A Guy Called Gerald - Black Secret Technology


United Kingdom


Juice Box

Release Date

February 1995



Reviewed By




A Guy Called Gerald – Black Secret Technology (1995)

When it was released in 1995, “Black Secret Technology” wasn’t Gerald Simpson’s first rodeo. Despite his acid house beginnings with 808 State and his famous “Voodoo Ray” hit, he had been immersed in the hardcore breakbeat cauldron for four years already (his Juice Box label’s first releases date back to 1991). During this time, he had not only kept pace with, but had even anticipated the mutation of this chaotic rave magma into the fleeting jungle style, which was beginning to be heard everywhere and of which he was not the first to offer a version geared towards lounge listening. Yet this album is indeed a true late classic of a style that was about to explode into a myriad of sub-genres: it appears far less bloated than its contemporary “Timeless” by Goldie, and boasts an almost impossible balance between the urgency of jungle clubs and the imperative for consistency in LP releases.

What is striking at first is the strong sonic personality in “Black Secret Technology”. Freed from the constraints of club music, Gerald Simpson lets loose on effects, resulting in heavily altered, metallic and skeletal beats. The drums are broken as they should be, but already seem in transition towards the upcoming techstep style with its characteristic against-the-grain rhythms. Gerald Simpson’s movie refuses to choose between space opera and dystopian sci-fi, even in its samples, from Dune to Robocop… The start of the album indulges in exalted but restrained rave optimism, between the mirror images of “So Many Dreams” / “Anita’s Dream” and the subtle rise of “Finley’s Rainbow”, with its vocal cover of Bob Marley that miraculously avoids cheesiness. This is also the case with the album’s finale: the self-cover “Voodoo Rage” with its ethno-trance vocals is a dazzling sunlight bath in which the original rave anthem is reversed to stimulate the neurons rather than the nerves; while “Life Unfolds His Mystery”, the only track truly playable in a jungle club, is a perfect conclusion that sees the producer finally unleash percussive pleasure. But the heart of the album leans more towards cyberpunk: “Silent Cry” is dark and rainy, “Dreaming of You” reeks of urban spleen a la Blade Runner, and the bassline of “The Reno” is haunting and alienating, underscored rather than diminished by jazzy arrangements. A synthesis of these moods? The flying car ride of “Cyberjazz” and its uplifting rave synths joyfully piercing the pollution clouds… “Black Secret Technology” goes fast and in many directions at once, and it’s more noticeable with each new listen: you need to be well acquainted with its nooks to escape the initial impression, that of a dull and overly homogeneous album.

It’s a sum-up record, a review of both the music style it belongs to and several representations of science fiction, at the very moment when jungle was forced to mutate at the risk of losing its futuristic side. It has been crafted with taste and mastery, which allows it to escape at 95% from the ravages of time (although let’s note the fluorescent yellow peaks of the synth in “Cybergen”…). It’s not without its flaws: it’s 1995, the album is therefore filled to the brim, sometimes too much for its own good. The other criticism I have is unfair, but it’s precisely for this that I hesitate to give it the highest rating: while “Black Secret Technology” may be the most satisfying jungle LP I’ve had the pleasure to listen to, isn’t the very concept of long-format fundamentally flawed in this style? By relinquishing some of the wildness and carefreeness of jungle heard in smoky basements, Gerald Simpson achieves something unreachable for those who were content to simply produce and mix singles, but at the same time closes off access to the fountain of youth that, for me, the genre’s short three-year span represents.

La version française originale de cette chronique est disponible sur Guts Of Darkness.