We’re pretty darned excited to announce that as of today, Beatport proudly houses the back catalog of LTJ Bukem’s classic D&B/jungle label Goodlooking Records. But with a collection of tracks as sprawling as it is prestigious, where does one start? Well, we’ve taken some of the guesswork out by tapping a few of dance music’s most established names to weigh in on their favorites. Reid Speed, Optiv, Roska, House of Black Lanterns (aka Dylan Richards, Zilla), Force Recordings head CLRH20, Atlantic Connection, and more have spent a lifetime DJing these tracks, so read on to hear what they’ve got to say about the label and its esteemed CEO, Mr. LTJ Bukem (aka Danny Williamson).
Do you remember your first time hearing an LTJ Bukem track?
Reid Speed: At the Roxy, at a party called Purple. I think it was 1995… it was “19.5″ by Bukem & Peshay.
Optiv: The first time I heard a Bukem track was in the early ’90s and I was at a friend’s house having a mix in his garage. My friend had come back from the record shop with a fresh load of vinyl and among the new purchases was Apollo Two’s “Atlantis (Bukem Remix).” We had never heard anything quite like it before and we just kept playing the record over and over again. The next day I made sure I bought my own copy!
Atlantic Connection: The first GLR track I remember hearing was PFM’s “One & Only” from Logical Progression 1. Everything from the drums to the atmospheres, ambiance, and groove was unlike anything I’d heard before. I was instantly hooked and it’s stayed with me for years—a truly timeless song.
Dieselboy: The first track i heard was “Atlantis.” It contains a really cool “chirping” synth riff lifted from an old Detroit record, a crystalline amen break, super-deep subs, and hypnotic vocals. What a beautiful tune.
Roska: The first LTJ tune I heard was a remix, which was Apollo Two’s “Atlantis.” I heard it pretty late, mind you, but I was thinking, “How can a track with high tempo sound so calming?” Defo a favorite tune!
Deepchild: The first GLR release I heard was Seba & Lo Tek – “So Long,” and I was totally spellbound. From memory, it was at a Sydney weekly party called Green and Jazzy, which wound up around 1997. As the name suggests, the night focused on the deeper side of drum and bass. Coming from a previous obsession with Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert-style IDM, and dub, there was something about the GLR’s intricacy I was immediately seduced by. It was so damned sexy, present, and tailored. For me, it felt like a swansong to the rave days of the ’90s—a lingering and mature embrace of ecstacy culture, with eyes set on a new future. It marked a time to pause, recalibrate, dream again, all routed in an ever-present bass pressure. LTJ was an untouchable shaman—a glorious counterpoint to Jeff Mills’ take on dystopia.
Alley Cat: It was probably “Horizons.” I used to listen to a lot of D&B compilation CDs
and mixes in the mid-’90s, got hooked on the music, and then started collecting the vinyl. “Horizons” is the ultimate intro tune: It has soul, it has the Maya Angelou sample, it has awesome breaks, and the best rolling subby b-line you could wish for. It’s deep but still totally danceable. I wish more D&B today had this quality. It just makes you feel euphoric. I’m sure back in the day people were euphoric for other reasons, but the music itself was very uplifting and magical.
House of Black Lanterns: I think it was, like a lot of people, “Demons Theme.” I’d heard about Bukem’s music in an article in one of the music magazines I used to regularly read back in the mid-’90s, and I remember an article talking about people listening to this futuristic music on a beach one night. I actually got the mix CD, as I think it was shortly before I began collecting vinyl, through one of those CD subscription companies that I ended up ploughing needless pocket money into. “Demons Theme,” a classic blueprint for what became Goodlooking’s sound, really grabbed my attention with its driving urgency. Combining some of the more traditional euphoric jungle sounds, but dropping the pitched-up or overly rude-boy vocals and instead adding emotive Detroit textures. A real fully formed and distinctive rush of sound that captured my imagination.
What makes an LTJ Bukem ir GLR track so timeless?
Reid Speed: Bukem captured the essence of the feeling we were all trying to achieve… spiritual bliss.
