02 April 2006


Gutter HQ

The Blue Mountain Club has been around for a long time. I have good memories of some wicked nights there, particularly seeing my old heroes Renegade Soundwave about ten years ago, but last Friday was the first time its main room had played host to a dubstep event. The Noir team had certainly pulled out all the stops to bring together a quality line-up of artists, all affiliated to Tectonic Records, the label set-up by DJ Pinch last year, which continues grow in stature. Then there was the other vital ingredient for a successful dubstep event: the soundsystem, powered by Dissident, providing the necessary levels of wattage required for maximum sub-bass destruction. In terms of sheer weight, this was the heaviest dose of subsonic force I'd experienced since Subloaded II. I could hear the rumble of "Bombardment Of Saturn" permeating through the thick walls of the building as I walked towards the venue. Inside, the bass just vibrated through your whole body and, depending on where you were stood and the frequencies used, it could focus it's power on certain parts of the anatomy, such as the throat, the chest, or even the tip of the nose! Our hosts Kidkut and ThinKing were taking care of the first hour, and DJ Wedge arrived just in time to hear one of his own creations blasting through that awesome system. There's nothing like the expression on the face of a new producer when he hears one of his tunes through such a monstrous P.A. for the first time. Clearly, Mr. Wedge is getting his mixdowns just right.

Dub Prophet: Cyrus taking it from the edge

OmenNext I had my first opportunity to check Omen (left) in action, during his excellent back-to-back set with Random Trio-associate Cyrus. Omen is at the forefront of a new wave of Manchester producers, and from what little I've heard there's some serious talent up there, building on the steel and concrete foundations of M.R.K. 1's "One Way", repopulating the Northern wastelands with a fresh wave of dread creativity. The little army of Croydanites who had travelled over for the event, including Benga, Chef and Walsh, were loving every minute of it. Among the many highlights were the mighty "Rebellion" from Omen's first release on Tectonic (which is out now, kids) plus a couple of versions of the equally impressive "Rise", which should be out on N-Type's Terrain imprint sometime this month.

I'd been curious to see how many punters would turn up for this event - the first time that Noir has been focused on dubstep rather than d'n'b (which was relegated to the smaller room upstairs) - and at that point it was looking respectable although hardly rammed. But when the main attraction, Loefah b2b Skream, hit the decks, it seemed that a sudden influx of ravers nearly doubled the headcount in a matter of minutes. The first time I experienced dubstep in its full sonic glory was at one of the final Subtext nights a year ago, when Loefah and Skream entertained us for the entire evening. There were only about 30 people in that little room at the Croft back then, but seeing the massed entourage at Noir, which must've been close to the 200 mark, clearly illustrated the growth in support for this sound, and interest in these two artist, over the past year. Hardly DMZ proportions, but we're getting there!

Skream & LoefahThere's such a wicked contrast between Loefah and Skream (left), possibly even more pronounced than when Loe goes head to head with Mala. Some of Skream's latest tunes have a really 'up' vibe. At the start he was rolling out some sort of bouncy/happy stuff with unashamed lashings of saccharine melody propelled by energetic grooves with four 'skanks' to the bar (rather than two) creating something that's more like Skastep than dubstep, but with futuristic cyberpop arrangements, proving that he's still striking out, one step ahead of the game, searching for fresh approaches. Of course, all those 'Skreamism' tracks went down well too, along with the "0800 Dub", but then Loefah would step back up to the decks and the vibe would alter dramatically. Melody seems almost an irrelevance in Loefah's work - unnecessary clutter in an otherwise austere arrangement of beats, bass and fx, with the focus on perfect sonic balance. Every bass note, every kick drum, every snare, is given ample space in the mix for maximum attack. But it's only when you hear it on a rig of this specification, played from Loefah's beloved Transition acetates, that you experience the full force of his vision. And its still a shocking, physically overpowering force that literally pummels you into awestruck submission. Surprisingly, Loefah played lots of released material - almost a 'greatest hits' - and amazingly, it was a track that must be 18 months old by now that took the crown for maximum devastating impact: "Horrorshow". Yep, that tune still destroys everything in its path. When the bass kicked-in my legs nearly crumpled under the weight. I looked over to see Headhunter, still a relative newcomer to this scene, with his jaw on the floor in utter astonishment, as the terrifying frequencies rippled through his system. It should've been a painful experience, but somehow it always feels amazingly good. It's only afterwards that you feel the utter exhaustion, as though you've been physically harmed by the sound.

Skream, Chef, Loefah
Bass Bliss: Skream, Chef and Loefah feeling the aftershocks

After all the bliss and the horror of Loefah and Skream, it's hardly surprising that the venue started to clear out pretty quickly afterwards. You could see the walking wounded staggering out almost straight away. Like all the other Dubstep allnighters I've attended or read about, 3am is pretty much the limit in terms of audience levels, and by the time Pinch had cue'd his third dubplate, he was practically playing to an empty room. I hung-on for another half-hour or so, but was a bit of a wreck by that point, and Pinch's unremitting flow of uncompromising hardline dubs, which would've sounded great with fresh ears, just felt kind of spiteful, like he was rubbing salt into my wounds. I simply couldn't take any more. I felt battered and abused. As I limped towards the exit, I noticed there was just one guy still dancing, all on his own in the middle of the floor. Either he'd turned up late or he was on steroids. Crazy bastard.

Dub Sadist: Pinch picks off the remaining survivors

Big up all the crew who reached and lived to tell the tale: Pete Bubonic, Kymatik, Headhunter, Whiteboi, Scorpio, Wedge, Rich B, Madboy, Peverlist, Ed, Jack (and his camera) and anyone else I forgot. See you all at Subloaded IV for another dose of punishment...