Since the style first appeared in the 80s, there has always been a bit of mania and a perceived sensory deprivation attached to the rituals at an all-night rave. Between the crazed beats, the car alarm sirens and the laser light show, it's easy to lose oneself in the moment and get carried away but, unless something went fundamentally wrong, the possibility of genuine violence was pretty far removed. At the center of the movement and at the core of every party were the concepts of love and happiness – whether genuine or pharmaceutically generated – and everyone was out to have a good time. In spite of that fact, at the height of the music's interest, the parties and acts associated with them were vilified as dangerous and a cause for worry – a fact that, about a decade on, is just laughable. Outside of possible narcotic excess or unwanted pregnancy, the evils of the scene have always been very overblown and typically the province of the profoundly unlucky; the odds of sustaining significant or irreversible physical injury were pretty far removed.
Who even looked dangerous back in the day anyway? The Prodigy? A bunch of poofs in poorly applied makeup fronted by a guy whose hair appeared to have been cut with a cigarette lighter? Please – at the height of its popularity, the perils inherent to the rave culture were about on par with a controlled plunge headlong into a pit of plush bears.
With the chemical wave that propelled rave culture into the mainstream consciousness having crested and receded, things are starting to get interesting now. The tide left a lot of distilled and toxic flotsam in its wake and some of those discarded elements are what Qemists have bottled on their Ninja Tune debut full-length, Join The Q. By collecting Qemists' singles released over the last couple of years, the band successfully distills a sense of unhinged delirium because, prior to this point, they've only ever had a couple of minutes to make an impression and, when pulled together as they are here, what listeners are subjected to is an all-killer-no-filler affair that doesn't even so much as pause for breath; the immediacy is palpable, incredibly infectious and instantly attractive to listeners that can't (or don't want to) come down.
…And yet, that's really only saying half of it. While it's impossible to miss the influences of acts like The Propellerheads (there are manifestations of the more-rave-than-pop moments from Decksanddrumsandrocknroll that made bodies shake AND heads bang at the time) but the dynamics and changes in tracks like “Soundface,” “Dem Na Like Me” and “Lost Weekend” (where Fantomas/Faith No More mastermind Mike Patton pipes up to help out) are more markedly rockist in structure (and instrumentation) than has ever been heard before in the typically sounds-and-vibes-before-structure constitution of Drum & Bass, and are instantly attractive to those that (like me) can't dance but are always fascinated by a frenetic freak-out. In that same line, while there may not always be a vocal line in place on every track, there is always a melodic progression in place that offers a similar continuity to that held by a singer. Likewise, the real instruments that slither through all of the songs on Join The Q imply a verse-chorus-verse design made instantly memorable by the climax-a-minute tempo of the record.
Somehow, The Qemists bring an anthemia normally reserved for arena rock shows to this material that has never been dreamt of by an electronic act prior to now. Join The Q might actually do something previously perceived as impossible: the fists that will inevitably be getting thrown in the air might actually connect with something and start a fight on the dance floor which is an attractive possibility in itself. Join The Q is the record for those that want a little 'rough' with their 'rave.'