Available on: West Norwood Casstte Library 12″
West Norwood Cassette Library seems like a boutique label to the extreme – couple the knowingly geeky, self-aware name with the eponymous producer’s cascading zero-gravity dubstep and you’ve got yourself a bit of an oddity. The label (and producer, London’s Bob Bhamra) debuted earlier this year with the fantastic ‘What It Is’, a standout debut in a year full of standout debuts, waterfall-tinged psychedelia backed with a Brackles remix for good measure.
When your first release is something so self-defining and, well, excellent, it’s easy to get painted into a corner – where to go next, without making carbon copies or simply letting everyone down? Bhamra finds a way out by releasing something else entirely; not only is WNCL 002 not composed of his own productions, but they’re full vocal tracks leaning towards ragga and dancehall which still somehow manage to incorporate the burgeoning WNCL aesthetic of rough, chunky sounds dryly rubbing and grinding into each other. Friction never sounded so appealing.
The stuttering dirt of ‘Jump Up & Bounce’ is appropriately accompanied by a rapid-fire vocal, and the track’s instrumental is fascinating as monotonous beeps and tones collide with the panicky percussion, turning into serrated and incisive lines during the chorus. The vocal can’t help but feel a little superfluous on top of such a dynamic rhythm track – though it’s delectable icing rather than a detracting factor – and the same goes for the dubstep-leaning B-side ‘Mad Again (Du Ting Mix)’, where again percussion battles with metallic tones and beeps, only the mile-a-minute vocals are this time driven by a creeping bassline and drums that switch gears from reggae to dubstep to something more traditionally junglist, all in the span of a few bars.
So 002 is a resounding success, helping to further define what might be called the WNCL sound, even through its differences – chunky percussion, sneaky basslines, and a restless energy that keeps the music from settling down into any complacent groove. Of course, we should all be dying to hear what’s next from West Norwood Cassette Library himself, as this release certainly helps to ramp up expectations for future transmissions from the label. Earlier I implied that it might be hard to follow-up ‘What It Is’, but knowing what’s coming, he and his label have nowhere to go but up.