Optiv: The sound from Bukem and GLR really captured and summed up a special moment in drum & bass, where the music departed slightly from its rave roots and developed into a fusion of music, jazz, and electronica. It certainly took me on a deeper journey and I loved going to Bukem’s night, Speed, at the Mars Bar in London to hear the latest tracks and meet all my favorite producers. Back in the early ’90s, all the tracks on GLR were breaking new ground and were laying the foundations for a lot of the music we hear today. For that reason alone the music is as relevant today as it was back then.
CLRH20: To me, it’s the consistent presentation of quality, throughout the entire catalog. I dare you to try and find a release that’s actually bad anywhere in the GLR/LGR lineage. You just can’t do it! And largely, I think that had to do with Danny and his crew having a great ear for what lots of people call “vibe.” You know it when you hear it, and they most certainly know it!
Dieselboy: GLR is music you can listen to at the club and at home. The samples and drum programming and melodies are timeless. Bukem/Goodlooking/Looking Good are pretty much the only drum and bass I have ever listened to, at length, at home.
Deepchild: A superb sense of pause, restraint, elegant tailoring, balance, and no small dose of soul. The movement of so much of Bukem’s work is implied, rather than overstated. The movement is largely between the beats—gaps in the halftime, moments of “almost” resolving. Perpetual longing. The overused bro-step cliche of the drop is used sparingly and therein lies the dance, the compulsion to take part. When I hear GLR’s finest stuff, I hear Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Donny Hathaway. Quintessential soul music.
Alley Cat: The main quality would be the atmospheres in those tunes. They also had a certain sound in terms of their rolling basslines and breaks that really helps you identify them. I love the layered quality, but at the same time the breaks and the bassline were the main
focus of the tunes. And that kept you dancing.
House of Black Lanterns: Drum and bass, when at its best, still has the ability to sound like it has been beamed in from the future, and this is true of a lot of the Goodlooking material. They have very much a strong identity that sets the label and acts apart from others—something which I think is still true to date. The music is organic, progressive, and searching whilst still keeping a driving sense of mechanical momentum, which is something that is too often a trade-off. It is a balance not easy to pull off.
What are your favorite tracks from Bukem or GLR?
House of Black Lanterns:
Can you sum up the impact of LTJ Bukem and his labels on the current dance scene?
Optiv: It’s hard to sum up, really, but I think any drum & bass producer in the UK over the age of 30 has been influenced by Bukem at some stage of their life. He definitely laid the foundations for what we hear in a lot of styles of drum & bass today.
Dieselboy: Danny Bukem is a true legend in every sense of the word. He carved a very unique niche for himself in drum & bass and music in general. When you think of beautiful, atmospheric, and uplifting drum & bass, the name “Bukem” is the first that comes to mind. I’ll say it again—legend.
CLRH20: Easily. Liquid wouldn’t be the massive form of D&B it is today without him. If Danny, Conrad, and their label partners over the years hadn’t worked as hard as they did for as long as they did, and all the touring, the huge insurgence of liquid D&B that came about near the end of the 2000s simply wouldn’t have happened how it did. Labels like Hospital and even our own Stepping Forward Records owe respect to GLR for laying the groundwork that created the early listener base we now build upon today. It’s simple: his influence on drum & bass has been profound.
Roska: You can hear jazz in there—real chords being dropped and some suave drums to accompany what is going on above. It’s definitely what musicians are working towards and making sure all elements run together as a family.
DJ Rap: As one of my fellow pioneers, he always crafted music with beauty—that’s what set him apart. He never produced “noise,” and I always respected that.
Deepchild: Bukem always came across to me as a quiet, enigmatic achiever—one of the souls whose roots and influence went deep, and still continue to be heard as part of a (pun intended) logical progression of “bass music” culture. I feel like any producer/DJ who heard an LTJ release in the ’90s probably has stories to tell about the sense of place in the urban environment it offered them. LTJ’s ever-present lushness and sample-based rhythmology dovetails into so much contemporary garage and house music. Every second track on Rinse FM has Bukem’s fingerprints somewhere in its grooves. In a sense, there was an elegant poise and restraint in the programming on a lot of GLR stuff, which I hear echoed in material as diverse as Rhythm and Sound to Joy Orbison.
