Upon launching this series of articles a few months ago, I’ve been looking for new ways to reflect the moving nature of forward-thinking bass music beyond BPM considerations. In the first few editions of this feature, I struggled with the fact that I mostly focus on actual releases - whether they be self-made or done through a label. Sometimes this focus prevents me from speaking about artists who haven’t released tunes yet. Artists that you stumble upon through your email address or during a digital digging session. In order to shine a light on that side of the scene, I’ll add insights on various producers in this category.
According to his Soundcloud account, Tower Block Dreams is a producer based in both London & Madrid, whp only has a couple of tracks available through Bandcamp at the moment. He already caught the ears of a few well-respected selectors – Riz La Teef and Filter Dread, to name a few –, and, more importantly, his Soundcloud feed already displays a fair amount of tunes showcasing his own take on future garage. Tower Block Dreams stands out, with cues taken through the hardcore continuum’s entire lineage and it has an archaeological quality that reminds me of peers such as Mulengasound. One to follow for sure!
Dub wars have always played an important role in bass music subcultures, and they seem to have made a comeback more recently with the emergence of new Facebook groups. In 2019 it seemed as if every group had its own dub war, and this popularity is continuing into 2020. The More Cowbell war dub shows exactly why these competitions benefit the scene. Round one featured some well-known names – Pugilist, Lyeform, Vern & Milla. The final round, set to take place this month, gathers three relative newcomers in Kameron, Eyeza and Monir. I highly suggest keeping an eye on them – Monir’s been on my “to watch” list for a while, his tunes make serious damage in both club and radio sets. Another dub war has been raging, more informally, between grime producers through Twitter - Owly, Sharon Rose, DJ Absurd and Lewi B. It is well worth digging through as beyond the war itself there is a wealth of tasteful beats.
Moving on to releases. A couple of EPs have really caught my attention through their unusual formats and methods. The first of these isn’t even an actual EP – OSFJ #1 is part of a series of self releases by French producer Jumboclat. It’s a 28 minute jam session recorded live on one synth. Leaning on the breaks side of things, it also uses tones reminiscent of hypnagogic or wave music, fostering its own universe as it progresses. Future Was Like, a various artist EP released through Global Warming Records, may appear more traditional in its shape, yet is just as forward-thinking as a whole – as you listen to it, you’ll encounter breaks, low BPM house or electro, weird analogue sounds and a tune from Ouai Stéphane built from object samples that seems to derive its atmospheres from high-tempo, Machinedrum-inspired footwork/jungle.
130BPM has been one of the most prolific sub-scenes as of late. Built by Hypho and Xakra, Manuka has been a great label for highlighting this new wave of artists. The sixth release features four new tracks from Pluralist, an exciting artist who emerged last year – with a killing title-track featuring Rex Domino on slick vocals, and an insane beat creeping its way forward. The rest of the EP is just as good – skippy drum patterns, weird textures and a steppy hit in “Let Them Blow”. I’ve already mentioned the Egregore crew before, whose goal is to connect different sections of the French scene. Club Drums, their latest release, effectively gathers percussive workouts from some renowned producers this side of the Channel, as Tim Karbon, LaBoK or Kaval come up with tunes infused in UK Funky, hard drum and more.
Denham Audio and Borai have been pioneers of the breaks and electro resurgence that burst in 2019, so it seems fit to see their Club Glow common project quickly developing, and their releases getting more numerous over the last few months. Their latest one, courtesy of E-Beamz, is another display of their mastery of breakbeats. Tunes such as “Skrrrt”, “Oldboy” and “Intraleks” are designed to slay the club, complete with rave synths and dread bass. On the same side of the rave axis, I highly recommend checking out A-Sim’s latest, which came out this month on Eddy Larkin – this is A-Sim at its darkest, with fast-paced electro tracks and dystopian vibes. Expect sharp percussion and curt synths from tracks such as “Where Is The Pause Button?” and “Why Do People Keep Avoiding Me?”. One last ravey tune – Gage’s “E Anthem”, out through Finn’s 2 BE REAL imprint features some of the most memorable hardcore stabs I’ve heard lately.
Reaching higher BPMs – 140 sounds have been as active as they were in 2019. The ever-reliable Simply Deep brought us another EP from Imanzi, including one of the hottest dubs of the moment, the “Fidget Dub” collaboration with Kontent. Pharma comes through with a spleen-layered remix of the tune, while Imanzi offers another solo tune – the weird, rolling percussive section probably makes “Only Hope” my favourite of the release. I’ve also been really in to DPRTNDRP’s newest EP for Infernal Sounds – the steady pace of “Faya Blazin” and the blowing bass of “Ambush”, a collab with DE-TU, really make IFS018 worth your attention.
Grime-wise, DJ Absurd published one of his finest tunes claiming his “Pxris Lxvxmxn” title – the perfect blend of grime textures and breaks. Another offering from The Bass Society founder came in the form of 160 grime edits. Tans-BPM experiments have been at the core of this feature, so I really recommend checking out his remixes of “Midnight Request Line” and “Eskimo” – definitely needed in your higher-BPM selections. Couple it with excerpts from the new LeCoughSki EP, released through Deviant Audio – killing wobbles, halftime beats and menacing atmospheres make it my pick in the 160-175 realm this month.
A bit of self-promo to close the feature – French-based label Tiger Class just published its debut compilation, which perfectly fits the purpose of this chronicle. Dubstep, breaks, dancehall and more all meet together within a promising whole, which also includes a new track from my own project Haxo. Check it out!