Full-On Mask Hysteria embodies a unique and fleeting period in Britain, when rave clambered to the top of popular culture. Despite racking up a catalogue of hits, packing out warehouses and courting the media with stunts like running for Parliament, Altern 8 were, as Simon Reynolds wrote in Energy Flash, all but forgotten by the time their album dropped towards the end of '92. Full-On Mask Hysteria is something of a relic, a piece of musical heritage that can be loved, if not fully understood. Recently, though, events like Bangface and Bloc Weekender have helped revive the rave spirit behind Altern 8.
For such a cult record, Full-On Mask Hysteria's remixes might bother the diehard fans, especially KiNK's 4/4 take on "Armageddon." Shadow Dancer's version of "Activ 8" is a plucky stab at Altern 8's defining anthem, which propelled them into the UK charts in '91, but of course it doesn't hit the spot like the Prodigy-riffing original. Luke Vibert and 2 Bad Mice's offerings are better, probably because they're rave veterans themselves. 2 Bad Mice's version of "Everybody" is lifted from a single released in '93, but Vibert, another sample maniac and jokester, turns in the best remix here. He melts the atomic allure of "Frequency" into a Wagon Christ-y mind warp, with all of the original zing intact.
"Activ 8" exemplifies Altern 8's appeal. The roar of a crowd and the sounds of whistles and screeching horns drop you straight into the dance, and the MC samples keep it hyped. Then come the catchy synth stabs, the ones engrained on every raver's brain, and the singalong chorus, which helped push Altern 8 into the UK charts. They brought the underground to the mainstream in a cheeky and fundamentally British way, captivating the country's youth with their energy and antics.
Altern 8 wrote themselves into the ledgers of dance music history. Overtly sampling club hits that were still fresh at the time, they held a mirror up to '90s subculture, and soon became an integral part of it for a while. Tracks like Rhythm Is Rhythm's "Strings Of Life" and 808 State's "Pacific 202" were supplanted into Altern 8's hardcore narrative on "Evapor-8" and "Infiltrate 202," giving their music an inherent retro slant. It's partly why, 25 years later, Full-On Mask Hysteria sounds as sharp as ever, plus the fact that it's brimming with bangers that ravers of any generation could enjoy. Altern 8 don't really care where you were in '92, they just want to make you dance right now.
Sat / 26 Nov 2016
01. E-Vapor 8
02. Give It To Baby
03. Armageddon (KiNK Remix)
04. Infiltrate 202
05. Move My Body
06. Activ 8 (Shadow Dancer Remix)
07. Hypnotic St-8
08. Everybody (2 Bad Mice Remix)
09. First Of May
10. Activ 8
11. Frequency (Luke Vibert Remix)
14. Real Time Status
17. A D8 With Plezure
18. 8's Revenge