In this era of decreased attention spans and long working hours it’s not surprising that pop songs are getting shorter. Under lockdown, though, many of us have a surfeit of free time, affording the opportunity to bask in the luxurious opulence of some extra-long bangers from the golden age of extended running times and courageous artistic choices: the ‘90s.
Join us, then, for an extremely scientific rundown of the 12 most languorous dance, electronic and alternative tracks from a more civilised age. We’ve listed these in order of duration to give you a chance to work your way up to some truly mammoth running times, and all told you’ll need nearly three and a half hours to experience this epic musical marathon.
So, sit back, relax, definitely don’t think about the future, and enjoy these sumptuous audio artefacts at your leisure!
1. Crescendo - Are You Out There?
Genre: Apocalyptic house
We’re only on our first track, but it’s straight into fifth gear with this high-concept slammer that dares to ask the question: “What if house music, but also the Book of Revelation?”
The answer is flippin’ mental, to put it mildly. Gregorian choirs? Sure. Air raid sirens? Absolutely. Spoken word poetry? You’d better believe it buddy!
The only disappointing thing about this conceptual dream is its relatively meagre sub-nine minute running time, but don’t fret too much as there’s an alternative 20-minute version which includes such delights as a protracted minimal percussion breakdown in the first quarter of the track.
2. Salt Tank - Eugina (Pacific Diva)
Genre: Troubling prog house
Fans of cognitive dissonance are in for a treat with this one, for it combines the most blissed out Balearic prog-house vibes one could possibly imagine with a sample from an extremely raw Tori Amos track about a sexual assault she experienced as a young woman, Me and A Gun.
Being the freewheelin’ 90s, though, nobody batted an eyelid at this potentially problematic combination and the track went on to become a club classic and graze the UK Top 40.
Removed from its original context, Amos’ non-sequitur lyric about delicious Southern United States foodstuffs has even less meaning, adding an intriguing human touch to an otherwise synth-driven track. That said, workstation guitar patches have never sounded better, or less realistic!
3. Orbital - Halcyon and On and On
Genre: Hippie techno
An extended, blissed-out take on the breakbeat-laced original version, Halcyon and On and On makes stellar use of Kirty Hawkshaw’s dreamy vocal from Opus III’s delightful It’s a Fine Day, itself a stripped-down cover of Jane’s eerie a cappella original.
Halcyon and On and On is euphoric techno at its most uplifting, and its use at the end of Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 video game adaptation of Mortal Kombat results in the most emotionally affecting scene ever put to celluloid.
For the love of all that’s holy, please make sure you also check out the live version from 1999’s Glastonbury, which surreally adds Belinda Carlisle and Bon Jovi into the mix and gives the track a whole new, bizarre dimension.
4. Chapterhouse Retranslated By Global Communication - Epsilon Phase
Genre: Ambient-shoegaze mashup
Things not quite ponderous enough for you yet? Don’t worry dear traveller, we’re piercing the ten-minute mark now with a collaboration between a shoegaze band and an ambient techno duo so things are about to get very real.
Definitive proof that, working together in teams of seven, men are indeed capable of expression emotion, Epsilon Phase transforms the jangly grooves of Love Forever into an ambient symphony that refuses to keep building until the listener has experienced both a purifying spiritual rebirth and mental ascension to a new level of consciousness.
If you’re left with a craving for more melodic space techno then Global Communication’s majestic 14:31 will sate your desire with its even deeper journey into the sonic cosmos.
5. Peter Lazonby - Sacred Cycles
Genre: Good psytrance
Take advantage of the fact you haven’t washed in weeks by listening to this psychedelic trance classic and pretending that A: you’re at the freakiest Goan hippie rave the ‘90s had to offer and B: the disorientation and confusion you’re experiencing are due to a cocktail of perception-altering drugs rather than simply monotony and isolation.
Sacred Cycles doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to establishing its psy cred, sampling both prog legends Genesis and Indian mystic Osho, and complementing their trippy vibes with driving trance beats and basslines for 11 mind-expanding minutes.
6. Crazy Fan Tutti - i VIVA ! (Ramp's Club Class Variation)
Genre: Colonial club
Break out your finest duds, gang, because we’re headed to the opera! The 7-inch version of i VIVA ! is a bonkers mix of Léo Delibes’ Flower Duet from Lakmé and recordings of traditional African music made by David Fanshawe on his album Spirit of African Sanctus. According to the single’s liner notes it was featured in a British Airways TV commercial, presumably a variation on this one.
