Todd Edward's Nervous Tracks
Labels are a dime a dozen in 2018, and if they last longer than five years, they’re lucky. 25 years is a long time for a record label, and with that being said, Nervous Records has been around forever.
Nervous Tracks Volume 4/5 is, as the title suggests, a subset of a larger 5-part series, Nervous Tracks, all released in 1999. They’re each a bit different, touching on various niche sounds within house music.
Todd’s tracks are prime 2-step garage, a kind of Exhibit A in examining 2-step. On a track like “Oohhh Baby”, a remix of the 1994 original by Veda Simpson, the vocals fit perfectly over the planed chords, and are actually pretty different compared to the original.
About this one track – the original’s lyrics are wildly sexual, repeating “fuck me, baby” in the latter half. Todd’s version of this is a night-and-day difference in lyrical dirtiness. (“Oohhh Baby” makes its way onto other Nervous Tracks releases within the series, occasionally much fuckier than what’s heard here).
The five-year difference between the original “Oohhh Baby” and this remix is pretty noticeable; Todd’s remix is brighter, crisper, and features a bit more percussion and variety in rhythm. The 2-steppiness is undeniable.
But enough about the raunchy “Oohhh Baby”. A common misstep in a deceptively complicated dance genre such as this is the insistence of having a vocal sample on top of a track that doesn’t fit, or even worse, isn’t in the same key.
Todd, of course, isn’t an offender of said offense. Rather, he’s a gold standard of the sound. The pairing of vocals and production on “Oohhh Baby” is a great example, sounding sophisticated, even clever in its arrangement.
So much of his music rides on the vocals. Without this music, modern club music would not be the same.
“Feelin’ Lonely” is a beautiful standout on this release. The vocals are chopped up all over the place, and somehow they all seem to be apart of a singular phrase, like a melody of mishmashed parts converged.
“Feelin’ Lonely” came out the same year as the aforementioned Veda Simpson track – 1994 – on Nervous Records, under the moniker The Sample Choir, a very fitting name for this style. Kingly sampling here.
Todd Edwards’ arrangements across this release all feature a signature chopped-up sound, particularly from the beat and the vocal. You can hear a lot of what Palms Trax and Sepalcure do originating from this sound, especially the bouncy basslines and vocals, though these elements are even less prominent in Palms Trax’s music than they are here (and these are quite a step back from Veda Simpson and the sound of garage in the early 90s).
“End This Hate” relies so much on this chopped up sound in the vocals, with samples that are merely phonations of disembodied words. The 2-step garage sound shines through here, a sound that takes yesteryear’s garage and dissects it, syncopates it, and magnifies it, bringing out previously unknown complexities in the genre.
Accompanying these elements on pretty much every track are soulful organ sounds – gentle stabs in the background, sometimes syncopated against the shuffly hi-hats and snares. Where Tony Humphries might ride out horns and organs, Todd magnifies them, zooms in on their details and makes them dance for us.
All the cuts and chops make 2-step sound faster, but no doubt it’s typically under dubstep in tempo (miss me with that brostep). Maybe part of the fun of making 2-step is seeing how small you can cut your samples and seeing what tapestry you can sew together with them.
Todd’s Nervous Tracks is a mere blip on the radar of his discography, but a pretty satisfying listen nonetheless. He’s out there in LA, and he doesn’t quit. He’s from New Jersey, but his name gets thrown around amongst the godfathers of UK Garage. He has inspired others that much.
Just like the longevity of Nervous Records, Todd Edwards has been going for over 25 years. Imagine the chops on this guy. Imagine how much this music rips in a club.