Mixtape Memories & Deadbeat Dads. (Personal Essay, Music)

In deep space,


Any crew?


-Space Manoeuvres, “Stage One”*

The origins of certain songs often wrap themselves in mystery over time.  Memories fade over the years, either due to a series of unfortunate decisions made in the vicinity of 3AM on several concurrent Sunday mornings, or just plain old age.

And so it is when I look back at Space Manoeuvres’ Stage One. If I was to hazard a guess I’d say I first heard this track off a mix tape from either Sasha, Pete Tong or Carl Cox.  And while I can’t be certain of which DJ it was spinning this vinyl legend of a track, I am sure it was recorded live, in… I think in Ibiza, probably for an Essential Mix session**. I remember the crowd roaring to this tune for good reason.

Like any of these famed, precious tapes, it got played religiously at parties held in my cramped downtown apartment during  late night after parties. But any true music lover knows that music can’t really be owned and hoarded like stacks of money or jewelry. Music must be shared. It must be passed along. Over  time that tape with scrawled marker got lent out. Passed on. Someone else still has it somewhere, I hope.

Like any good rave tune, this is a track that takes you on a proper journey.

When I listen to the audio samples, I sometimes think that it’s us that are abandoned, floating through space, waiting to be rescued. A species left behind by a father who left us all behind for a pack of smokes a millennia ago. Like children left to our own devices, we spend our days quarrelling, bickering and fighting with one another in the school yard.

Time seems to pass, not measured in our achievements, but in our collective failures instead.  In the digital age, we seem more focused on finding the latest crisis to be collectively horrified.  Rather than finding a solution to the issue at hand, we’re too busy finding the next thing to be horrified by.  And there is no shortage of disenfranchised, unstable people out there, with media barons all too eager to provide them with screen time for advertising profits.  As consumers, we spend more time looking for content that shocks or titillates than working on actual solutions to the underlying causes.

Our phone screens have become windows into travelling circus side shows of the macabre. When we’ve had our fill from one tragedy or horror show, we move on to the next exhibit.

Like any given schoolyard, the bullies with the largest, booming voices and packing the meanest punches dominate the scene.  Bullies wearing uniforms kill unarmed civilians. Bullies in uniforms invade entire countries while bullies in neckties shout into microphones, striking fear into the audience, hypnotizing them into total submission.  Bullies continue to divide, to conquer and to maim, all in the pursuit of absolute power.  All largely, without reprimand or repercussion.

If we’re not arguing about which invisible man in the sky to pray to, or which puppet to represent us, we spend our days taking hundreds, thousands, millions of digital pictures of ourselves, fetishizing shiny trinkets of perceived success.

And like that record once spun clockwise around a turntable one fateful night in Ibiza, the world spins around the sun, faster and faster. The world, it’s arteries chocked with miniature metal cubes, spewing smoke, crackles under the ever increasing heat, year after year.  The world continues to spin and seemingly expand and get hotter and hotter until it seems it may find a breaking point one day and explode like an overflowing Jiffy Pop container.

The sad, ugly truth is that no one is coming back to save us. We need to take care of our own problems. And no amount of social media posts with like minded friends and acquaintances with matching view points will ever change this fact.

I’m not sure what the solutions are for our current predicaments. I just know I love this tune. And I miss the old days when the only care I had in this world was where to dance the following weekend.

I also hope that if anyone does return one day to this corner of the galaxy, when they ask if any crew are left alive on this starship we call Earth, the reply is in the affirmative.


*This track was originally released in 1999 through Hooj Choons. The audio is a sample originating from the 1997 film, Event Horizon. The track’s producer John Graham, would go on to continue working on several projects under various pseudonyms.  The above track is the 2000 “Total Separation” mix. Below is the original version.  

**I ended up finding the original mixtape in video form on youtube. It’s from a Paul Oakenfold set recorded live at Gatecrasher in 1999. Have a listen below. Space Manoeuvers comes up at 10:20, but you don’t want to miss the first track.  The entire set is one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing, as far as progressive Trance goes, before the genre got watered down over time.


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