Esem/Eesn

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Jam El Mar

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I don't remember exactly how B.G. The Prince of Rap's "The Power of Rhythm" first appeared in my tape collection, original cover with the eagle logo and all. Did I borrow it from a friend? Was it a gift from my mum? Or did I just walk up to a music store and bought it? All equally plausible.

It's a curious album from 1991. The lyrics are silly, the rapping is a bit surreal. The whole idea of one Bernard Greene, then in the US Army and posted to Germany, getting regular plays on my home hi-fi, in the time of me being heavily into Public Enemy, N.W.A, EPMD, Wrecxs-N-Effect, RUN DMC, is all a bit odd.

And yet I kept putting it on more often than usual. The production is stunning for 1991. No remix ever caught up.

I didn't consciously realise the production was so great at the time. To get the big thing out of the way, The Power of Rhythm was produced by Jam El Mar, real name Rolf Ellmer, one half of Jam & Spoon, a prominent name in the world of electronic dance music.

Unlike the hip-hop records I had then, which relied heavily on sampling existing material, this one builds from the bottom up sonically, adding copiously a great many samples over what is essentially a dance structure, to amplify, rather than code, a groove already present. I remember it as the album with great many hi-hats and other high-frequency sounds. It just kept giving on each play. Sonically, in my limited experience, there was nothing else like it.

But I didn't know who Rolf Ellmer was at the time. And so, revisiting by chance this album, I took a little trip down memory lane, connecting one dot to another, to discover that Jam El Mar had something to do with then ever-present-on-MTV Jam & Spoon (as in he was one half of the hit duo who incidentally had poached Right in the Night star Plavka from none other than The Shamen).

Turns out I've been continuously exposed to Jam El Mar's projects in various guises for a lengthy period - from this one album, through multiple MTV hits, to that Age of Love remix which found me in my late teens, and all before I discovered both the world demoscene and UK IDM. Years of it.

It's quite intriguing how my early influences from back then, and some even now, are wired to the periphery of German/Austrian music scene - Ralf Hildenbeutel (with Sven Väth), Michael Van Den Nieuwendijk in Marmion (a.k.a. Mijk van Dijk), Paul Haslinger (check out his Halt & Catch Fire score). Ellmer is behind some of System 7's recent tracks. Also worth mentioning: Snap! and Milli Vanilli - (to my mild surprise) also German projects (Snap! began as Off with Sven Väth). While the latter two were big in pop, it is the former group who have made a lasting impact on my taste and own production.

It's Eurodance all the way down. I'm glad Jam El Mar continues to record to this day.

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