Techno for an answer: Underground Resistance – Panic (1991)

This’ll be a facepalm for vinyl DJs who rage about hipsters buying records without playing them. But last week I found an Underground Resistance 12-inch in a pile and played it for the first time since buying it in Deckheads in Galway over a decade ago.

I’ve an excuse though, it was stuck in a blank sleeve between the charity shop detritus you wouldn’t even stick on for a joke at a party.

It was perfect timing to find a slab of filthy early 90s techno — I was debating with a mate whether to go see hardcore rave duo Altern 8 last Saturday, and a few plays of UR’s Riot EP was the kickstarter. We got stuck on track 2 Panic for quite a while and there was no way we were staying in.

The tracklisting for the Riot EP sounds like a distilled four-word manifesto for Underground Resistance in 1991: Riot / Panic / Rage / Assault. Underground Resistance is techno’s most revered and mythical collective — a label, loose analogue techno crew and “movement that wants change by sonic revolution”.

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‘Mad’ Mike Banks

Started in the late 80s in Detroit by Jeff Mills, ‘Mad’ Mike Banks and Robert Hood, early UR was minimalist, idealistic and above all futuristic — taking the four-track dance music of the day and sticking loads of industrial grit under its fingernails. Techno was a fairly nebulous concept, but UR hammered it down, even creating the iconic hoods, face scarves and balaclavas aesthetic that stands to this day. As Robert Hood recalls in an XLR8R interview: “I remember going into an army surplus store to figure out what we were going to wear on stage. We had a mindset that was sort of Public Enemy, X-Clan, Parliament, Funkadelic, Guerilla Unit.”

Panic is a perfect primer for the early Underground Resistance sound — dense 808 machine thumps that sound like Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad beats sped up; siren-like synth screeches and an intense EBM bassline that doesn’t relent.

It also features their de facto MC Hood rapping throughout, invoking the “sounds of the siren” and the “Underground Resistance Division of Panic”.