Hydro: Tribal influenced techno project to be released in the mainstream

Friday 1st August 1997

Due to be released in the mainstream is the stunning tribal influenced techno project 'Aborigination' from engage's HYDRO. Manja Visser spoke to Ray Goudie, part of the hydro collaboration.


With the breathtaking album 'Aborigination' hydro, the experimental dance collective produced by Robbie Bronnimann and Ray Goudie and fronted by Robbie and DJ Andy Hunter, a milestone project has emerged. The album's dazzling integration of world music elements (Maorie chanting, Russian Orthodox music, etc) with inventive techno rhythms has the potential to truly connect with today's clubbers. Making cultural contact with the unchurched is at the heart of engage, the record label and management company (previously called Orange), which is a division of NGM. Ray Goudie expounds, "Jesus said, 'It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick'. I think our whole commission is to be in the world. Jesus wants us to be salt and light. How can we do that if we are not mixing and meeting with them?"

Over the last few years Bristol-based engage has become a spearhead work with acts like dba, re:fresh, Bleach and hydro. Says Ray, "We want to engage with people, with the whole music industry. We don't want to send out records, but to get to know the producers, the artists, the DJs, the organisers and the managers to work with them so that we can actually engage with them. We are not pushing Christianity down their throats, but building up friendships. When you get to know them, many get interested in what you believe. And we found tremendous openness with people already. Through working with them, they hopefully begin to see what God is like."

A part of the engage concept is taking dba's as well as hydro's music into the mainstream clubs. The producers, Robbie Bronnimann (who is also the technical whiz of dba) and Ray Goudie look to permeate the club culture "with something of God". In fact, some of the hydro 12" remixes as well as the remix of "3-d" by dba are on Pete Tong's Radio I Essential Selection dance playlist. Says Ray, "People have been phoning in and saying they couldn't believe hearing hydro and dba on Radio 1."

The new hydro album, which is set for mainstream release, is probably the most innovative experimental Christian dance album ever made. The provisional title 'A Rhythmic Excursion (That Spans The Globe)' has been changed to 'Aborigination'. "The whole concept was 'A Rhythmic Excursion That Spans The Globe'," says Ray, "whether it was from Eastern Europe, New Zealand or Russia. But as the whole project went on, Robbie entitled one track 'Aborigination'. And this title seemed a good follow up album title in relation to 'Spiritualisation', which was our first hydro album. The subtitle is still 'A Rhythmic Excursion..." as it gives a broader kind of feel of what the whole album is about." The producers of hydro have already had an enormous response. "Both mainstream and Christian record companies said that this is the best album we've ever done," says Ray. "Right now we've done three remixes for the mainstream clubs. All of those have been licensed by a mainstream label and they are going to be in the stores in the next two or three weeks."

Ray feels that 'Aborigination' is a great move forward compared with 'Spiritualisation'. "We definitely gained much experience in making the first one," he says. "But it's also a case of better gear, better equipment. The tunes themselves are stronger... The feel of the first one was to go down the whole ambient route, with just a few harder hitting tracks on it. This one really keeps you on the dance floor." involved in the making of hydro II were DJs Kenny Mitchell and Andy Hunter. "Kenny got his decks down and worked with Robbie on the track 'Aborigination'. Kenny did some scratching and sounds and he worked on the whole arrangement together with Robbie. Andy was involved in some of the tracks and shared his experience as a DJ in terms of arrangements, what works and doesn't work. And you can actually hear him chanting in tongues on the 'Didgital' track, which used to be called 'The Tribal Loop'." "Tribal" is the main theme on 'Aborigination". Ray says that all the "tribal" samples were sorted out carefully and have been used with permission. "There is a danger in just abusing somebody's culture. We didn't superficially want to take things and stick them on. What we wanted to do were things that had some integrity and intensity to it. Like on 'Aborigination', a Christian Maori (Steve Apirana) came into the studio and did it all live for us. It came from him rather than just sticking something on."

The main style on the album is techno with hints of intelligent drum and bass and ambient. One of the drum and bass tracks is "Crystal Throneroom" which features Shazj (Sparks' vocals. '"Crystal Throneroom's most direct link is 'Touch The Spirit' and 'You Are The Way' from hydro's 'Spiritualisation'. It captures the real heart of worship," comments Ray. "It talks in Revelation about God's throne room being an amazing place with crystals and colours. We had this idea about going into this very throne room. We tried to paint through the track what the throne room is like."