While the single version is extremely middle of the road, the same cannot be said of Ramp’s utterly insane club version, which kicks off with a 3/4 time intro that brings in the African chanting and - uh - dolphin noises before dropping some operatic vocals and lush synth pads.
Once you’ve reached a state of chillout bliss it’s time for a sub bass-soaked, minutes-long breakdown as the track switches up the time signature to 4/4 before dropping into a tribal house groove that eventually brings in some tense strings and really gives the dolphin samples a workout.
An extravagant pan-cultural journey that’s sure to take your mind off whatever cruel fate reality has in store for us all.
7. Flowered Up - Weekender
The thinking nihilist’s Happy Mondays, Flowered Up proved that guitar-based indie bands were just as capable of making XL epics as their prog rock forebears.
Of course, being a product of the early ‘90s, Weekender is a track all about raving, and, unlike more traditional indie fare, switches from wailing guitars to a funky acidic breakdown at about eight minutes in before getting back on track with duelling sax and guitar solos a few minutes later.
They sure don’t make ‘em like Weekender any more, especially not with lavish 17-minute promo videos.
8. Underworld - Mmm...Skyscraper I Love You
Genre: Objectophilic techno
Mmm, who doesn’t love skyscrapers? Not Underworld, that’s for sure, the proof being this 13-minute pean to everyone’s favourite large buildings.
Occurring at the culmination of Underworld’s transformation from ‘80s electro rockers to ‘90s techno titans thanks to the involvement of new member Darren Emmerson, Mmm...Skyscraper I Love You features memorable lyrics like “pornfest pork fat Jesus Christ night light” and dubby techno soundscapes that wend their way to the track’s unexpectedly downtempo outro.
The highlight? A charmingly capricious robot that appears around the five-minute mark.
9. The Bucketheads - The Bomb (These Sound Fall Into My Mind)
Genre: Disco-nicking house
A big hit back in 1994, The Bomb (These Sound Fall Into My Mind) is a masterclass in getting the absolute most out of a sample, stretching a few snatches of Chicago’s Street Player into a near quarter-hour of disco house delight.
If you’re looking for tips on how to arrange a club banger, you could do a lot worse than have a long, hard listen to this engorged beast of a track, and its virtuosity comes as no surprise when you learn it was produced by house legend and half of Masters At Work, Kenny “Dope” Gonzales. That said, not everyone can get away with not dropping the bass line until nearly five minutes into a track, and it’s worth noting the radio edit is a concise 3:23.
10. DJ Shadow - What Does Your Soul Look Like?
This four-part feast kicks off with what sounds like the fever dream of an over-Pepsi’d Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast, but that’s just the appetiser for this half-hour of beautifully bleak instrumental hip-hop that blends rock, prog and jazz samples into a stunningly atmospheric soup.
What Does Your Soul Look Like? showcases Shadow’s crate-digging skills at their best, with a wealth of obscure sample sources plus a surprising contribution from power-ballad faves Foreigner.
11. T.Power - Police State
Genre: Hyper-intelligent DnB
For an ostensibly anti-establishment movement the UK rave scene produced few overtly political records, but thankfully, original junglist Marc Royal (AKA T.Power) took matters into his own hands in 1995 with this dreamy dystopian odyssey.
A galaxy-brained combination of intelligent drum ‘n’ bass beats, futuristic Roland JV-1080 pads and the political musings of Noam Chomsky, simply reading about Police State will have already increased your IQ by several points.
Sadly, the public took little heed of Royal and Chomsky’s funky warning, but on the plus side we get to live the kind of neo-liberal nightmare the inhabitants of the ‘90s could only dream about!
12. The Orb - Blue Room
Genre: Ambient house
The crowning glory of early-‘90s ambient excess, the single version of Blue Room was designed to slip just under the 40-minute maximum length requirement for a single to be eligible for the UK Top 40.
As you might imagine, it’s fair stuffed with out-of-this-world audio delights including some heavy sampling from Weather Report and performances from Gong’s Steve Hillage on guitar and Public Image Limited’s Jah Wobble on bass.
Many impressionable ‘90s kids will remember The Orb’s unique, chess-based performance from Top of the Pops, a truly monocle-dropping spectacle featuring various sea mammals, a globus cruciger, and an all-too-brief shot of some surprisingly enthusiastic-looking audience members.