23 October 2005


I reckon at least 50% of the punters were wearing ear-plugs. Such is the reputation of Subloaded, powered by the Dissident soundsystem. I didn't bother with the plugs, cos I'm fuckin' hard. Not that it mattered, as #3 wasn't quite in the same league as the previous one in terms of sonic density. You see, the Black Swan has had the environmental people on it's back and has been forced to take measures to reduce the volume, which means putting in limiters and so forth. In fact, I understand there were some people from the council there on the night monitoring the decibels. Which means that, sound-wise, it was heavy, but not fucking heavy, if you know what I mean. And maybe it was the bad weather, but the turn-out was noticeably lower than at #2 as well. True, there were enough punters to keep the main room looking respectably busy, but then if you looked out into room 2 and the bar area, it was practically deserted. Factor in that the previous week's Toxic Dancehall at the same venue was apparently too busy, and you realise that maybe it's still too early to say that dubstep has taken Bristol by storm. It feels that perhaps #3 was a step back, rather than forward, but this is entertainment on the frontier of sonic innovation, and breaking this sound to a new audience is gonna take time, resulting in hard-won increments of success tempered by occasional set-backs and disappointments.

But for those who did show up...oh, what a night.

Having spent a little time in the bar having a couple of beers, chatting with a few local headz and saying hello to Skream, Vex'd and N-Type as they wandered in, I made my way into the main room where Thinking was already well into his set, kicking out some quality darkness with an emphasis on breakstep, although there was one really nasty tekstep tune that stuck out for me and I had to enquire who it was by. Turns out it was a cd-r dub from Cogent, a guy I've corresponded with a little, but who I haven't really heard much music from. On the strength of that beat, I reckon he's one to watch out for. Next up was N-Type, undoubtedly one of my favourite Rinse FM djs, due to his quality selection of tunes that always runs across the board from grime, dubstep and breaks, along with his charismatic personality and amusing chatter and it was great to see the man in action at last. Big tunes, as always.

Shortly before DMZ took to the stage, I made a quick exit to get some refreshments at the bar, only to be confronted by the slightly surreal sight of Jamie and Rollie (aka Vex'd - Planet Mu recording artists, fresh from an American tour and possibly the most high-profile act on the bill) playing strictly roots and dub reggae in the second room to an audience of, er, practically nobody. They seemed to be having a great time though - just a couple of mates playing a few old favourites and having a laugh together. As I stood there for a few moments, observing Vex'd at play, a voice came in my left ear saying "Hi, are you Nick?". I turned around to see none other than Mike Paradinas standing next to me. As you can imagine it was a bit of a shock, as I had no idea he was coming down to the event. Of course it was great to finally have a face-to-face chat with a man I've admired for many years, but actually it left me feeling a little dispirited. I'd assumed that Planet Mu, with it's long-standing reputation for innovative music, hectic release schedule and roster of established artists was still doing well, but according to Mike the truth is very different. I don't want to go into all the details, but the fact is that the label is barely keeping its head above water financially, and don't forget Mike doesn't even take a wage from it. Another strange point he made was that people keep telling him he releases too much 'old fashioned' music, despite that fact that he's been signing some fantastic new talent recently. It seems like a ridiculous idea, yet as I looked around the empty room - just me, Mike and Vex'd - I felt a cold shadow of doubt creep over me....could this really be the end of an era?

Thankfully my spirits were quickly lifted when I returned to the main room where Loefah and Mala, with Sgt. Pokes on the mic, were just warming-up for another devastating DMZ set. Awesome vibes as always and some seriously heavyweight dubs in evidence. Yet another spiritually uplifting set that included Mala's VIP mix of "Request Line" which sounded really fresh. Then there was that tune with the two-note staccato keyboard riff that reminded me of the intro to Abba's "Mama Mia"! Loefah's showcase revealed his sound is getting even more extreme, dropping ultra-minimal paranoid riddims awash with analogue-style distorted delay lines rippling into infinity like some distopian King Tubby cyborg. Pure dread vibes. I could've really used a break after that, but there was no time! Next up was a solo set from Skream that simply couldn't be missed. Like a one man Kraftwerk, his set started with a robot voice saying "Subloaded...are you ready?" before launching into a selection of immaculately conceived electro-tek-grime tunes full of sparkling melodies and phat bass wobblers. A few things I recognised from his recent mix, including that one with the Amen break (can't remember the title at the moment, but I'm sure someone will remind me!) yet also the surprise inclusion of DJ Distance's "1 On 1" delivering some uncustomary mid-range attack into the mix. Champion sounds from start to finish.

