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 break out seminal and obscure cuts alike, imparting some knowledge in the process.
Some records become dance classics because they’re so mutable—they thrive on being remixed and reimagined. But others take on a perfect form somewhere between the original version and the latest go at updating it for modern speakers. In the case of Jam & Spoon’s epic 1992 remix of the self-titled 1990 single by the Age of Love—or, to give it its proper title, “The Age of Love” (Watch Out for Stella Club Mix)—one of the most singular, sinuous, and widely impactful of all dance records came about the second time around.
You certainly can’t call “The Age of Love” (Watch Out for Stella Club Mix) the first trance record ever made. It’s not even Jam & Spoon’s most overtly tranced-out remix—“Watch Out for Stella” shared the A-side of the EP The Jam & Spoon Mixes with their even trippier “Sign of the Time Mix.” But for drama, tension, build, and compositional nous, no other record defined early trance like this one did. Everything that made the music go—the repetition, the builds, the sudden, ricocheting tone bursts, the murmured vocals, the snare rolls, the goth-unto-Gaia mass-choirs-as-string-sections, the false endings, the works—is right there and ready to be test-driven by many, many others. A quarter-century on, there are more tracks that hearken back to this one than anybody could count.
Yet “The Age of Love” itself had to be test-driven a few times before reaching its ultimate form. For one thing, the track—credited, unhelpfully then and unhelpfully now, to the Age of Love—was first released in 1990. On that 12-inch’s “New Age Mix,” the basic parts we all know now are there: the plinky synth riff, reminiscent of both a Clavinet and a fast, finger-popped bassline high up on the fret board; the woman breathing, “Come on, dance with me, move your body, your legs, your feet”; the TK. And the “Boeing Mix,” right after it on that first edition, has a similarly spooky-minimalist vibe, closer to Enigma’s “Sadeness” than a later rave flavor-pop like L.A. Style’s “James Brown Is Dead.”
But even the “Boeing Mix” features a snippet of the vocal that made the original “Age of Love” nothing like what it would become: a male rapper saying, “Ages of love, age-ages of love,” like he’s auditioning to replace Turbo B in Snap! It’s the most 1990 thing about the record—believe it or not, kids, Vanilla Ice was the biggest pop star on the planet for a time—and it auto-date-stamps the record even more than the snippets of sax or, hell, subtitles like “New Age Mix” and “Boeing Mix.”
What happened next was a couple of guys who’d gotten together in 1991, Markus Löffel (Mark Spoon) and Rolf Elmer (Jam El Mar), and begun recording as Jam & Spoon. The “Watch Out for Stella” part of the subtitle was no accident: Shortly before remixing “The Age of Love,” Jam & Spoon issued their own track—titled, what do you know, “Stella”—on R&S, the same label that had issued Aphex Twin’s “Analogue Bubblebath,” Second Phase’s “Mentasm,” and Human Resource’s “Dominator.” Heady company, that. They’d earned it.
Trance came to life in ‘92, intensely repetitive and glossy, music intended to zone you out as much as pump you up. That was also the year of dance music’s first 303 revival, as producers throughout Europe began adding acid lines to their music. “The European scene was born as a result of what Chicago was doing, but we loved the way the Europeans were doing it,” Charles Little, a Chicago party promoter in the ‘90s, once said. The result was music that was hard and dark, but still had a utopian vibe to it—a sensation the “Watch Out for Stella Club Mix” captures perfectly.
The mix is somehow still techno, though, a bridge between that established style and a newer one full of sweetener. In much the way Led Zeppelin is too rock & roll to really register now as metal—even though for years they were considered metal’s bellwether—the Jam & Spoon remix helped usher in a couple of styles without quite belonging to them.
Jam & Spoon built off the momentum of “Stella” and “The Age of Love” remix to become in-demand remixers (one highlight among many was getting the assignment to remix Quincy Jones) and produce a handful of beloved, anthem-filled albums. Mark Spoon died in 2006, at age 39. And “The Age of Love” (Watch Out for Stella Club Mix) has become a record that sums up its time. In June 1997, for an “old-school” party in D.C. called Buzz Presents “A Wrinkle in Time”—dedicated to the rave anthems of only five years earlier—promoter-DJ Lieven promised to play “The Age of Love” alongside a raft of other classics.
“Remember when ‘Age of Love’ was played by every DJ imaginable?” one member of the MW-Raves mailing list pined in December 1994. “Remember the Alamo?”