the original sound,” agrees Sammy. ”Where the scene is now, there’s still hardcore breakbeat being made – but not with live female vocals. No else is really doing that.” Although the trio’s roots are traceable back to the golden age of rave, they are very focused on a fresh approach. “You do hear a lot of the old vocals being recycled,” adds Francesca. “Of course, that’s for a reason, because they’re amazing. It’s lovely to be able to contribute to the scene with something that’s written today.”
Try Unity perform live at Calling The Hardcore on Fri 16 March at the Volks Club. Their Time To Believe/Energy Impact vinyl EP is available now, via www.tryunitymusic.bandcamp.com