After nearly three hours solid of the DMZ/Skream experience I was just about knackered, emotionally and physically. It was 3am and a large proportion of the crowd had drifted off home by that point too, but I managed to hang-on for another half hour or so to watch the bulk of Black Ops' set, which was fantastic. Although I generally write about dubstep, whenever I'm in a situation listening to hardcore grimey sublow sounds like this I just feel like it's the best music ever. But these all-nighters are a bit much for my weary old bones and so I decided to drift off into the night. I think the final hour was the turn of our hosts, so sorry I missed them. Pinch seemed a bit edgy - possibly due to the fact that he was facing a big financial loss on this event - and poor old Blazey was very subdued, due to the fact that he's still not feeling very well. Mate, you really need to take an extended break. Hope their set went okay, but by that point Gutta was tucking himself up in bed.

Big-up all the crew who made it down - Pete, Kymatik, Appleblim (sporting a wicked Skull Disco T-shirt - I want one, mate!), Ali and Toxic crew representing, Jack and the guy from Bath who's name I've forgotten, plus the other Room 2 players Tom Peverlist and Dub Boy. See you all at the next one...

17 October 2005


Imagine if there was an electronica version of the X-Factor competition. The panel of judges - possibly Steve Beckett (Warp), Mike Paradinas (Planet Mu) and Grant Wilson-Claridge (Rephlex) - preside over an endless stream of young hopefuls, eager to seduce with the little tunes they put together on some bootlegged software. Some of it's terrible. Some of it has potential, but needs development. An alarming amount of applicants are very, very good, or at least worthy, and the pass-rate is high. The judges know they're going to have a hard time whittling it down to the final twelve.

Then during the last hour of auditions, in walks a young man who introduces himself (in a soft Northern-Irish accent) simply as 'Barry'. "Hello Barry" says Beckett condscendingly, "thanks for coming along. What are you going to play for us?" Carefully jacking his laptop into the PA system, then unpacking an electric guitar and fx-pedal board, Barry mumbles from under his hoody "ummm...this is a track called Tauhid". He then sits down and begins to play...

A metallic drone rises as shards of echo-smeared sound matter flicker pensively...a sense of mounting tension...before a wave of shimmering, sustained bell-like tones radiate from the guitar amplifier, bathing the room in a radiant glow that seems to penetrate into every corner. Almost simultaneuosly the laptop starts spitting out a blurry half-step rhythm and resonant, writhing bassline. A haunting synth-pad rises from the mix, mournful yet life-affirming as further note-clusters trickle from the fretboard, spiralling through the air, reflecting back from every surface. Then the music seems to momentarily evaporate in a cloud of penetrating ring-sounds before a sudden adrenelin shot of DSP-soaked breakbeat abstraction bursts through the speakers in a flurry of ride cymbals and time-stretched snares, whilst all the while the morphed guitar textures soar majestically above, undulating towards ever-increasing levels of ecstatic intensity. Then, just as quickly as they appeared, the beats implode in a puff of reverbated delay, leaving only the chiming feedback-loop of guitar amplification.

As the final coruscating notes disolve into the electrified air, the judges remain silent for a few moments. Beckett's jaw is hanging loosely as he stares vacantly in Barry's general direction. Paradinas is grinning like an idiot, nodding his head fervently at no-one in particular. Wilson-Claridge sits back, lights a generously packed spliff, stares blanky at the ceiling, then mutters "fuck me, I haven't felt like this since seeing Squarepusher at the George Robey in '94...". Coming back to their senses, the judges glance at each other briefly. Then, without even bothering to confer with the others, Beckett says simply, "Barry...you're through to the next round".


Although I don't claim to hear a huge amount of unreleased material in my role as a blogger, I do get to hear quite a few interesting things. Most of it is very good. But nothing could quite prepare me for the first e-mail from Ulster-based Barry Lynn (above) earlier this year. Listening to the MP3 of his track "Brood", I was completely floored by the production levels and emotional insensity. I realised immediately that here was The Real Deal - a fully-formed talent who needed exposure immediately. Shortly after playlisting "Brood" on the first GutterFM transmission back in May, I learned that it was to be released by Hotflush Recordings. This month it's finally arrived, released under the alias Boxcutter, backed with "Sunshine"- a remarkable free jazz-inspired take on dubstep that reveals yet another fascinating direction for this music. With this in mind, I figured it was time to learn a bit more about Mr. Lynn, and so present here the first in-depth interview with the man himself....