Ray gives a potted history of hydro. "The idea of hydro came really when Robbie and I were in the States and when we went into some clubs. We discovered that there's a real inherent spiritual element in the clubs. Young people there are looking for some sort of spiritual dimension."

Back in the UK, Robbie and Ray thought about the idea of putting dance remixes into the clubs that would bring in something of God's presence. Their first album 'Spiritualisation' went down a storm and especially the 12" remixes of "Birth" and "Rawar" (which are now on 'Aborigination') which got excellent reviews from the dance press and ended up in the club charts. Now with 'Aborigination' there's an even better response. "What we want is that people not just find out about spirituality, but go on a journey and find God," tells Ray.

"Both 'Spiritualisation' and 'Aborigination' are specifically written with that mind. When you realize that in the UK up to one million youngsters take drugs every weekend in the clubs, we just try to bring something more positive into the club scene. We hope some people might realise that there is something more than drugs, there is something more than just a vague, spiritual dimension. There is a God who loves and cares for them. That's the whole vision and concept behind hydro." Ray says that when Robbie and Andy have been at the clubs and when the '3-d" remix of dba gets played you can see 1500 people immediately sticking their hands up into the air, singing "holy, holy, holy". It's quite amazing!

What comes out on 'Aborigination' is also a certain focus on Celtic spirituality. 'There has been an interest right across the UK," Ray says. "The Celtic Church was the last one to successfully evangelize a pagan culture. There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this Church; how they engaged the culture and how they impacted the UK. We found a tremendous inspiration in their positive view of the culture and how they engaged with a pagan culture. We want to engage with the people." says Ray. "I believe that God is definitely saying that we need to be in the world, not of the world, and that we need to engage with our culture and society."

Engage is also working with local producers and DJs in Bristol. Ray says, "They did some remixes for us which also started an ongoing friendship. Before that time, they didn't even know that we existed! So the whole Celtic thing has already been a real challenge to us." As well as engaging with the local producers and DJs, NGM, the name of the overall orgnisation, is also looking to train young people. "We run different training courses in NGM like Origin and Innovate," says Ray. "Origin is our one-year course for church planting and discipleship. Young people are getting trained in character, discipleship, friendship evangelism and how to evangelise in a pagan culture. Also they learn how to plant a church in youth culture. Innovate is our arts training, like DJing, singing, communication and management. We are doing this with young people who have a heart for revival and who want to be excellent in their arts. We also want to impact our local community, by inviting young people from the schools in Bristol to come to our courses. Through training them, and developing friendships, they might get more interested in what we believe. As well as all the training, NGM also runs certain events in Thornbury (just outside Bristol), like Creation, Eden youth church and The Gathering. Creation is a club event. The music being played there is mainly mainstream dance. According to Ray, most of the mainstream dance is fine. "God gave us music to enjoy. There is nothing wrong with that. Andy, our DJ, carefully selects the music we use.

"Another event is the weekly youth church Eden. Many young people come every single week," says Ray. "The results have been great; many have become Christians and people have also been healed." Continues Ray, "Our monthly multi media event is called The Gathering. We have seen revival hit different parts of the world and we want to see revival coming to Britain as well. Especially in Thornbury where God gave us the vision to impact in the community." Sometimes their bands perform songs at The Gathering. "Dba did one of their new songs recently, which is called 'Spectrum'," says Ray. "This is a song about the black and white changing to colour which is what we believe God wants to do in Thornbury." The new song "Spectrum" is, according to Ray, one of the best songs dba has written. "Shaz and Robbie wrote it together," he says. "It's a song that truly captures Shaz's vocals. In terms of style I'd say it's garbage, adult pop/dance. Not rubbish though!" Ray laughs. "Spectrum" might be the first dba single to be released later this year.

Thombury is also the place where the newCaedmon arts and music complex will be established. Exciting months are coming up for NGM. Some hard work is going to be done on the new material of dba; singles will be released. Robbie just finished working on singles for pop star Howard Jones who is also going to do some work on the new dba album! A new hydro is planned next spring. Says Ray, "We don't have the concept yet. The new one is so fresh it's hard to know what the next one will carry!" Finally, Ray explains the actual vision of NGM, "Our mission statement is 'Engage a future people with a God experience.' Through all we do we want to strive for excellence, go for God and hopefully make a difference in the world."  CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Manja Visser
Manja Visser is a young lady from the Netherlands who recently enjoyed a period of work experience at Cross Rhythms.


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