The month in… Bass

By , Nov 1 2009
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“Nowadays we just like to be able to say that we DJ house and garage, it saves a lot of time because there is so much going on right now” – Bok Bok

For me, this month has mostly been about one release [above]. So let’s use that as a springboard to talk about a wider movement that’s happening in London’s underground.

In my original review of Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990’s Night Slugs EP, I talked about its 130-ish bpm tempo as “a significant indicator of the club night’s malleability [as] its roots are in 140bpm grime and garage, but their last rave at East Village was played closer to 130; house DJs Christian Martin and Cooly G the guests.”

I don’t want to turn this into an article on straight-up house – I’d be treading on some feet over at the other column if I were to do that. But there’s definitely a movement in London’s music scene towards house music as an all-encompassing philosophy: not only are the likes of Cooly G and Scratcha DVA playing as much foreign house as they are Funky, there’s a movement among many of the producers traditionally associated with dubstep to drop the tempo/bpm of their tracks so that they can mix them freely with both 130bpm house and 140bpm descendants of garage. And there’s definitely an attitude amongst many of these artists – be it Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990, or Deadboy, or Jam City – to just view what they make as simply house. When you look at Geeneus’s comment in the recent XLR8R piece on ‘Mutant Funk’, it’s clearly not just him who feels that all these movements come back to one structural form, as opposed to offshoots in their own right:

“With America, hip-hop is hip-hop, and even though the music changes and new sounds and people come into it, the flow remains hip-hop. But in the U.K., as soon as something new comes along, it’s like, “Oh, that’s new music-let’s call it a new name!” when really, it’s all the same thing. We just progress…” – Geeneus

“Nowadays we just like to be able to say that we DJ house and garage, it saves a lot of time because there is so much going on right now”, said Bok Bok in a recent interview with Trash Menagerie. Rightly or wrongly, there’s a lot of stigma attached to making dubstep right now – be it due to a desire to break away from the form, a result of the legions of breaks converts who just want to hear Rusko, or the backslapping orgies that stain the corners of Dubstep Forum – and producers are reluctant to use the word. Deadboy’s Twitter page refers to his music as “some kind of housey garage stuff”, and Appleblim’s skirted around the D Word for as long as he’s courted the house producers at Berlin’s Hard Wax store: in this interview, he refers to his Apple Pips nights as featuring “loads of different music, funky, house, techno, dubstep, garage.” Then there’s the trend to refer to the music made by Untold, Brackles, Shortstuff and more not as dubstep, but future garage.

“Part of me thinks that all this stuff, funky, bassline, 2-step, grime, dubstep, is all part of the inter-connected, post-garage world of underground music in the UK. You don’t have to like everything within one niche or another” – Kode 9

There’s more: who’d have guessed in 2008 that three of the most popular records of this year from producers associated with dubstep (Kode 9’s ‘Black Sun’, Martin Kemp’s ‘No Charisma’ – a track that was played by Funky DJs like Cooly G as well as dubstep ones – and Ramadanman’s ‘Wad’) would be made closer to house tempo than garage? Or that TRG, one of dubstep’s best producers who’s released on Hessle Audio and Tempa in his time would be referring to himself as making Hi-Tek House? Either way, there’s a lot of good music being made that falls into this seemingly freeform house division, so let’s actually listen to some rather than endlessly theorise it:

Stream: Deadboy – U Cheated

I’ve referenced Deadboy twice in this article without introducing him. He’s a producer from South London, whose debut EP comes out this month on Well Rounded – a new label that specialises in “coming at house from different angles.” Its lead track, ‘U Cheated’, is everything that’s good about this strain of house: both the cut-up vocal and title recall UK garage’s ghetto melancholy (see angst anthems like Monsta Boy’s ‘I’m Sorry’), while the percussion could be Martyn or Ramadanman and the bass hits sound tailor-made for London’s Plastic People club.

Finding fans in Jackmaster (whose Numbers collective have signed him up for a future 12″ on their label), Shortstuff and more, Deadboy’s 12″ is one of the debuts of the year: it continues with ‘Heartbreaker’, an aquatic rattler with subtle rave hits that filter through like beams of sunshine under the surface of the sea, and ‘Brock Lee Riddim’, which is oxycontin 2step, screwed to within an inch of its rhythm. Deadboy’s remarked before that his “tunes are not sure what they’re supposed to be, but I’m into that, I like hearing a record that sounds like a bunch of disparate stuff all working together, as long as its coherent to some degree and not ‘novelty’. But its all definitely rooted in garage.” In the same interview, he goes on to suggest that UK house is “much more of a continuation of garage than dubstep is”.

“There’s all these sub-movements…people doing their own thing. Like, what is Bok Bok or L-Vis1990 on…or Shortstuff? Wot U Call It…for real?” – Starkey

Stream: Mosca – Square One

I’d like to talk about new producer Jam City, whose Baltimore-via-Camberwell edits and original tracks fit into this equation, but I know Kiran Sande’s going to write about him this month. So let’s talk about Mosca‘s ‘Square One, which has become a bit of a national anthem for this previously uncharted territory. Combining tribal house percussion with the sort of horns you’d expect from a Karizma track, the longing bassweight of Joy Orbison and cut up R’n’B vocals and patois samples, it’s a melting pot of everything influencing underground UK music right now. Zeitgeist gumbo.

Scratcha DVA’s ‘Natty’, forthcoming as a 12″ for Hyperdub, gets an even bigger reaction at Plastic People: tribal drums being spun round an air-tight, moistureless vacuum that simultaneously halts and ignites dancefloors in the same way Untold’s ‘Anaconda’ does. It’s not just new producers dropping the BPM either: Grievous Angel’s best tracks to date have been at house tempo, and Dusk and Blackdown recently debuted their first 130bpm production on their Rinse FM show. In a musical year where Bristol house upstart Julio Bashmore is a more hyped name than all but a select few new dubstep producers – it’s clear where FWD>>-thinking London’s priorities lie.

Category page image by Steve Braiden.

Tom Lea

Current Top Ten:
01 Darkstar – Aidy’s Girl’s a Computer [Hyperdub 12″]
02 Ikonika – The Idiot [Dubplate]
03 Bok Bok & L-Vis 1990 – Night Slugs EP [Dress 2 Sweat 12″]
04 Jackmaster – Dress 2 Sweat 2007-2009 [Dress 2 Sweat mix CD]
05 Terror Danjah – Gremlinz [Planet Mu 3×12″]
06 Untold – Stop What You’re Doing (James Blake Remix) [Hemlock 10″]
07 Redinho – Bare Blips [Numbers]
08 Bok Bok feat. Bubbz – Citizens of the City [Dubplate]
09 Kavsrave – Various myspace bits [Numbers]
10 Instra:mental – Watching You [Exit 12″]

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