Behind the Driving Dancefloor Classic
It was a very different pop culture climate into which Josh Wink released his seminal “Higher State of Consciousness” on March 27th, 1995. Madonna’s “Take a Bow” sat atop the Billboard charts with singles by Sheryl Crow and TLC bubbling below. Yet far beneath the mainstream, in the basements and warehouses of Philadelphia, DJ Josh Wink was building up his cred and refining his craft. From this DIY-party atmosphere came his unrepentant banger “A Higher State of Consciousness.”
It was also a surprise smash, not only at the raves and dance clubs where Wink worked but on the radio. In fact, the now-legendary single reached the top of the UK Dance charts, even making it onto the pop charts and earning a silver record for sales exceeding 200,000. The six-minute song was also a resounding hit in Finland, Spain, Ireland, Norway, and elsewhere.
Featuring a clip from “Think About It” by Lyn Collins (produced by James Brown and also the source of the classic “It Takes Two” sample), Wink’s song is routinely mentioned as one of techno’s seminal classics. “Higher State of Consciousness” is also an absolutely floor-shaking showcase for Roland’s TB-303. The 303’s ever-morphing, analog bass is the bedrock of the rhythm track, upon which a nervous breakbeat dances.
Wink used two original, stock TB-303s to create the aggressive low-end assault on “A Higher State of Consciousness.” While many versions of the track exist, it’s the “Tweekin' Acid Funk” mix that seems to stoke the flames of Gen-X raver nostalgia. Wink’s unlikely hit is decidedly lo-fi, relentlessly driving, and unquestionably influential.
The song’s only lyric is time-warped nearly beyond recognition. “Opening to the higher states of consciousness,” the vocal intones. And we do, mostly by way of those shifting, pulsating 303-figures which seem to sparkle like glowsticks on a desert night. The song never looks back, ever imploring the reveler to keep moving, remain in the moment, lose themselves completely.
The impact of “Higher State of Consciousness” is present not only on the myriad electronic music sub-genres that came in its wake but on everything from Prodigy’s later-era grimy anthems to Tom Morello’s filtered guitar freakouts. If you were at a rave during this golden era, you were dancing, sweating, smiling to Josh Wink’s inescapable, unforgettable anthem.
The artist himself was taken aback by the public response to the song, explaining, "I didn’t expect such madness to come out of this release—gold records, national top tens, number ones. I guess it was perfect timing for the music scene to have a track come along and slap it in its face."
Out of a handful of cast-off parts, Wink concocted his rollicking sonic voyage. “Higher State of Consciousness” is like a soundtrack to an idealized mid-‘90s utopia, one that exists both in the memories of those who were there and a new generation of listeners today.