Pop: Big Beat BRA, Hah, Hah, Hah

Named after a lo-tech drum machine purchased for two pounds at a car boot sale, Midlands duo Bentley Rhythm Ace offer a fresh take on dance music. Tim Perry has a laugh with them

"Yes, we're a reaction against the so-called serious side of dance. Lots of techno acts are like watching two guys trying out in a keyboard shop, arr hah hah." That's Richard Marsh speaking - the ever-laughing, bass-playing half of Bentley Rhythm Ace.

Marsh, who spent 10 years in Pop Will Eat Itself, is the red-headed stepchild of dance music who has come good - and come good fast. About a year ago he and Mike Stokes were scraping a living in dead-end jobs. Now they've had a Top 20 album and single, and had to upsize the venues on their current tour. With their fat booming breakbeats, kitschy samples (such as a "Dr Who noise machine") and an ear for a great tune, BRA are giving clubbers something to smile about while they dance.

Along with the likes of the Lo-Fidelity Allstars and Fatboy Slim, the Bentleys have been branded as the leading force in the Big Beat craze. "I get asked what does Big Beat mean and truthfully I ain't got the foggiest idea. I think what Big Beat is, if anything, is that it's just gone away from that snobbishness and cliquishness of the techno scene. I guess what we've done is add a dash of panto-vaudeville-cabaret so it's more fun for us. That gets to the audience and in turn comes back onto the stage and things just get bigger and madder."

Helping things along at BRA live sets are wacky props such as the front end of the car with flashing lights and working windscreen wipers that sits in front of the DJ decks. "We've also got a battleship searchlight and we do a morse code signal, and flash it around to have a good look at what people are up to, ha ha," Marsh explains. It's all an extension of their wacky Midlands humour that's evident in the tracks such as "Ragtopskodacarchase" and "Return of the Hardcore Jumble Carbootechnodisco Roadshow". The outfit's name came from a lo-tech drum machine they bought for two quid in a car boot sale and of course the abbreviation causes a few "er huh huhs" now and again.

"I suppose the main thing is that people are dancing and having a good time and then we've got this reputation of being irrepressible and party animals," concludes Marsh. He says that with a yawn, as they've just come back from Japan and two days later they're due to start a UK headlining tour. After that it's off to France, Holland, the USA and back here for the Charlatans tour which starts in late November. "We'll have to be in bed early every night, arr ha ha."

Bentley Rhythm Ace, London Astoria (0171-434 0403), 21 Oct

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