C-L-A-S-S-I-C library breaks and beats set of heavy drums and louche funk.
One of two Be With forays into the archives of revered British library institution Conroy, we present one of our favourites on the label - the super in-demand Dramatic Tempi / Larry Robbins Background Rhythms, originally released in 1975. Rare and sought-after for many years now, this is one of those cult library LPs that rarely turns up on even the deepest dig.
As a single LP, Dramatic Tempi / Larry Robbins Background Rhythms is two distinctly different collections of music. The first side, Dramatic Tempi, is made up of four tracks each from Sammy Burdson and Klaus Weiss.
Sammy Burdson was one of the many, many aliases of the mighty Austrian composer, arranger and conductor, Gerhard Narholz. Founder of adored library label Sonoton in 1965, and a classically trained composer, his work runs from easy listening through pop, jazz and electronic, to avant-garde.
About as cult as it gets when it comes to library music legends (German or otherwise) Klaus Weiss produced essential records on German library labels Coloursound, Selected Sound and Sonoton, as well as making two essential entries in the Conroy catalogue. Having started his career at the age of 16 as a jazz drummer, the Klaus Weiss trademark electronic sound is unsurprisingly built on top of sometimes funky, sometimes frenetic, but always hard-hitting drums.
The second side is both titled and also credited to Larry Robbins Background Rhythms. We have to admit to being stumped as to who Larry was, but we don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to assume it might well be yet another incarnation of Gerhard Narholz’s.
First up from Dramatic Tempi are the phased, gargantuan hip-hop beats of Sammy Burdson’s impeccable “Pop Waves”. This is otherworldly funk on a whole new level. Hearing is believing. The magnificently titled “Cyclodrom” is up next, a beast of booming bass and wah wah guitars over frenetic funk drums. “Devils Drive” is dramatic, blaxploitation street funk with rolling, pounding drums. “Crime Ways” is an acid-squelch, slow-pace neck-snapper.
Klaus Weiss starts by askings us “Is It Hip” and we can only answer “yes it is!” to the clean, skipping drums, booming bass and proto-hip-hop bells, layered beneath laconic and melodic guitar shredding. This is just horizontal soul perfection. “The Camp”, propelled by jazzy guitar à la Joe Pass over fast drum and conga breaks, gives way to the dark guitars and cymbal crashes of “Tomorrow”. It sounds like an early New Order jam session. Closing out a pretty startling side of library greatness, “Rhythm Trip” presents early stuttering funk before easin' on in to a jazzy, soulful groove; all breezy guitar and warm keys. Lush.
Larry Robbins Background Rhythms is a lighter, poppier affair, but it’s not without its drum-heavy bangers. “Vox Pop” and “Pop Phase” each have clean, open-ish drum breaks, ripe for sampling or more daring DJ sets. “Pop Twang” is a short and sweet beat-heavy number that gives way to the fantastically out-there “Canned Pop”. We‘d love to know if this was ever actually licensed for something! The final seven tracks are a set of 1-to-2 minute “Percussion Takes”. All compelling, and all equally useful for any number of production needs. Get sampling.
The British library label with those instantly recognisable “orangey-red” sleeves, Conroy began releasing production music in 1965. A sub-label of Berry Music Co, its catalogue typified the library industry’s strange mixture of tradition and experimentation from the start. Conroy’s early releases included work by big band stalwarts like Eddie Warner as well as early electronic recordings by the likes of Belgian experimental pioneer Arséne Souffriau. With Berry Music Co working as a distribution partner to the German library label Sonoton, it was through the Conroy that a great deal of German library music found its way into the UK market.
Conroy stopped putting out new music in the 1980s, but its history and its catalogue offer an excellent window into the trends and eccentricities of a highly unique industry at the height of its international appeal.
This re-issue of Dramatic Tempi / Larry Robbins Background Rhythms has been mastered for vinyl by Be With regular Simon Francis from audio from the original tapes. Richard Robinson has handled reproducing the iconic, hypnotic original Conroy sleeve. Essential.