Very occasionally “Dirty” Dubstep (or is it still “Brostep” I wouldn’t know? or care) throws a curve ball and delivers something have decent, whether by accident or choice is another discussion altogether. Unlike its cousins (“Dungeon”, “Deep”, “Wobble”, whatever) this particular field of production suffers more “problems” than any other – one of which is it shares much with the Hip-Hop world: either the tracks SUCK! – and I mean criminally, or they bang! There’s rarely any grey area, getting away with it, or in-between redemption or interest. Ultra (adolescent) masculine, testosterone laced and more often than not bordering on the clownish, in the producers attempts to “out-goon” each other in the ludicrous bass/midline/pseudo-boombastic wankery, it often seems about as appealing as a sweaty rugby club changing room and dodgy, post match drinking games.
This one’s an industrial banger though. Reined in and stripped back, with quality cybernetic, metallic hammering, drilling beats, cock backs etc and a big underpinning sublow pressure.
A superb new EP of pitiless, dystopian bleakness from the blasted, no-man’s land specialists DNS.
Far from evoking an underwater glide as the titles suggests (it just sounds too jagged, too ploughed up and ruptured to evoke the cold liquidity of the atlantic trench? A grim hunt, sure, but) ‘Radar’ feels rooted in a cold and lifeless landscape: Sea or land metaphors aside, this is probably their finest black ops, deep insertion yet. A rusty metallic beat clanks hard through the sinister creep of mustard gas FX and drone, while the bass saws and belches are so smeared out by reverb they merely fizzle limply above the wasteland like desperate flares put up in panic by wired sentries – highly unnerving and original.
There are possibly some comparisons to the likes of ARtroniks et al. to be made here. There’s a definite sub-cadre (away from from the big name dubstep ‘dons’ and labels) expertly crafting away in grim defiance who mercifully don’t seem to give a shit about producing according to the whims of the times, who don’t want their sound to be decorative, but true. There’s no false musical consciousness, just a kind of stoical grunt work that hits harder – DNS are dug in deep to their territory in this respect. Just don’t try a frontal assault on their position!
Like the Krease EP, essentially slowed down drum & bass. It has all the trappings of ‘dark’, has all the right ingredients and is certainly tech crafted, but ultimately it feels so self-conscious and self-regulated it almost sounds tired and by the book. Just makes me want to go and listen to the Moving Fusion, Ram Recs et al. back catalogue again. One for the bag no doubt, but a prisoner of its own devices.
Jay Krease from Dead Noise System. Sounding very like a cleaned up, slowed down and paint stripped, minimal techstep tune (with nods, surely, to “Shadow Boxing”?) old school, timestretched, raaaaasta vox shenanigans and a ridiculously low rolling sub. This one doesn’t really go anywhere – just a moody, hoods up, foot shuffle, head nodder while toking hard on your reefer in the dark corner. Quality restraint though, with “hold the line” discipline.
Ok, ok, ok. Last one I promise, before I come back to reality.
If one tune epitomises the sheer intensity, unstoppable momentum and ‘avin it abandon of that period for me, it surely has to be Spiral Tribe’s “Do Et” off their seminal first ‘Breach The Peace’ EP. This is before they became synonymous with their more incessant, bubbling 4/4 French ‘Tek’ sound and when sonically there was still ‘ardcore dropping in their sets (possibly their most vital and exciting period…for me anyway). When I found my copy of the EP in Rough Trade W11, I remember being both totally gobsmacked and feverishly excited (but also with a creep of disappointment) that something of their energy had materialised in physical recorded form and cover artwork. It felt like contraband from the netherworld but also as if the vaults had been split wide open.
Regardless, this tune stands as the most joyful, hilarious (and inadvertently poetic) ode to Free Parties/Rave ever! Over to you MC Scallywag.
“If you’re a raver and can’t score an E…you must be buzzing on Acid!”
All that graffiti reminiscing got me all misty eyed about other characters from back in the day and while I don’t in any way want to turn this into a retro archiving sesh (…too many quality sites already doing that job on a far more impressive scale!) I couldn’t resist another follow up. And this segues nicely out of Fume.
