The 12 best late-90s UK garage records
Two-step to these classics
We're big fans of UK Garage at Mixmag HQ. In fact, proving with absolute objective clarity that it's the best genre of all time. The basis of our hypothesis was its diversity of moods, and it's a genre that allows for so much depth of feeling among its fairly simple structural form, Take one small time sample, like the late-90s for example, and you'll find an absolute treasure trove of records spanning all kinds of moods and energies. Check our picks of the greatest UKG records from this era below.
1 MJ Cole ‘Sincere’
First name on the team sheet. Arguably UKG’s most famous anthem, it’s an immersive beauty that channels an almost natural beauty: like watching a sunrise atop a verdant hilltop. Every component part of this record - the twinkling piano keys, silky vocal, brass notes, synth swells - is eyes closed in the dance paradise.
2 Sunship ft Jhelisa ‘Friendly Pressure’ (Midnight Mix)
An irresistible vocal from Jhelisa combines with a shoulder-jerking breezy production to form an utterly infectious dancefloor stepper. Fittingly for an artist called Sunship, this record evokes the feeling of kicking it blissfully on a coasting vessel beneath the warm embrace of that life-giving star. Imagine what the Midday Mix would sound like.
3 G.O.D. ‘Watch Ya Bass Bins’
A speed garage masterpiece. Pure adrenaline-charged rocket fuel in the dance. This one is still in regular rotation in clubs, often featuring in the sets of techno DJs with enough hard-edged power to sit alongside 130 BPM battering rams. The impact of the bassline first firing after that warped vocal slowdown is heart palpitating.
4 Dem 2 ‘Destiny’
Two-stepping banger that carries notes of euphoria in the manner it incites grinning angular body movements. It never fails to go down, and packs enough feeling to shift a set in a curveball direction. See: Umfang deploying it in her Lab NYC set, mixing out of a moody roller for an instant tonal shift.
5 Box Clever ‘Treat Me Right’
Slippery production on this record underpins an ever-so-slightly warped vocal, lending the track a slightly uncanny quality that interestingly shakes up the dominant vibe of positivity. “Just want you to treat me right” sings the vocal, a universally applicable message. Treat yourself and stick this on repeat.
6 Zaks Toms ‘Bring Me Down’
The inverse to getting treated right is getting brought down, but in musical terms this Zak Toms masterpiece is on the same plane as Box Clever’s. The moment the gleaming synths first bounce in following the extended percussive intro is like a shot of serotonin to the veins. Throw in the powerful vocal, rude bassline and you’ve got yourself a classic.
7 D Base ‘Dreaming’
The YouTube image for this track is on point:its weightless airy textures with just the right amount of funk give the impression of floating through a dreamy azure skies and fluffy clouds. The dip into growling low-ends near the end adds that floor-primed muscle.
8 R.I.P ‘Oh Baby’
Originally released in ‘97, we reckon this will still sound as fresh as the day it was released in another two decades. How such a simple three-note bassline can sound so timeless is a wonder, and a testament to the core brilliance of UKG genre as a genre: simple and oh so effective.
9 Nu-Birth ‘Anytime'
This record wraps you up in a cocoon of euphoria, and could transform even the most miserly person into a jubilant butterfly. The bassline keeps a steady groove, while the synths with metallic sheen and vocal bring the elation levels.
10 Groove Chronicles ‘Stone Cold’
This stone cold stunner is relaxed, lounge-y heaven in 12” wax form. It has all the lilting soul of a deep Chicago house track, with the jazzy sax melody, while murky rolling bass supplies that distinctly UK energy. A genre-splicing triumph.
11 NNM Productions 'Searchin’' (Dub)
A wriggling melody at the fore of this record above the shuffling drum foundation places this on the wiggier end of the spectrum, making us want to twist into contortionist forms. The rapid drum roll interludes also catch the ear with fizzing charm.
12 Vincent J. Alvis 'Body Killin’' (M Dubs Remix)
A stomping banger of a track, with a foregrounded vocal detailing club lust. It’s sultry and moody, and flecked with unusual production quirks that make it weird enough for a Ricardo Villalobos set - emblematic of the range of UKG.