10 April 2006


Kode 9 and Pinch

It was a funny ol' night at Dubloaded this month. Blackdown failed to show, apparently due to illness (am I destined never to meet my London counterpart?!), and there was obviously some frantic rescheduling to be sorted. Chef was reportedly on his way to Bristol to fill-in for Martin, but he wouldn't be arriving till late, so the set times were reorganised. No worries for Peverlist's warm-up hour, though. I arrived a little later than planned, and missed the first 20 minutes of Tom's set (when he played all his own productions - damn!) . Although this was his first publicly-performed dubstep set, the Peverlist had already assembled his own little selection of exclusive tunes, all cut on dubplate (so regular Rooted customers now know what Tom's been squandering his profits on!) focusing on artists outside of the usual pool of dubstep resource. Actually, it sounds like Tom has been acquiring beats from the same sources as me - I heard Bass Clef's "Clapton Deep", Monkey Steak's "Lighthouse Dub" and luke.envoy's "Honour Kill" in the mix. My suspicion that Dubloaded's soundsystem still isn't quite configured correctly was confirmed when the awesome snare on luke's track was reduced to a feeble 'pish'. That system can kick-out a respectable level of subs, but it definitely doesn't do proper justice to the top-end. But am I the only one concerned about the upper frequencies? Peverlist interspersed his set with some grimey niceness from Slew Dem, Danny Weed, and Footsie's "Dirty Skankin" (a personal favourite), with the sure-handed mixing skills associated with his renowned junglist sets. Big-up the Peverlist!

Mr Neat: The Peverlist gets accurate

Originally scheduled to play at the end of the evening, Pinch and Blazey had to bring their back2back grime-dubstep battle forward to 11pm. Although outwardly cool and collected, Pinch must've been a bit rattled by the turn of events, as I saw him do something I've never seem him do before: trainwreck a beatmix! (he later muttered something about the right deck being 'possessed'). It really wasn't his night - shortly after that he tripped over a wire and killed the sound for about two minutes, then one of his dubs got stuck in a lock groove. He didn't even get to play for very long, as he had to dash off to collect Kode 9, leaving Blazey to fight on alone. Not that I'm complaining, as we were treated to a wicked grime selection from producers like Wiley, Jammer, Slew Dem (again) and of course the Black Ops. Kode 9 was delivered to the venue in time for his appointed midnight kick-off, which I was particularly excited about as I've never seen him live before. As expected, his set had a subtly different flavour from the norm, with some vicious dubbed-out tune early on emanating waves of harsh distorted echo that enveloped the crowd in a barrage of white-noise oblivion. I guess there were a few of his own tracks in there, and maybe some Burial, but most of it was pretty new to me. It would've been nice if the SpaceApe had been present on the mic, but at least he did make a brief appearance in disembodied form via the grooves of a dubplate, with his customary dread philosophy sending shudders of portent through the room. There was a bit of grime, some forthcoming 'Skreamisms' and the devastating string-section swirl of Calenda's "Forever" in there too. Serious stuff!

Pinch and Kode 9
Pinch making a few minor adjustments, as Kode 9 reaches for the weaponry

Incidentally, I've never mentioned the visual aspect of Dubloaded before, but it worth noting the care that goes into the imagery that is projected against the back wall of the stage area every month. I was particularly impressed this time by the paranoid barrage of surveillance cameras, riot police and scenes of civil unrest interspersed with more abstract, even mundane images, that seems to connect with the pioneering work of Sheffield group Cabaret Voltaire, who, inspired by the literary work of William Burroughs, applied his 'cut-up' theories to the visual arts, splicing news footage, pornography and religion with more banal/kitch imagery. They became one of the first independent groups to create their own stage projections and promo films using video editing technology that was only just becoming affordable/accessible at that time in the late '70s. Of course, these days its all done on laptops, but the end result seems uncannily similar to the questioning/destabilizing spirit of the post-punk era. You'll rarely see the Cabs namechecked as important figures in the development of avant-garde film, yet I was struck by the feeling that they must've had some influence, as there were so many things at Dubloaded that reminded me of their visionary approach, even if it wasn't quite as extreme. It's good to see that Dubloaded is matching form and content, taking care to apply intelligent, stimulating visuals to accompany this most cutting-edge form of modern electronic music. Fuck the dry-ice and flashy disco lights!!

Kode 9 and Pinch

One o'clock arrived, and still no sign of Chef! Kode 9 gamely played on beyond his allotted hour for another ten minutes or so, when suddenly - Chef was in the building! I know some Dubloaded regulars still say his headline set last year was the best we've ever had, so obviously there was plenty of excitement about his unexpected return, and sure enough he proceeded to hype the room with his energetic style from the second he stepped-up on the 'one's and two's'. Unfortunately, I had a schedule of my own to follow, and so with regret had to leave the party slightly early, missing the last half-hour....

