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The Grid

Long-running British duo the Grid have made giddy floor-fillers as well as reflective ambient pieces, with some of their most well-known tracks featuring innovative uses of acoustic instruments in an electronic dance music context. Formed by Dave Ball (of Soft Cell) and Richard Norris when both musicians were active as members of Psychic TV in the late '80s, the pair mixed sample-based acid house with synth pop and ambient house on their 1990 debut album, Electric Head. Moving in more of a progressive house direction, the Grid scored a massive hit with "Swamp Thing" (from 1994's Evolver), a rollicking banjo-driven track that anticipated Avicii's EDM/folk fusions two decades later. The duo kept busy with additional projects, but occasionally reconvened, continuing their high-energy dance sound with 2008's Doppelgänger, then returning to ambient explorations with 2018's One Way Traffic and 2021's Leviathan, a collaboration with Robert Fripp. Dave Ball and Richard Norris first worked together as members of Psychic TV, co-producing tracks on the 1988 album Jack the Tab, one of the first British acid house releases, which was presented as a compilation of various artists. The pair were responsible for the track "Meet Every Situation Head On," under the moniker M.E.S.H., which was issued as a stand-alone single. The two continued working as the Grid, signing to EastWest and releasing the electro-disco single "On the Grid" in 1989. Debut album Electric Head appeared in 1990, and two of its singles, the ambient house classic "Floatation" and the dance-pop tune "A Beat Called Love" (both featuring vocalist Sacha Souter), hit the U.K. Top 100. Following the album, the Grid collaborated with LSD guru Dr. Timothy Leary on the single "Origins of Dance," issued by Evolution, a sublabel of Rhythm King. The Grid signed with Virgin for the release of 1992's 456, their ambitious second album, which included guest appearances by Sun Ra, Robert Fripp, Yello's Dieter Meier, and others. A transparent 12" single containing the Orb's remixes of the album track "Crystal Clear" was issued, and the single became the Grid's first to hit the Top 30. Additionally, the duo racked up an impressive resumé of remixes for artists like Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Brian Eno, David Sylvian, and many others. Changing direction a bit, the Grid signed to Deconstruction and released the single "Texas Cowboys," featuring a distinctive sliding synth riff imitating a harmonica. The track became a hit, and set the stage for 1994's "Swamp Thing," which featured banjo playing by Roger Dinsdale. The song was a worldwide smash, reaching number three in the U.K. and earning a platinum certification in Australia. The full-length Evolver, featuring the additional hit "Rollercoaster," reached number 14 on the U.K. album charts. Music for Dancing, a collection of remixes of the duo's singles, followed in 1995. The two musicians went their separate ways in 1996. In the early 2000s, Ball re-formed Soft Cell with Marc Almond, while Norris formed the electroclash group the Droyds and the label God Made Me Hardcore, and later published an official biography of Paul Oakenfold. Norris and Ball performed two gigs with singer Misty Woods under the name GDM in 2005. The Grid returned in 2006 with a limited white label single, "Slammer," with "Put Your Hands Together" appearing in 2007. Doppelgänger, the duo's fourth full-length, was issued by Some Bizzare, the label that introduced the world to Soft Cell in 1981. Norris released several psychedelic albums as the Time & Space Machine, and he formed the electronic rock duo Beyond the Wizards Sleeve with Erol Alkan. In 2018, the Grid were the first band invited to play and record at the Moog Sound-Lab, an open loan studio filled with modular synthesizers. The results of their session were released in 2018 as One Way Traffic. Special Request's 13-minute remix of "Floatation" was issued as a clear 12" single in 2020, along with a shorter edit by Norris. Leviathan, the Grid's first full-length collaboration with Fripp, was released by Discipline Global Mobile in 2021.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo


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