Dub Boy kicked things off in the main room, followed by Atki 2 (filling-in for Toddla T who had apparently come down with a nasty dose of food poisoning), but I missed most of their sets due to my own commitments next door. Then came Loefah. I first saw and met Loe in this very room almost exactly three years ago, and back then the music he and Skream played had maximum shock-out value. Since then he's had an immeasurable influence on the development of dubstep, resulting in countless second-rate 'plodstep' copycats, though I don't blame him for that - when you set such high standards of sonic weight and innovation it's inevitable that other producers are gonna leech off your style. I enjoyed most of his set last night, it was exactly the sort of thing I expected from him, but there's the problem - I didn't really get any sense of surprise or development, despite the fact that 90% of the set was unfamiliar to me (whether that was because they were new tracks or simply because I don't follow the London scene too closely these days is uncertain). The handful of tunes I did recognise - including Coki's "Spongebob", Kode 9's "Skeng" and some Bristol flava courtesy of Jakes' "3kout" - give some indication of the vibes on offer, and Loe delivered a textbook heavyweight set aided by MC Dread's staunch hosting skills. But I came away with no impressions of where Loefah the producer might be heading next. Maybe he'll end-up becoming a sort-of Derrick May figure - an iconic representative of the scene who never actually makes any new records. Consolidation, regulation, but where's the innovation...?
The answer came forthwith, when Headhunter stepped-up to unveil his latest productions. The first thirty minutes was fucking incredible - drawing on the textural language of dub-techno but freeing it from it's metronomic conservatism, bringing a fresh sense of bounce and fluidity to the beats, without sacrificing the depth, taking his cue from the peerless sounds of Basic Channel/Chain Reaction but making it his own, the same way he did when he first started writing dubstep tunes. As the set progressed it did start to wander into more established Headhunter territory, but at his current work-rate I doubt it'll be long before he's building entire sets out of his new future-dub direction. Apparently he has Tempa's full support in this, so hopefully we'll be seeing more of this style appearing in his released work over the coming months. Headhunter stands alongside Pinch, Peverelist and Appleblim at the vanguard of Bristol's fruitful exploration of the dubstep-techno crossover. London might be looking to Funky House for inspiration, and the North is on a Bassline House mission, but I know where I wanna be right now.
Forensics & Gutter
Beavis - the Yout'man Rootsman
Loefah and mc Dread