March brought more proof of the current vitality of sounds revolving around 140 BPM rhythms. The whole ecosystem of these scenes seemed to display the wave of creativity that has fostered over the course of the last two years. This can be noticed in a number of soundclashes and dubwars happening in both the physical and the virtual realm. Grime-wise, March saw Rakjay taking the BeatBoss champion title home in a clash that also involved Spooky, Maxsta, KXVU and Potentz – yet another sign that Rakjay will be one to watch this year. If that weren’t enough, his next EP just got announced which coming out April 19 through Nights NSX Records with Argo on the remix. Meanwhile, the infamous Shitty Dubstep Facebook group started hosting a new edition of its dubwar, with a first round that included most of the fresh talent in the dubstep scene right now – Epnu, Gnischrew, Mungk, Ekula, Drumterror, Nova and many more featured. Round 2 incoming now, with some serious clashes to witness – OldGold v. Namaste, Drumterror & Photes v. DJ Absurd and Panix v. Cartridge being those I await the most. All of this occurred while La Dub War kept on raging within the French scene – the French soundclash is three rounds in, with a free compilation coming out soon including all of the bits from Round 2.
Back to releases, as March was a big month on that plan too. In terms of the big players, my two picks would have to go to Artikal Music and Uprise Audio. Artikal Music brought forward the sounds of Mystic State, following on releases on Flexout Audio and Absys Records. The sounds of Mahdi EP are mystic indeed, coming on with esoteric atmospheres, impeccable sound design and great use of space. Title-track “Mahdi” is the killer here, its distinctive melodic sample being bound to be a highlight on any dancefloor, but the whole EP deserves a mention, with “Hemisphere” and “Nines” showcasing a deeper side that efficiently compliments the title track. A:Grade made a great impression last year with Flavours Part 1, which held its share of floor-killers – “Psionic” hasn’t lost any of its effect. Flavours Part 2 might be even better. A four-tracker, this new EP is an eclectic one, “Samurai”’s minimalism contrasting with the trap influences of “Stop It”, a fantastic collaboration with Koma. “Go” and “No Drama” further evidence the sense of balance and playfulness of A:Grade’s sound – a great package overall.
In terms of dubstep, Zygos delivered with a self-released single coupling the awaited VIP version of “SFG” with a newer track, “Tomos”. “Tomos” is signature Zygos, with suffocating sounds layered over intense bass. It is also one of the finest examples of that unique sound as the Belgian producer seems to keep on refining his style release after release. On the flip, “SFG VIP” is just as good as expected, a more subdued version of the original that maintains all its interest while providing a new twist. Zygos just announced a new EP coming out through TRUSIK, so expect him to feature in here next month as well. On another part of the spectrum, JFO and Sativa’s Bloodklart Fiyah Mandem project made a welcomed comeback through Turner’s Cella Records. CELLA004 shows exactly why both producers stood out within the grime scene: four tracks of refined grime where each sound seems to fit in its precise space. “Limitless” is my favourite track here, making the most of typical grimey sounds to convey its trippy vibe. JFO was also involved in another EP this month, remixing the title-track from Strictly 140’s new offering, courtesy of OH91. This heavy lineup is completed by Kotei, which makes sure the EP meets expectations - “We Ain’t The Same” in particular ranks amongst the best grime tracks I’ve heard in a while.
For more of a leftfield sound, you should check out the latest Sa Bat’ Machines, which just came out through Parisian imprint Le Kiosk Records. Each of the tracks explore a different style, with “Seven” dwelving into melancholy UK Garage, “Pilé” going back to the dubstep sound and “Tips” offering proper dub. The EP works as a whole as a similar laid-back vibe seems to be found in each of its components. Another distinct take on dubstep can be found in Indigo Movement’s latest release, which introduces Leicester duo Soul Bass Machine: Cimitero is their first proper solo EP and aims to offer a melodic flex. “Creeping Tide” for instance welcomes jazzy chords and a skippy structure within dubstep templates, with a sense of atmospherics and overall ambiance that is pursued through the whole EP.
I’ll end this feature mentioning a compilation that technically was released in February but actually came out after I sent my article in last month. It wouldn’t be fair not to include it here, seeing how it is one of the most impressive packages I’ve heard in a while – eatmybeat’s 2019 edition of their yearly compilation Bonus Snacks is probably the best yet. The 14 tracks showcase some of the most creative artists working within bass music at the moment, going beyond genre and BPM limits to come up with interesting sounds. Kodama, Jakebob, J-Shadow, Heritage, Bill Cuttin, Goosensei and many more all feature – I don’t need to say more, really. The entire album is great, and it is available now as a pay-what-you-want download. Go grab it.