The first proper rave nights I went to were the Tonka Sound System nights at the Zap in Brighton (circa 1991?) Harvey & Choci… what a line up! Can never forget the decks set up right in the middle of the dance floor below the stage, Choci with his shirt off, girls massaging him mid-set, everyone down to the last wo/man totally off their nut. Sweat, Vicks, Amyl and uninhibited dancing. Wildly eclectic sets right across the spectrum (and if you were lucky an after party on the beach down at Shoreham or wherever). And God’s honest truth, I cannot remember a single tune from those days, except (for some bizarre reason) Naz aka Naz’s “Organised Crime” !?! – the Godfather trumpet intro. “Just when I thought I was out…They pulled me back in.” I remember Choci dropping that at the peak of collective euphoria and the whole place going OFF!!!
“Your name’s not down…you’re not comin’ in”
Whatever happened to old Choci I started thinking?? He had a pretty wild run, from his Choci-Roc graffiti days in NYC, the first British writer to get up on the trains, to his DJ/producing/studio and record shops in Soho. The first record shops where I made weekly trips to and started buying and collecting vinyl obsessively from in fact (and where I discovered many an early Industrial Strength/Magnetic North/Drop Bass Network/Praxis hard techno gem and their like). Heady days. He went all Acid later and my visits tailed off but it was definitely a seed of my musical turn on and tune in.
I’d forgotten, or probably didn’t even register at the time, that one of his first tunes (if not the first?) was Mark One “Hoovers and Spraycans” from 1991 – featuring a pneumatic drill sample no less (Nomex would have been proud!) in a ’91 stylee – 4/4 kicks AND old school breakbeats. Solid ‘ardcore tune. Anyway, from what I can tell he’s back at the walls and spraycans now with the Team Robbo crew (who had that old school v new school spat with Banksy), some mention of him going into carpentry and not involved in music anymore theses days.
Stoked to be the proud owner of one of these first official prints from one of the kings of the London graffiti scene (although it feels like something of an oxymoron to have actually paid for a ‘print’, to have it framed and now have it hanging on my wall. All a bit art gallery and coming in from the cold? But that’s my problem for forking out the money like the middle class twat I am, not his).
Anyone living in London in the early 90s could surely not have missed his name and tag even if only filtered peripherally. He was simply part of the landscape, literally everywhere and absolutely destroyed the underground, particularly the Hammersmith & City line!
No two ways about it, Fume and his crew were seriously hardcore and lived and breathed paint well into the late 90s. There still doesn’t seem to be too much out there on him – to his credit! but I dug up this archived Bomb Alert Magazine interview with 2Kold that gives a snapshot of the kind of lifestyle they were all leading and it all sounds pretty full on and out there ‘on the perimeter’. Amped and angry and totally dedicated to their results. “It’s no use painting the odd wall with pretty colours. You’ve got to smash every depot. It’s a war and no-one can control us”. Seems there was a lot of quite violent rivalry and hate later on which makes it all sound even murkier. See the 1997 Big Issue feature.
This got me reminiscing about that certain period of London sub/culture. Fuck, there was a lot of hardcore business going on then! from the graffiti, the music, the raves, Spiral Tribe, right through to Damien Hirst’s shark & Marc Quinn’s ‘Self’ in the hi-art world, you name it. Peel & Kershaw on the airwaves. And still no www! Pre-Starbucks, pre-Pret a fuckin’ Manger, pre-Sainsbury’s local virus, pre-fixies (except Buffalo Bill maybe heh?), pre-flat fuckin’ whites, smokey boozers, Mutoid Waste squat still down Portobello Road (props to Tom Vogue’s exhaustive ‘Getting it Straight in Notting Hill Gate: A West London Psychogeography Report’ for making my mind run back in that particular hood).
My internal tape rewind is unspooling now like one of Krapp’s Last Tapes! But that’s why I bought the print and have it on my wall – every time I sit on the sofa with a cup of tea and look at it I think of all of the above and more. Dem days.