No year would be complete without another underground style fad coming out of Great Britain, and the world-shaking development to reach critical international mass in 1995 was jungle. The next small step in techno’s progression proceeds from the same impulse as ambient music — that the rhythmic component of club music can be deemed, if not completely expendable, subject to a highly flexible calculus. Conveniently and aptly described as dance music you can’t dance to, jungle uses whatever beat-box switches create madly skittering percussion: imagine a swarm of angry insects and a hard rain hitting a tin roof in brisk, shifting winds — and injects the ever-changing results around, not in, the center of alternately dreamy and pro forma trip-hop soul.
A native of Wolverhampton (a city famous in glam-rock history as Slade’s hometown), Goldie is jungle’s crossover avatar, the first producer/artist to make an aboveground bid for commercial radio play and home stereo access. On Timeless, he and studio partner Rob Playford succeed in their improbable adventure by placing extremely ordinary sentimental ballads (“State of Mind,” “Angel,” “You & Me”) at the core of several tracks, letting smooth female voices provide an alluring entry point to their manic electronic gearshifting. The album’s centerpiece is the 21-minute, three-part title track, which initially combines slowly undulating waves of string-like sounds with Diane Charlemagne’s voice, clattering rushes of seemingly superfluous percussion and sampled sound effects. The science-fiction tension in what seems like a familiar realm is most intriguing. Elsewhere, Goldie eliminates any trace of propulsion and then flips the switches, dub style, to remove everything but the effects or the paradiddles. At its best, Timeless is a hypnotic suggestion that keeps you on the edge of your seat. If that’s the law of (the) jungle, it’s an exciting sound of music.