When House took its loveable hold on Amsterdam and the Netherlands at the tail end of the ’80s the unassuming city had no idea it would become such an instrumental feature of the European and global musical landscape. With dance festivals such as Mysteryland, Lockdown, Awakenings, ADE, and Dekmantel, the capital is a thriving hub of music and music-lovers that cover all areas from Jazz (the city can boast some of the most prestigious Jazz clubs in the world), to classical (Amsterdam is also home to currently the world’s top orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw), to Hip-Hop, Techno, House and Trance. There is also the highly revered Amsterdam Dance Event which has been a mainstay of Dutch and European electronic music for 25 years now and has been instrumental in sustaining the movement and education of electronic music on both a local and global platform.
The humble label started out in 1999 after running successfully as a record shop. Perhaps the idea to merge the two paid off, as the store started to become internationally known as a distributor. Holding parties at some of Amsterdam’s finest venues further exposed the collective as a dedicated and genuine group of people who wanted to bring Amsterdam once again to the forefront of contemporary music. Founders Antal Heitlager and Christiaan Macdonald saw a void in the Dutch musical landscape as previous innovators had moved onto more pop-orientated endeavors. Moreover, what is crucially important is that the pair decided to connect Amsterdam and the Netherlands to the world through their record shop and in turn not only propagated a widespread electronic movement across the country but also facilitated an exchange, one that has spread out into a multitude of different projects.
Seeing as this is a retrospective look on Rush Hour, their first ever release would probably be a good place to start. Cast your mind back to the 20th century (yes you should feel old). What we find is a three track EP from Deepart released in 1999. Entitled Collage #1, the EP draws on a number of influences and the label’s open-minded approach to genres is already evident with the first release. Deepart provides us with dark but funky flavours of tech-house, break-beat as well as faint elements of hard-core.
Deep atmospheric rollers such as M>O>S’s Friday from the Utilities EP (2001) prove that Rush Hour were not afraid to showcase more niche genres such as experimental strands of Techno. We must understand that the turn of the century was a very interesting and equally uncertain time for electronic music. Ibiza had only recently become established as a globally united center for dance music, trance and progressive as well as hard-core styles were now at the messy tail-end of an infamously hedonistic golden-age of Techno, Acid, and House. Drum & Bass was still transforming and mutating, finding its place amongst this disorientating swathe of sonic movement. If anything, this was the perfect opportunity to provide clarity and stability to a fairly hectic environment. Attention from America was dwindling, as music migrated and evolved rapidly across continental Europe. Thus the historical significance of Rush Hour is somewhat poignant, a bridge into a past era, and a reaching hand into the future, a mediator, a guide
Other early culprits include Rednose Distrikt and Kid Sublime. Seminal releases like 2002’s N.Y. Boom – a breaks and hip-hop inspired number (including the Monstarr remix that came 2 years later) further solidified Rush Hour as an authoritative musical institution. A 2004 release further satisfies the label’s early dwelling in hip-hop and downtempo, Kid Sublime’s Turn Off The Lights oozes a funk and groove that we will continually witness throughout the Rush Hour back-catalogue.
The label’s sheer diversity in styles is evident, with a hugely impressive selection of both local and international talent; from the pounding acid loops of Aardvarck’s widely acclaimed Cult Copy LP – a mix of techno inspired experimental acid – to Rednose Distrikt’s cut and sliced jazz-infused hip-hop (Sunshine, Wop, Scumbag to name a few). Jumping from Meikbar’s velvety, highly chilled Feelings/Sunshine 12” to greatly accessible cuts of techy Deep-House found in Aardvarck’s Ooit exemplify a label of impressive versatility.
2007 saw San Proper’s debut with his A’dam Family Series, a successful collaboration project in which Proper works with Amsterdam’s finest. Other releases like Corrupt strut seductively over a grooved up bass-line and panned synths, while Autosea (released 2013) marches along with an addictive rotating hook and quietly yearning vocals. Grooves like these are representative of a style that is effortlessly cool and self-assured; you just know a Proper groove when you hear one.
Strong releases from 2008 include Conforce’s excellent LTD 12” entitled Junction. Purely Detroit vibes on this one; where the Dub mix sways energetically through space taking a good few minutes to get started, the Peak mix is immediately more urgent, with a heavier Techno flavour characterised by its driving kick and subdued clap. Both are masterpieces in their own right. Released during September the same year is a two track EP from Syrinx, entitled After The Sunset. Sunset is incredibly peaceful, with soft, calming synths, and a smooth, spacey 90s progressive feel to it steps purposefully into the ambient night. The track serves as a suitable prelude to the contrasting flip, entitled When The Lights Go Off. Finally under the cover of night, tight percussion and dotted synths animate the kick with a restless energy, we are alive and the night is young.