Chef cooking up a storm

Myself, Appleblim, Wedge and a few friends quickly made our way across town to the Black Swan in Easton, where the Therapy Sessions were in full swing. I briefly wandered into the main room, but was swiftly repelled by the dreadful racket blaring within, and so made my way upstairs, where our local 'wonderboy' Headhunter was preparing to hit the decks at 2am. All Dubloaders were offered half-price admission for this, but I didn't see many others making the trek across. Atki2 showed up, but no sign of Kode 9, even though the he'd seemed keen on the idea. They missed a wicked set, which, funnily enough, had the purest half-step vibe of the entire evening. With only one CD deck at his disposal, Headhunter's set was split 50/50 between H.E.N.C.H. crew originals and a fine selection of 12 inchers from the past year. So we got to hear Wedge's "Fever", White Boi's murderously brutal "Cha Remix" (Blazey arrived just in time to exclaim "who the fuck did that?!") and Headhunter's own blissful "Sleepwalker" and "7th Curse", plus luke.envoy's "Gamma" and, once again, "Honour Kill" (sounding much nicer on this system) suggesting that he and Headhunter have a mutual admiration for each other. But we were also treated to Coki's timeless "Officer", Distance's "Fallen" and "Taipan", Loefah's "Root" and "Goat Stare", Skream's "Traitor" (still such a devestating track), plus some early Tectonic cuts - Pinch and P.Dutty's "War Dub" and Moving Ninja's "Shellcode"....ah, I like an exclusive mix as much as the next man, but it's always great to hear all the established classics on a beefy system too. There was a small but enthusiastic crowd in that little upstairs room, with some tidy hosting from Scorpio, the H.E.N.C.H. crew's microphone queen.

Headhunter and Scorpio
H.E.N.C.H. vibes: Scorpio and Headunter

Of course, we were all really curious to hear what Tech Itch had to offer. Apparently he'd already played a pretty heavy d'n'b set downstairs, but this was to be his first ever dubstep selection; the public unveiling of his new direction. Not mentioning any names, but there's a few dubsteppers who seem a bit cynical about all this. Myself, having no real knowledge of Tech Itch's previous work, nor any claim to be part of the scene's original core, am completely ambivalent towards the 'politics' of the situation. I judge the man by the quality of his work, not his C/V. Besides, one of the aspects that continue to intrigue me is the way that dubstep is infiltrating/mutating other established scenes. Tech Itch has some sort of reputation. Some people seem to love him, others aren't so keen. The room certainly filled-up as he took to the decks (presumably all the hardcore Tech Itch fans?) and there was a palpable sense of expectation in the air. So what was he like? Fucking heavy, actually. Maybe a little less warmth at the bottom end, perhaps a smidgen of extra mid-range violence (possible 'white rage' undertones?), a tiny bit more complexity with some of the drum fills and edits, but still very much dubstep, though more from the industrial strength variety pioneered by Vex'd. One tune in particular featured an awesome distorted riff that could've been Distance in a really bad mood. Naturally he played "Implant", the only tune that I've managed to obtain a copy of so far, which will be released shortly on his new label Ascension (backed with Headhunter's "7th Curse"), which seems like a perfect track to commence his dubstep direction with, as it features some sampled dialogue that says "they did something to my mind, they implanted something into my brain", which I take to be an acknowledgment of the way that dubstep has twisted his creativity in such an intriguing way. The most striking thing about this track though, is the 303 acid lockdown that kicks-in halfway though. Jesus christ! Why didn't anyone think of doing that before?! Or maybe they had but I didn't know about it. I've always liked my acid at a slower pace (still much prefer the old 120bpm Chicago stuff to its european acid trance bastard offspring) and dubstep gives the space to really let that 303 groove grind into your skull. Yeah, I love it!

Tech Itch
The dark side: Tech Itch (right) and Headhunter

I'd hoped to get a nice shot of Tech Itch's first dubstep set (it could prove historically significant?) but Jack was away so it was just me and my mobile phone, which couldn't cope with the near-total darkness in that room. But I actually quite like the spectral image above - the dark Lord of the Sith and his young apprentice (housemate, actually) emerging from the mist to conquer the dubstep scene! Haha! Okay, I'm being silly now, but I heard enough last night to know that you need to keep an eye on what these guys are doing. I certainly will be....

PS. Got to bed at 4.30am. Urrrgghhhh....