Gutta: Could you explain a little about your background, how you started making music, etc.

Barry Lynn: I got my first guitar aged 15 and remained strictly a guitarist until I turned 18. I played in a lot of different bands in this period, playing all sorts of styles but mainly focused on instrumental jam-based rock music. Jimi Hendrix was and still is a massive influence on my playing and songwriting. But I found myself drawn more and more toward electronic music and was then spending most of my time playing one-handed guitar whilst tweaking every pedal I could get my hands on to make odd sounds from my guitar playing. I became fascinated with the possiblities of electronic equipment and especially sampling, which is probably a continuation of my interest in delay pedals - my playing at this time was very
Robert Fripp-influenced. So then I purchased a cheap PC in 1998 and began producing hip hop-influenced music that incorporated my guitar playing. By this stage I'd also starting practicing keyboards and bass guitar and so they got used also.

G: I get the impression you work in a variety of styles...

BL: I'm not pinned down to one particular style. I've done drum 'n' bass, jungle, uk garage, dubstep, house, techno...

G: So how does your music develop these days - do ideas start with instruments or on the computer?

BL: Sometimes tracks get built out of performances on instruments, like "Sunshine", other stuff is all electronic. I write my music on anything that comes to hand - tracks can start with a breakbeat idea that's been programmed in a sequencer, a melodic phrase on the guitar, a MIDI doodle or a sound I've processed and shaped with DSP software. It's hard to say where ideas come from though...I just try and be around my gear as much as possible so that I can get to work when I'm in the mood... I always feel guilty that I'm not being productive enough.

G: Describe you studio set-up - presumably you're PC-based now, but I guess you have some other instruments/outboard/fx you use too?

BL: I played guitar pretty obsessively for years before I made tracks so everything I know about musical theory and composition comes through that. I have a pretty guitar-centric approach, but I don't really wanna talk about gear cos I think it can take away from the end product. I'll use anything I can get my hands on though - hardware or software, samples and instruments.

G: I think you mentioned to me before that you'd had a couple of low-key releases previously. What were they and what style of music?

BL: They weren't releases proper. I've put a few EPs of stuff up on a netlabel run by local lads (electrotoxic.com). These contained the acid jungle tunes that I started giving out on demos around '02-'03, although every EP was a fairly mixed bag -there was a clickhouse tune made from insect samples, a heavy R&S-inspired dub tune and some granular electro stuff in there.

G: So how long have you been into the grime & dubstep flavas, and where did you first start hearing that sound?

BL: I've been following all sorts of breakbeat based music for ages, since my mid-teens I suppose. I kept up with lots of overlapping scenes. I'd heard a lot of commercial garage but hearing Squarepusher's "My Red Hot Car" was a big moment, plus tracks by leftfield producers like Four Tet and Manitoba that used two-step breaks... I remember hearing "Said the Spider" by Darqwan when it came out and thinking it sounded really fresh. I was heavily into a lot of electro around this time too - for it's basslines mainly - Radioactive Man, Octagon Man... then Mike Paradines' charts on the Planet-Mu site started to contain a lot of excellent proto-dubstep tracks that I tracked down, tunes like the "Pussy Track" remix by Hype that had these heavy beats with bass stabs accenting weird parts of the bar. Also, around the same time I started tuning in to J Da Flex on 1xtra - his show was really important in exposing me to all sorts of different sounds. That's where I first heard Toasty, Vex'd, Search & Destroy...loads of people. Plus I'm well into Rephlex's output so the Grime compilations were important too, although I'd heard of everyone on them prior to the Rephlex releases.

G: Name a few other specific tunes that inspired your dubstep direction...

BL: Toasty's "The Knowledge", Search & Destroy's "Food Chain", Mu-Ziq's "Grape Nut Beats pt2" and "Raindance" by Mark One.

G: To my ears, your own take on dubstep seems to be very much from the IDM/electronica spectrum, yet you've quickly gained support from underground players like J Da Flex, Hot Flush, Rinse DJs etc. How do you explain that?

