A question that has remained ever present for the past few years in dance music is "what’s next?".
Many artists and labels will talk about how they are pushing electronic music forward in stranger directions.
Often however, the sounds and ideas appear recycled with the only difference between being the older track used are the formers use of a drum machine and the modern track using a sample pack. So where does that leave us? To ignore the history of UK dance music would be silly and frankly a disservice to all the incredible music that has come out but in the same breath, how can we take these ideas and push them FWD?
Hessle Audio, the label headed up by Ben UFO, Pearson Sound and Pangaea, has been one of the few labels that has successful traverst this path. As a label, they have moved through the waters of Dubstep and Bass Music into the wider international world of House and Techno. As label heads and DJs, it can be argued they have done more to push the UK forward with seminal records such as Claptrap, Cactus and Dance Til The Police Come. These records being key in the pivot away from Dubstep's 140 BPM into slower tempi.
Nonetheless, the label is returning to its roots in a certain way with the label debut from Shelley Parker.
Yet, this isn’t the post Dubstep 140 of early Hessle but rather this record can be seen to be taking more from an industrial noise set than DMZ. Parker is a producer and composer equally known for her live hardware sets as she would be for being behind the decks. She runs the label structure and seen her work be released by everyone from Houndstooth and Opal Tapes right through to Loose Lips with one of her tracks appearing on a previous compilation.
The EP's namesake Red Cotton sets the tone for the release, as a very mechanical sounding hi-bit pushes along the slow lumber of the sub bass begins to come to ear and envelop the listener. The lumbering bassline moves at halftime while a frantic break keeps pace over the top, almost recalling the push and pull of classic Jungle with its half time Reggae basslines and mutant breaks. In less interesting hands, the use of breaks here could feel like an attempt to jump on the current zeitgeist after tracks like the brilliant Death Rattle took over festival circuits and identification of music groups. However, like all the best releases to have come out of Hessle over the years, Parker warps these UK dance tropes into her own unique, very industrial take on the sound.
Angel Oak, the second track on the EP, carries on the repurposing of Rave aesthetics. But while classic Rave would conjure feelings of joy; Angel Oak sounds specifically melancholic with its hollow pads sounding like ghosts of past racers ringing through the speaker. As with most of this EP, it sounds as Parker has gone about sucking the colour out of Rave, leaving us with a grey mechanical soundscape. While just as hard as the opening track, this cut has distinctively more spaciness. Odd bits of processed audio come and go, leaving the listener in a feeling of motionless in a bustling city.
The EP also features a remix from Hessle's Ploy of the track Angel Oak. He brings his trademark rugged UK Techno sound, taking the experimental leanings of the original and bringing it closer to the type of Techno being championed by labels such as Timedance with which he has released on before.
The last original track on this EP is Masonry Peir, which carries through the ideas of Angel Oak.
A distinct feeling of hauntology begins to become apparent throughout the EP as Parker sucks the dayglow out of Rave. The tracks leaving an almost Burial-like feeling, if Burial had spent his adolescence listening to Jeff Mills rather than El-B.
Overall, while this EP doesn’t have the anthem in nature of previous Hessle releases, it does proves itself to be a welcome chapter in the label's widening narrative and a welcome debut from Shelley Parker.
Shelley Parker - Red Cotton EP is out now on Hessle Audio. Available as a 12" vinyl and digital release.