Looking back on a record that helped define minimal dance music.
That meant Chicago and Detroit. But Accerelate was no revisionist project—it pointed forward. After the three Silicon Ghetto EPs, which gestured at what the label would become, Bell's Ghetto Trax started a run of EPs that peaked with 1994's Losing Control.
According to Bell, "Losing Control"'s vocal broke new ground in 1994. "No one had really done the voice filtering like that before," he told Resident Advisor in 2008. In the track's opening seconds, the vocal becomes a rumbling sub-bassline thanks to an extremely resonant low-pass filter accentuating its low frequencies. The filter is so resonant that you can hear it whistling and clipping as the cutoff frequency passes over the vocal's midrange. Down-pitching the voice gave it an omniscient but slightly fatigued feel, yet another trait that would become standard issue in dance music. Besides the voice, there's a touch of delay, 909, a queasy pad and eventually a bouncy sub line. In a genre filled with lessons in economy, "Losing Control" is about as spartan as it gets.
Slowly developing a minimum of elements, rather than using changes in instrumentation to suggest traditional A-B structures, wasn't new to modern electronic dance music. (Chicago jack tracks laid this blueprint years earlier.) But, before Bell, few had so fully exploited this logic or pushed it to such extremes.
Peacefrog's remix EP, featuring Carl Craig, Robert Hood and Richie Hawtin, is famous in its own right. But in a classic case of A&R's regret, Peacefrog initially rejected Bell's original track for being "too housey." In an open letter to Josh Wink, who Bell claimed had copied his 1993 track "Phreak," he provided some interesting insight into the label's strategy for when they licensed Losing Control—they froze sales at 10,000 units in an attempt to increase the record's rarity. "Even though the release was the biggest seller on the label to that point, no promotion was done," Bell wrote.
Although none of the other productions on the EP matched the title track's impact, the 12-inch is strong if aesthetically limited. "Beat Phreak" is arguably the highpoint of Bell's numerous "Phreak" variations. Just like the B1, "Live Wire," the pairing of a slippery, harmonically pure synth sequence with the clack of the Casio RZ-1's clap and hi-hat was soon widely imitated—as was "Losing Control"'s druggy vocal. "Spock's Brain" has the best bassline of the set while employing more or less the same drum sounds heard elsewhere on the EP. The pad's slow attack does, however, provide a sense of scale at odds with DBX's signature bone-dry drums.
Although he still gigs regularly, Bell seems happy to maintain his distance to today's scene. He collaborated with Thomas Melchior in 2017, but is conservative with new productions (it was the first new music he's contributed since 2010). Losing Control marked the end of the DBX project, but it was just phase one in establishing Bell's towering influence. With productions under his own name and his DJing, he epitomised everything that was great about the transition from minimal techno to minimal house.