BL: I think that "Brood" and the tracks I make lately aren't 'idm', but they use some production tricks I picked up from producers associated with that sound. It's just an open-minded attitude on everyone's part I suppose, which I really applaud. I'd like to think it's simply because they're tracks that have an effect on people beyond just impressing them with my production skills or giving them another disposable dj tool. It's a fairly common idea to take underground music and try to make it more 'intelligent', but I think a lot of attempts just dilute the bang of the underground stuff with too much unnecessary sound in the name of making a 'detailed' track - I know this from experience with my own stuff. I'm not sure how effectively breakcore blends with dubstep since space and emptiness are a major factor in dubstep and breakcore is about as busy as you can get, so they're opposites in a lot of ways. Plus a lot of the straight-up underground stuff is as well-made as a lot of 'idm' anyway- it has as many new ideas which is what it's all about, not how many plug-ins you can use. In trying to fuse them I suppose the aim is to make the edits and fx add to the groove of your tune to make it even more intense than it might be otherwise, getting the right balance between repetition and song structure and headfuckery fx stuff.

G: What do you think of this whole 'Grim' idea? Have you heard much of that Monkey Steak/Grim Dubs material? Do you feel any affinity with it?

BL: To be honest it's just a marketing tag for a label that I'm not involved with. I'd feel a bit silly saying I identify with it specifically since the whole idea is an old one - that of idming-up straight-ahead dance music. If that's what the concept is...maybe I've got it wrong... was the press release a sort of pisstake of Rephlex for not releasing a more 'idm'-influenced take on dubstep on the compilations?

G: To a certain extent, yeah. I think the Werk Discs press release was sending-up the Rephlex Grime one a bit, although it was probably more about having a dig at them jumping for the bandwagon, so to speak.

BL: It's a funny read but I think a lot of the tracks they did put out are excellent and fit on Rephlex nicely. I don't think they were bandwagon-jumping.

G: Okay, so maybe it's a 'No' to Grim, but could you see yourself as part of a (not too clearly defined) movement of new post-grime, possibly middle-class, electronic experimentors?

BL: I like working on breaks and adding dubbed-out detail - it's part of the guilt I have about not spending enough time on tunes - plus, like I was saying, when it's done well it adds to the intensity of the tune, but I dunno if that's post-anything. It's far from a new concept, it's just a different approach. Erm... I'm trying to pin down why I think it's unnecessary to have another sub-genre...I think it's because it's such an early stage that everyone is still experimenting and trying new patterns, whether they're making 'grime' or 'grim' - not just middle class geezers! - haha. Plus the big lights of the 'idm' scene (Rephlex/Mu) are equally backing the less edited sound so that just adds to the confusion. A lot of the 'normal' dubstep tunes sound weird as fuck anyway. I rate loads of stuff on Werk though - don't wanna give the impression I'm not into it...

G: Boxcutter. Where'd you get that name from? Sounds a little bit like Squarepusher...

BL: Shit, do you reckon? What about Boxgutter? Or maybe cocks-butter?... haha...nah, it's the name of a tune my mate Kam made - he makes wicked super-edited hiphop and grime stuff... I think it's 9/11 related which suited the dread-y airport panic attack sound of "Brood". Actually I never saw "Sunshine" as fitting with that alias but I wanted to put it out so I let it go. I needed an alias cos I felt a bit exposed using my real name. I dunno if I'm gonna use it again or if I'll pick another one...I like the idea of having loads of different names...

G: Speaking of 'Sunshine', can you remind me about the influences there? I think you mentioned Alice Coltrane before.

BL: I'm well into 'cosmic' jazz, especially all the stuff that developed out of John Coltrane's last band. It all started when a mate lent me "The Creator Has A Masterplan" by Pharoah Sanders. From the first note I knew it was a special record. A lot of people can't hack how free it gets - Leon Thomas' mad african yodelling and screaming and Pharoah's immense overblowing style - but the whole vibe is just amazing. I wanted to take some of the percussion and bells that make the backdrop to those types of records and use similar instrumentation - sax and flute, handclaps, the works - try and keep it sounding really ecstatic and organic and tie it all together with a jam I'd done that started with a delay loop of guitar, which are the first notes you hear in "Sunshine".

G: What else are you playing on that track? Is there some live woodwind? How many instruments can you play?!

BL: I'm playing guitar, bass and keys on that tune - they're the only instruments I've any proficiency on. Some of the sounds are sampled, although I don't wanna say too much about them!