Alley Cat: I hope the current scene looks back on the great music from the mid-’90s. Do newcomers to D&B know about Goodlooking, old Metalheadz, Prototype, or Reinforced? It’s good to go back and check out the origins of drum & bass, so I hope people do that. I think those of us that have been around it a while do appreciate the history and don’t want to forget how we got to where we are now.
House of Black Lanterns: Musicality. At a time when jungle was turning into the slicker machine of drum & bass, the sound became a lot darker, influenced by No U-Turn and Renegade Hardware. This move was towards a colder, more stark, stripped-down approach. Goodlooking and Bukem really pushed musicality for D&B and dance music, and showed that instrumentation could be seamlessly placed alongside electronic music—and still informs the scene today. I think it is often easy to forget how much the Logical Progression compilations did in getting drum & bass noticed. Alongside Goldie’s Timeless, it really provided a breakthrough for the genre, capturing people’s imaginations and tipping a UK scene into a global arena.
Have you ever met LTJ Bukem? Any experiences or anecdotes to share?
Reid Speed: One notable time I met Bukem, I was opening for him at Bassrush/ Funktion in LA. His flight was delayed and I had to keep playing almost an hour past my time, meaning I ran out of chill, warm-up records and ended up playing pretty hard by the time he arrived. He was a perfect gentleman about it, but the guy who opened for me went on a tirade and told me I had “disrespected and disgraced the Progression Session Sound by playing Dillinja and Subfocus before the legend!” I totally felt his pain—ha!
Optiv: I have met him several times over the years, but my greatest memories are of the early days of Speed at the Mars Bar club in London.
Dieselboy: I’ve met Danny only a couple of times. I once had the privilege of sharing a van ride with him in Switzerland and we discussed all sorts of classic ’70s music. He is an encyclopedia of all music. It was one of my favorite D&B experiences in my career. I couldn’t help but be starstruck.
Atlantic Connection: Sure, Danny’s a good friend. Haven’t seen him in years, but I’ve DJed with him several times as well as having music featured on his Progression Sessions series, and he occasionally reaches out for an exclusive or two.
CLRH20: We’ve met a number of times, and shared the stage at many gigs throughout the years, but we’ve never gotten to know one another closely, I’m sad to say. I gave up the traveling circuit to run all the record labels I do, and Straylight Mastering—and that’s the price you pay for being in the studio instead of out gigging abroad with your peers, I guess. Who knows what the future holds, though. I’d love to work with him on the engineering tip sometime; that would be a great way to get to know each other, and in the process continue to do what we both love: getting great music out into the world!
Roska: I met Bukem at Playground Weekender in Australia in 2011 whilst on tour over there. My MacBook decided to stop working in the 30-degree sun so the sound engineer brought out a industrial fan on the stage to cool it down and I remember LTJ wanting it on his Mac from the start of his set [laughs].
DJ Rap: We go back a long time and are friends. He is one of the nicest guys in the scene—always classy and polite to me.
Which Bukem/GLR track would you like to remix, and why?
Reid Speed: If I were ever able to remix a GLR tune, it would have to be PFM – “One & Only.” Still one of my favorite tunes to this day!
Atlantic Connection: That’s a hard question as the catalog is so extensive. If I had to pick one song, it would probably be Nu Moon’s track “Possible Worlds.” That song brings back so many great memories.
Roska: “Sunrain” might have to be that one. I would re-work it on a 130-BPM tip with some signature Roska-style drums underneath and maybe get the instruments replayed.
Deepchild: Seba & Lo Tek – “So Long.” That haunted vocal hook, those sublime pads. The future.
Alley Cat: I think it would be fun to take the vox from Peshay’s “Vocal Tune” and have a good tweak around with it. It’s a stunning vocal with so much soul.
House of Black Lanterns: Honestly, I wouldn’t want to remix any of them—some things don’t really need to be touched. Why try and add a modern touch on something which is timeless?