The birth of our underground brand Factory 93 not only brought on an adrenaline rush reminiscent of the renegade warehouse era of raving—on which Insomniac was founded—but it also had us thinking back to all the people, places and parties that made this whole operation possible. And with that came a burning desire to crack open our collection and dust off the classic records we couldn’t live without. Through our From the Crate series, we’ll be breaking out seminal and obscure cuts alike, imparting some knowledge in the process.
True story: In 1992, in a Downtown Manhattan record store, a clerk was busy checking out a batch of new arrivals, most of them imports. He slapped on a record from Belgium’s R&S label. A low-toned, organ-esque murmur sketched out a syncopated groove, while a hi-hat clicked out a steady clack. Suddenly, after a few bars, a deep gong snapped the shoppers to attention; a four-to-the-floor kick provided the base for a half-house, half-rave drum pattern. The clerk looked puzzled: “This one is weird,” he decided, and he was already on to the next record. But the shop’s patrons, at least those with adventurous taste, grabbed every copy in the box.
That record, credited to a then-unknown entity named Jaydee, was “Plastic Dreams”—and in one respect, that clerk was right, because it was a weird track. It’s a 10-minute chug-a-thon with nothing even approaching a break or a bridge for its entire length. It combines a techy sheen with a jazzy feel—that organ, once it gets going, riffs its way under, over and through the rhythm. And that’s about it, really. It’s a rather skeletal arrangement, despite the song’s rich aura. But it was also one of the most mesmerizing club cuts to have hit the shelves since, maybe, Moby’s “Go” or Joey Beltram’s “Energy Flash.” And that gong—that call to arms, sounding for all the world like the opening salvo of the Undertaker’s ring-entrance song—became one of dance music’s most recognizable rush-to-the-dancefloor cues. It also ensured that the track duked it out with Orbital’s “Chime,” as the song played at the stroke of midnight at raved-up New Year’s Eve affairs for the rest of the decade.
Jaydee, it turned out, was one Robin Albers, a Netherlands native who had already garnered some success as a club DJ and radio jock. “Plastic Dream” was his first release, made after he set himself up with an Atari computer and a few piano lessons. As he said in an interview last year, “Mastering the C chord would prove the basis for ‘Plastic Dreams’”—that and a fat joint he smoked with a friend before laying down the track. The tune’s name comes from an incident involving his then-girlfriend and none other than Donald Trump. She was working as a flight attendant, and Trump was paying for his champagne with a platinum credit card, which she went to show to the captain (platinum cards were rare at the time). In shock, the captain lost control of the steering for an instant, causing the plane to rock. “How can simply seeing a piece of plastic,” Albers wondered, “make such a huge impression on someone? Apparently, having a platinum card was one of their wildest dreams.”
Despite its singular sound, “Plastic Dreams” ended up being a club smash. Venerated rock critic Robert Christgau, of all people, named it the best single of 1993 in his year-end list for the Village Voice. Albers, meanwhile, continued to produce under various monikers—a pretty good Jaydee track named “Pulsate” came out on Maceo Plex’s Ellum Audio label a few years back—but none of his releases came close to matching the impact of his debut record.
Another true story: A bunch of DJs were shooting the breeze at a house party at the end of 1996, talking about their favorite tracks that had become so overexposed that they simply couldn’t play them anymore. One of them stated that he loves “Plastic Dreams,” but it would probably be another 20 years before it would be safe to play it again. That DJ was me. Two decades have passed; I’ve just dug out my long-neglected copy, and it sounds as fresh as the day I bought it at that record store.