G: It's quite a departure from the usual Hot Flush/dubstep style. What made you/them decide on that one as opposed to, say, "Ricta" or "Grub"?

BL: Hot Flush like to mix their styles up, pairing off heavy tracks with more chilled b-sides. To be honest I was surprised that they wanted to put it out, I almost never sent it cos I didn't think it was heavy enough. It's something I wanna push into more, but I wanna get noisier with it than "Sunshine" turned out.... it's on a fairly melodic tip. But it's nice to have two very different sounds paired off. The EP is a decent wee taster of a lot of the different types of stuff I make.

G: How did the deal with Hot Flush come about anyway? From a demo, or what?

BL: Yeah, I sent them a few mp3 links to stuff which they liked and then when I made "Brood" I sent them an early version of it which they were well into. I also sent it to J da Flex and he started playing it a lot, around which time Paul (Rose, Hot Flush co-founder) phoned me up and it went from there....

G: Tell me as much as you dare about forthcoming releases, either with Hot Flush or Planet Mu. I understand Mike Paradinas has been aware of you for quite some time, and liked your tunes, but thought you were a bit too 'Squarepusher-y'. I take it your garage influences have swung in your favour there...?

BL: Yeah, Mike phoned me around April 2003 about an old demo I'd sent him, but I pissed away my chances of a release at that time by making new stuff that was emulating other producers - mainly acid jungle stuff that was on Squarepusher and AFX's toes too much. It's hard not being influenced by stuff that has a big effect on you. I've learnt a lot from listening to their stuff but I'm making a big effort now to try new things and do things that are more personal to me. So with that in mind, right now I'm chatting with Mike about a 12" and hopefully an album. At the minute I've a shortlist of tunes from him that I'm tidying up for release plus when I come up with new stuff I'm letting him hear it too. It's not just garage by the way - there's some downtempo stuff and a jungle tune too.

G: Now then, I'm gonna be over in Belfast next week visiting relatives and, by happy coincidence, you happen to be playing a gig there on the 30th with Tim Exile. I'm coming to check you out mate!

BL: Yeah that show's gonna be amazing - Exile is a fucking class producer! Looking forward to meeting you!

G: I'm curious to see how you perform your music live...

BL: Initially I started with live sequencing but it was when I started using guitars and basses that I got really good reactions from people. There's just far more performance value watching someone improvise on an instrument as opposed to staring at a laptop screen. I'm well into guitarists like Robert Fripp and Nick McCabe and tend to build up delay loops that I mix in and out over the top of tunes. I've some custom live patches that let me loop and run effects on the sequenced track at the same time. My laptop is showing it's age lately though. When I can afford it I'm gonna upgrade. I've a lot of ideas for live stuff that I can't run on my current set-up.

G: How extensively have you played live in the past, and where?

BL: I've been playing my stuff out for a few years now. I've been a regular at Electrotoxic for over two years now and I've also played a number of other club nights and festivals round Belfast and Derry, such as the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Vis-Sonic (in association with OneDotZero) and the Celtronic Festivaland. Also memorable was when local DJ/Producer David Holmes invited me to play his New Left Bank club night in early 2005. I've played for Bugklinik in Belgium a couple of times too.

G: What's the Northern Ireland underground/electronic music scene like, anyway? Is there a dubstep scene developing yet?

BL: Dunno what to say about NI's music scene really...it's pretty small which means marginal stuff struggles a lot more than it would elsewhere. This goes for everything, not just dubstep.

G: Presumably it's quite a close-knit little community?

BL: Typical leftfield gig turnouts are in the low hundreds at absolute best, usually. Club nights come and go quite a bit - there isn't a great selection of venues which doesn't help.

G: From a political/religious point of view, does the music unite across the Great Divide?

BL: Yeah, course it does. Nobody asks what background anyone else is from cos it's just like anywhere - people out to have a good time and hear good tunes.

G: Any other local headz I should be keeping an eye out for when I'm over?

BL: I'm gonna big up my mates at Electrotoxic especially Iso9 who runs the nights cos he's booked me more than anyone and has a really open-minded attitude. Two local producers I swap a lot of music with and have "producer talks" with are Gary Spence (who records amazing quirky house and soul music as T-Polar) and Filaria (who makes all sorts of weird acidic jazz madness).

G: Wicked...see you on Halloween night, Baz!


"Brood/Sunshine" is out now on Hotflush Recordings. You can buy the 12" here, or the download here.



