17 May 2005


The music that I've previously been referring to as Breakstep has been keeping me busy lately. This is a strand of Croydon dubstep centering around artists like Search & Destroy, Toasty Boy, DJ Distance and of course Vex'd, that often (but not always) employs breakbeat shuffle over a hard step-time undertow. Destructive Recordings' "Our Sound" album attempts to bring all the main players together to present a coherent statement. Here's the brief press-release manifesto:

Its been a long time coming, but the first release on Destructive Recordings is finally here.
An 8 track L.P from the hottest, forward thinking producers on the uk underground scene.
Whatever you want to call it, breakbeat, dubstep, grime. This is a genre that nobody can pin down, and nobody can pigeon hole. Igniting dancefloors and opening peoples minds simultaneously.

This is the music that has no name, this is Our Sound.

I respect the sentiment, but this is one of those situations where the wishes of the artists and the needs of those who write about them are a little different. Us journalists (and I know I'm not really a journo - I'm just pigeonholing myself as one for the sake of simplicity) like to have a few handy buzzwords to bracket music into nice tidy compartments - this is grime, this is dubstep, this is speed garage etc etc. It's all about creating 'product recognition', innit? With "Our Sound", Destructive appear to be at the same junction that Wiley was last year with "Wot You Call It?". You need a snappy brand name if you're gonna capture the public's imagination and Wiley's decision to define his music as Eskibeat was original and inspired. But Our Sound seems too vague and precious for my tastes. Still, breakstep is a bit too limiting to cover all the ideas on offer. For instance, the track "Auto" by Flatline (who?) features stilted 909 riddims and cold, modulated synth emissions that seem to follow in the footsteps of Search & Destroy's "Wavescape", an unclassifiable b-side that came out on Storming Productions last year. Also, the inclusion of a track by Skream, who's generally more associated with the steppy DMZ/Ital axis, proves that the artists involved cannot be placed in any one distinct camp - it's a steady flow of ideas circulating throughout the Croydon underground, and I don't think anyone is sure where it's all leading to yet. Don't be surprised if Loefah suddenly starts putting out breaks-orientated tunes! One thing that does seem to unite everyone is an urge to get as dark and twisted as possible - the outlook is unremittingly Grimm. Check the clips (and then buy the record!) over at Blackmarket. When I bought it, the album was still a white label promo, but presumably these are 'finished' copies in stock now?

Another element is the increasing use of dirty, distorted basslines that re-introduce some mid-range sonic attack into the equation. "Gunman" by Vex'd must surely be the most extreme example, combining sub-bass pressure with filthy, corrosive static-mush that's surely destined to become a design classic. In years to come people will be talking about the 'Gunman stab' the way they do about Mentasms today. Whether they know it or not, there are clear parallels with Joey Beltram harnessing some of the dark energy from Black Sabbath, Metallica etc, at the turn of the '90s. Rather than Detroit, is Grimm turning into the new Belgian Hardcore?! Being a self-confessed White Man, I have that gene which appreciates a fucking good mid-range blowout every now and then, so this vaguely Rockist tint is perfectly fine with me and makes a nice contrast to the more dub-obsessed material. Although Vex'd are undoubtedly leading the production race at the moment, DJ Distance is surely not far behind them. "Replicant", the first release on Boka Records, combines suitably ominous Blade Runner samples with overdriven, distressed riffs that sound like they're in pain and his latest EP, "1 On 1/Empire" on Hot Flush Recordings, hones this approach to a diamond-hard point of single-minded intent. Both EPs are available at Blackmarket.