Bokeh Versions sees out the year with a lust-fuelled, hybrid visual, featuring digital and analogue processing techniques from Ben Dornan Wilson and Jasmine Butt.
This year saw Bristol-based, polymathic producer and vocalist Grove landing on the city’s most consistently thrilling and iconoclastic label, Bokeh Versions. Following up their uncompromising breakout release, Queer + Black, a potent statement of intent blending hectic breaks with lacerating lyricism, SPICE sees Grove embracing the Bokeh way and delving deeper into mutated forms of dancehall, dub and hip-hop. “This mixtape is an ode to the exciting and lust-filled period of new relationships, and explores everything from steezy self-confidence, to slippery sensual encounters and the soft cheeks of a lover,” they explain. “Delving into the beauty of production that is firmly rooted in both Jamaican and British culture has been a great process of personal growth. Being a person of dual-heritage, the dancehall and dub elements are the Jamaican spice, mixed with the undeniable influence that Bristol has had in terms of sonic darkness and experimentation.”
At the EP’s climax comes ‘Slippery,’ a steamy queer sex anthem, featuring additional production from Giant Swan’s Robin Stewart, which sees Grove going in over humid electronics and dense, distorted bass, a perfectly frazzled marriage of their future-facing approach to dancehall and Stewart’s predilection for ragged noise experimentation. It seems fitting, then, that director Ben Dornan Wilson and artist Jasmine Butt, aka Guest, would reflect this hybridity in the track’s visual. “For this video we wanted to experiment with mixing analogue and digital processing,” explains Butt. “Ben was in charge of most of the digital work, including the original filming and directing at Strange Brew – then I processed some of the imagery in After Effects before filming on 16mm and running through various dark room techniques. After scanning the film, we folded it back in to the final video with Ben leading the edit.”
“It was a really good opportunity to play with quite a lot of new processes,” she continues. “Some parts of the film process were inspired by old special effects techniques. From early cinema up to the ’80s they used to hand paint stencils (or travelling mattes) frame by frame, but this time I used digital software to rotoscope stencil outlines of Grove’s moving form. We then filmed that on 16mm to get stencils, and using DIY contact printing methods (an old enlarger lamp and a pic sync block) I printed different imagery into both the background and the dancing form. This is also the first time using a new technique I found by accident – where if you film a digital video that is strobing quickly between positive to negative, the digital frame rate and the 16mm frame rate slip out of phase, and you get some frames that are a double exposure of both positive and negative image – like a grey ghost image which adds another texture.”
“When filming and printing with 16mm, some of the most interesting things happen in the transitional moments. When one shot finishes and the other begins, or when the end of the film flicks through the contact printer and you can see a glimpse of the process in the couple of frames that get messed up by it. There were a few moments where the film jumped around in the scanner and Ben used these shots in the edit – it worked so well and I really love it when the chaotic and disorderly parts of the process shine through. All the film was hand processed in caffenol – an eco process where the developer is a lukewarm soup of coffee, vitamin C and soda crystals.” The result is a stunning portrait of an artist that stands as a shining example of the new Bristol sound, retooling club music into darker, more lethal forms while obliterating convention in the process.