Details of the forthcoming event that I'll be attending:

Electrotoxic Halloween special featuring the Leechrum Records tour...

(planet-mu/mosquito/moving shadow)

The Person live

Chris Coffe live

Barry Lynn live


Sunday October 30th @ The Bunker
(Laverys middle bar)
admission £5 before 10pm, £6 after.

Full report in due course!

11 October 2005



I've just recovered from a rather vicious stomach bug that left me practically bed-ridden over the weekend. It was like having a forty-eight hour hangover, minus the headache. I puked, shit and puked some more until I'd pumped my system clean dry. I lost 4lb by the end of it. Fucking awful, and I missed Toxic Dancehall because of it. Boo!! I reckon it must've been the cheeseburger I bought from the burger van outside Timbuk 2 on Thursday night. I tend to avoid such places, but I'd had a few drinks and my judgement was impaired. But at least Ruffnek Discotek #3 was another successful evening.

Having downed a vodka and Red Bull followed by a couple of lagers, I was just about ready for my first serious djing assignment on home turf in nearly a decade. My old skool set seemed to go down quite well with the clientel - apparently there were actually a few punters dancing at one point, although I was too absorbed in not fucking-up to notice. I wasn't technically perfect by any stretch of the imagination, which was annoying cos the practice sessions at home leading up to it had been really encouraging, but I think I just about got away with it. Plus, of course, it was an absolute pleasure to bring all those old bleepy records out of retirement and put them back to work on the dancefloor. I didn't get to play everything I'd hoped (sorry guys, no Tricky Disco this time), yet still managed to over-run the old skool half of the set by fifteen minutes. Then I played Geroche's "Death" from start to finish, followed by a Monkey Steak test-pressing that I'd never heard before (brought along especially by Atki2 - he wouldn't let me keep it, though!) and ended by cramming as many Mark One, Plasticman and DMZ classics as I could before Dub Boy(below) took over. But the biggest shock was about 20 minutes in, when I looked up briefly to see DJ Pinch leering at me over the dj booth. I hadn't expected him to be there and must admit his 'professional' presence unnerved me a bit. Even worse, later on when I dropped Plasticman's "Venom", Pinch leaned over making the circular hand motion indicating he wanted a rewind, which I duly attempted, but managed to accidently knock the needle of the turntable, leading to an embarrassing moment of utter silence. I could've died. But still, I should make it clear that Pinch was only at the event briefly before heading off somewhere else and, as far as I can tell, he'd come down especially to show me support and wasn't aware how nervous he was making me feel.

Dub Boy

Later on, El Kano delivered a dark, experimental set featuring tracks from acts like SLT Mob and DJ Distance, getting progressively more abstract and unhinged as he want on. Biggest surprise was when he dropped LFO's mid-90's 'come-back' single "Tied Up", a track that didn't really fit with me at the time, but made complete sense in Kano's world on Thursday. My mate Mike reckoned he saw a girl breakdancing around that point. I missed that unfortunately, although the visual highlight for me was the lumbering, slightly worse-for-wear figure of Psychbloke, in Batman T-shirt and accompanied by his 'clever, attractive wife' going absolutely mental on the dancefloor. Now there's a couple who now how to enjoy themselves. Watch out kids - Dad-bloggers in the area!!

Poor old DJ Blazey (see pic @ top) turned-up just before 1pm, looking palid and sweaty. Turns out he was feeling sick as a dog but gamely soldiered on and, accompanied by Joker, managed to whip the remaining partygoers into a grimey frenzy, despite a few technical hitches in the first half. And who was that kid doing the MCing with the crazy afro-puff hairstyle? Or did I imagine that? I was a bit mashed by that point, I must admit. The last hour is all a little hazy, ending with the notorious cheeseburger incident...but let's not go back there.

04 October 2005


Voxxx A1Bare props to the man like Geroyche for sending me a finished copy of his EP "Voxxx Series A.1", released on the Ventilator Tonträger label. I know several GutterFM listeners were as enchanted as I was by the opening track "Death" as featured in MP3 form on last month's broadcast. It's a beautifully evocative piece, awash with eerie, serrated melodic drones yet driven by brutal step-breaks - almost like a fusion of Fennesz, Boards Of Canada and Vex'd. There's a video of it too and you watch it here. The other two tracks on side 1, "Tubby" and "Great Expectations" are further fascinating experiments in distressed/ambient textures combined with mutant 2-step/breakcore riddims. Side 2 opens with the bizarre "It's All So Simple Now", featuring a forlorn moog melody over convoluted-yet-steppy rhythmic abstraction - like a swansong for the breakcore era?! Although I'm not familiar with his earlier work, I get the impression that this is a transitional phase for him, resulting in music that's quite strange and unclassifiable. The important thing is, I think I understand it. I can feel what he's trying to achieve at an emotional level, although I can't really put it into words, yet.

