Dillinja's Hard Noize remix and the Legacy of Test 2
30 Aug 2020
After 'testing' the dub for awhile Dillinja has finally released the Break remix of a notable tune from his storied catalog called Hard Noize. The second Test Recordings release came with mystery and confusion in 1998 but presented a new Valve sound and set the course for Dillinja dancefloor dominance that would follow for the next number of years.
Already a renowned producer from the earlier days of jungle with distinct jump up and atmospheric sounds and establishing himself as key 'bass scientist' with Metalheadz releases in the years following Dillinja continued to experiment and progress his style further in the late 90s in the ever-changing jungle/drum'n'bass scene. By 1997, even with their own label Valve Recordings to release on, Dillinja and Lemon D needed another outlet for a rapidly evolving sound and so Test Recordings was born. It's hallmark release came on the AA side of the second release Test 2 titled Hard Noize.
Things that stood out about this one was the tune itself and also the mystery and confusion around the release!
The sound on Test 2 had a fresh drum'n'bass style and would go on to become very familiar in the near future. I remember hearing it in Eastern Bloc Records and it being something mysterious and different. The beats were hard and stepping and the distinct grinding lead melody was like nothing of the time (nor clearly something produced by Dillinja). In comparison to Test 1 which has a track that harks to his earlier Metalheadz releases, and a more stripped down, tech-stepping track you can hear the rapidly evolving sound. I remember local DJs on the weekly radio show misidentifying a release before Test 2 had even dropped because of the more familiar Dillinja sound (and maybe the labeling was off again). Test 2 focused right in on those new drum patterns and bass arrangements. Hard Noize features a memorable sample from a Twilight Zone episode and then a filtered vocal saying 'switch the sh*t around' before all hell breaks loose. The crisp drums and distinct growling melody would be a sound Dillinja owned and continued to develop on Test, Valve and some other labels for the next number of years with a bunch of popular tracks. They combined hard enough beats for the serious drum'n'bass head-nodding crew but also an accessible level of dancefloor fun that reeled in ravers and demanded rewinds around the globe. The accelerating anticipation for his debut album can almost be traced from here and after a prolonged wait it featured the similar refined sounds to massive acclaim and contributed further to his often labeled GOAT status.
For this particular release the mystery and confusion stacked up when there was both a mislabeling with vinyl stickers put on opposite sides and a mispress that happened! The Test releases didn't say who the artist was so before it became established Dillinja was behind it the average listener would be immediately disadvantaged and would be asking those in the know. The stickers being on the wrong sides caused DJs and trainspotters to ID the songs incorrectly, and the change in sounds that started with the first Test release added to the lack of clarity. Then adding to the confusion, a mispress happened and another tune altogether was put on some of the vinyl pressings. Shops would write on the sleeves that a copy contained a different tune than other pressings. People bringing their new 12" purchase home would play the tune and only realize when seeing tracklists on other DJ mixes or internet descriptions that their record wasn't the same. The internet rumours spread about a rare, exclusive Dillinja track - a valuable commodity when having fresh tunes from a big producer that no one else had could make your DJ set. That track came to be known as 'Accurist' and was never released on any other thing officially but it also shared some of the style of the other tracks on Test 2 but wasn't a strong as Hard Noize.
After stepping back from releasing for many years now it's nice to see the track revived in a new remix from Break and on a new Valve release. Break is a good candidate to work on the classic and his own meticulous drum programming style and patterns do justice to the original Hard Noize tune. Overall being a big fan of all the Dillinja productions right thru Valve's busy run in the first half of the 2000s I'm happy about the re-emergence of the label and the legacy of Test 2 being brought to new ears and soundsystems.
Cover image: Test Recordings record sleeve design by Magnet Studio.