While lots of fans of the dubstep fringe have heaped praise on Martyn and 2562 (myself included, and Burial before them), I reckon Hessle Audio deserves more attention than it’s already got, if nothing else as a gateway to what the Hessle artists are doing elsewhere. TRG and Pangaea were two of the first dubstep artists I took an interest in beyond Burial, on a tip from Ali Wade. Both artists have a dark, sparse ethereality which is what first drew me in and distinguishes them from the thin and generic synthesis that first defined dubstep. Since then Hessle has been my first port of call for the new school sounds from South London Holland wherever they may originate. Ramadanman’s Blimey is similar to what you’d expect from the early TRG and Pangaea releases with some fairly creative beat work and Joe’s Grimelight/Rut drops big unabashed classic synth flavour that makes Detroit techno fun again.
The Hessle discovery I’m most excited about is Untold and his own Hemlock Recordings. His shit is on a different vector. Not only does it take more chances than most music I hear anywhere, it does so with the right ingredients, restraint when it’s needed, and a good deal of variety. The only thing I can really compare his sound to is the all-over-the-shop remix of Modeselktor’s ‘Black Block’ that Rustie turned in last year, but even that can only serve as a marker for the care that goes in to each measure. I’ve come across four of his releases digitally so far and the only track I haven’t bought is Discipline – not because I didn’t like it but because I didn’t feel like I really needed it when I was getting Bones (from the Discipline release) and all of I Can’t Stop This Feeling, Kingdom and Sweat. Basically all of this is essential. One thing I particularly like is that he knows when to turn the bass off. That’s something that turns me off less mature dubstep. He has a great sense of how to avoid the low bass drone that eventually loses its impact and takes on the characteristics of seismic white noise. He gets away with some pretty crazy things with bass, managing fairly active sub-bass, tight, punchy kicks and resonant basslines simultaneously, without inducing suffocation. It’s fairly remarkable stuff.
I also found James Blake’s Air & Lack Thereof on Hemlock. The title track most reminds me of Dimlite, which is a similarity that’s pretty difficult to pull off. Those who’ve checked my mixes in recent years will know how highly I regard that comparison. The B-side Sparing the Horses is a new level of madness. Galloping (geddit?) kicks lead in to bass and synth enormity of heretofor unknown size, punctuated with huge air gaps of elephantitan ball massivity. This is futurity today.
According to RA, James Blake runs with Mount Kimbie – which brings me to Hotflush Recordings. The Maybes EP is a lovely collection of the sort of scratchy synthesis that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Vladislav Delay record. I could see these guys on Warp before too long actually. I’m finding it really difficult to describe this stuff, probably because it’s just different. Is it really even dubstep? Experimental dubstep I guess. Just give it a listen.
Also in the dubstep/not-dubstep category we find SCUBA‘s recent material (not to be confused with King Britt’s SCUBA). Klinik is basically a mnml minimal percussive techno track with some atmosphere. The only thing remotely dubsteppy about it is the unusual placement of the beats. At any rate, it’s good minimal percussive techno. It’s not surprising then that Marcel Dettmann remixed From Within last year. It’s throbbing deep, dark techno with a nearly industrial edge. Actually it reminds me a bit of Studio Pankow’s Zoologischer Garten (which I opened this mix with a while back) – one of my favourite ever tracks. On the virtual flip side SCB removes the vowels and remixes his own Hard Boiled, which transforms an atmospheric, technoey dubstep track in to an acidic, spacey and somewhat dubby techno track. Anyone maintaining an aversion to dubstep that’s stuck with me this far should definitely test their resistance to this.
Rounding out my recent Hotflush purchases, I picked up Jazzsteppa‘s Jakin/Two, which puts the dub back in dubstep. I’d assumed the dubby bits were sampled but when I just visited their discogs page I noticed that BarBie plays the trombone. Impressive stuff. I also got Pangaea’s Mosaix, which does some very cool things with an upright bass.
So set your label search to H, filter by dubstep and find good shiz.