Loose Lips

The BPM Continuum – October 2019

monthly feature

The BPM Continuum – October 2019

This new feature continues from a series of articles I published from October 2018 to April 2019 – The 140 Roundup. Back then I was exploring producers who were working fluidly in between styles of 140BPM bass music, such as grime and dubstep. The problem with this approach was that many of these artists aren’t only producing at 140BPM but many different styles & pitches. 

The name of this new feature nods to the infamous concept of the hardcore continuum. Introduced by Simon Reynolds, the idea of a hardcore continuum analyses the evolution of British bass music since the hardcore rave era in the early 90s as a series of styles that grew out of each other - jungle appeared out of hardcore, then d&b out of hardcore, then grime and dubstep out of garage, etc. As this series focuses on newer artists and releases, I’ll consider things in a static rather than a dynamic way. The main idea here is that genres used to be more clearly defined by tempo – dubstep and grime, 140, jungle and footwork, 160, d&b, 170, and so on –, as it was necessary for DJs to identify with one sound, thus finding their spot in the overall scene. Of course, this never avoided artists to try and move one style to another tempo (think circa ‘13 Keysound’s “130” scene, which displayed grime dynamics at 130BPM), or the cross-pollination of ideas from one BPM to another. But it seems that so far, this also led to actual new scenes appearing (dubstep techno, halftime d&b and more). A number of factors – the rise of a global bass music scene, with connections between artists constructing in the digital realm rather than through DJ Sets, or the current trend revolving around breaks at all tempos, for instance – mean things seem to be changing.

What we see now is the emergence of a newer generation of artists that take things in a more fluid way, opening the BPM box to produce tunes taking cues from various sounds, at various tempos. This means producers working at 100BPM for a tune, then 160BPM for the next one, while actually working on the same hybrid blend of grime, techno, breaks and garage. Others stick at 125/130 BPM, but take hints from dubstep or footwork. Others may simply be opening things up again between dubstep, grime and garage. Some have always gone far in terms of shaping their own aesthetics, others are still defining things, experimenting with different sounds and bits. There are also some older projects, crews and artists claiming their space in these new moves, taking advantage of the creativity this openness offers. All of it makes for great amount of forward-thinking, hybrid bass music coming out at the moment.

Who am I thinking of? Artists such as J-Shadow, who has already showcased his unique universe, melting breaks, grime, hardcore, garage and more on labels as diverse as Dream Eater, Nous Disques or Bun The Grid. CA$TLE, whose tunes never fail to give that energy rush that always emanates from new corners of dance music. KRSLD, who already displayed a huge diversity of sounds through his initial run of releases. Newer producers who may not have done many releases (or any releases at all), but whose tracks offer similar dynamics (Sterlo, Plaza or Dome Zero, to name a few). There are definitely labels to be mentioned too (Dissident Sound, eatmybeat, Estranged Records), as well as some of the newer radio stations a lot of these artists revolve around (Noods, Threads, or French platform Egregore, which has seen artists such as Tim Karbon, Qant or Fechos recently starting shows that follow this line).

I’ve already been way too long explaining the purpose of that series – it is 2019, things like this are supposed to be short and efficient –, so I’ll start on the releases for this month. In terms of melting sounds, Doctor Jeep provided exciting developments with his Snake Eyes EP, exploring 100-110BPM varieties of a mixture of electro, grime, dancehall and more. At another tempo, Jelly Bean Farm’s latest, courtesy of relative newcomer Wun, offers the kind of innovative 125-130-ish bass music we’ve come to expect from the label, ranging from techno to garage or breaks. I’ve been really into the sounds propelled by Swiss crew Brainwaves for a while, and their latest release, Tout Casser’s Horodateur, showcases exactly why: reconstructed breaks, electro and acid leanings, hardcore and rave influences, contextualized in retrofuturistic aesthetics. Altered Natives has always been one of my favourite producers, and probably one of the most underrated artists working in bass music narratives – he might as well be considered one of the pioneers of that open energy I am dwelling on –; check his new monster double-album, Nine, and understand why, as he takes you on a journey through techno, grime, UK Garage, footwork, jungle and much more. 

I’ll also mention a few compilations worth checking out. ABRI CATALOG is one of France’s best-kept secrets, a small DIY tape imprint working at the fringes of beats, bass and wonky-ish instrumental hip hop. Jeux de Jambes Volume 2 is the second installment in a series of releases exploring their take on footwork, and it’s just as good as you could imagine, with wicked tracks from the likes of Vorace, DLGHT, PEOW BEOW or Wolf Love. Check it out. Make sure to have a listen to [re]sources’ latest compilation as well, featuring some of the most exciting artists at the moment – J-Shadow, LMajor or Farsight all provide tracks –. Another Various releases came from a new label started by promising Bristol artist YushhWelcome To The Pressure Dome is one of the finest illustrations of the 125-135BPM axis you will find this month, with Mulengasound or Syz offering some more techno/dubstep/grime/breaks experiments. 

I’ll close this first edition with some more style-orientated releases that will still definitely complement your selections. Aforementioned Egregore Collective came up with their first vinyl release – a dubstep four-tracker bringing together a few of the newer names working in that field in France at the moment. Dubstep and grime stylings are also to be found in Stagga & Magugu’s newest, Revenge Iza Must, which brings to the table  more of that pidgin rap that has made Magugu such a unique vocalist within the scene, with impeccable beats courtesy of Stagga. Breaks-wise, you’ll have to check out Denham Audio’s new EP for Trapped Audio, one of the finest releases so far from one of the leading outfits of the breakbeat revival. Kuthi Jinani also has a new one for Beat Machine that you ought to have a listen to – “Corals” will probably be one of the best tunes you’ll have heard all month. Acting in the hard drum domain, Kaval released his best EP yet on Argent Sale, as Nocturnal takes cues from gqom, UK Funky and breaks to come up with a sound that is truly original. Last mention – Birmingham’s Listening Sessions, who has done a great lot to unite the local scene in all its different trends and sounds, finally unleashed their second release, a relentless drum&bass various that I highly recommend having a listen to – it is 100% worth your attention.