Top marks on the presentation too. This is the most impressive 12 inch design I've seen since Skull Disco 001, although I reckon the custom die-cut sleeve might just clinch it for best design of the year. The label has a distribution deal with Cargo Records but it's still not known how widely available this is gonna be outside of Germany. Keep yer eyes peeled!

Speaking of Germans, I should mention that I'm hoping to reach Toxic Dancehall at the Black Swan this Saturday, specifically to link-up with DJ Maxximus who's playing in room 2. He's been keeping me informed of his activities, but so far I've not heard very much of the music! Looking forward to checking out some more Teutonic Grime (Krautstep?!!) vibes. It'll also be interesting to see what The Bug has in store for us. I've heard reports that he's been absorbing the dubstep influences recently.

03 October 2005


A Fistful Of Bleeps

So Loki's regretting having sold off his early Warp 12 inches now, eh? Perfectly understandable when you think how utterly essential that first run of blinding releases were, perhaps only marred by the frankly daft Bleep 'cash-in' "Tricky Disco". But let's come back to those Sweet Exorcist records. Having already been at the vanguard of Northern post-punk experimentalism with the Cabs, Richard H. Kirk (along with new collaborator Parrot) suddenly found himself leading the field in home-grown Techno-innovation. Although Unique 3's "The Theme" paved the way in '89, Tests 1-6 remain the quintessential Bleep 'n' Bass recordings, each version an obsessive fragment of the whole. But what of the follow-up "Clonk"? At the time there was some attempt to place Clonk as yet another micro-scene. But without the instantly catchy bleep riff, Clonk was too way-out and avant garde to ever gain a firm foothold. But what did Clonk sound like? Skeletal insectoid electro beats, guttural chanting gasps, sound effects like malfunctioning ZX Spectrums and a sub-bass line like nothing heard before or since. It writhed and shuddered in spasms of epileptic low-end distress - the bassline became an unhinged, possibly malevolent force that defied all logical rules of dancefloor dynamics. The frequencies were so low that, on any small domestic system, they were practically inaudible (and if you play the MP3 on computer speakers, you probably won't hear anything at all) but add some serious wattage and they're fucking monstrous. Fifteen years on, "Clonk" still sounds absolutely ridiculous.

Actually, whilst I'm on the subject, there's something I needed to ask. Although the "Clonk" 12 inch label specifies two different versions ("Freebass" and "Homebass"), as far as I can tell both sides play exactly the same track. Was this some dadaist joke, or is my copy a mispress? If anyone out there can confirm that there are two different versions, I'll try and track down a properly pressed copy.


Although I'm not a massive fan of their subsequent work, there's no doubt that the earliest releases from Nightmares On Wax were milestones within the hardcore continuum. After debuting with "Dextrous", it was the follow-up "Aftermath" that really made their reputation. Less Bleep, but plenty of bass with added breakbeats skillfully chopped in the right places and of course that diva sample which, if you get him on the subject, will probably still get the Blissblogger foaming at the mouth. In fact, don't bother reading this garbage anymore, just look up page 101 of Energy Flash, where Simon explains it all far better than I ever could...

02 October 2005


A Fistful Of Forgemasters

Any mention of Robert Gordon and The Forgemasters is guaranteed to send a shudder of awe rippling down my spine. Although Gordon was involved in a variety of production/remix projects in Sheffield thanks to his pioneering work at FON studio, it's his Bleep 'n' Bass productions around 1990-91 that will always hold a special place in my heart. Despite a pitifully small discography, The Forgemasters (Gordon with Winston Hazel and Maher) left a devastating legacy. The very first Warp Records release was their "Track With No Name"/"Shall We...?", a perfect vacuum-sealed package of ice-cold electro-percussion, spine-tingling ethereal riffs, sensual snatches of breathy femininity and of course the merciless sub-bass frequencies. One of the greatest records of it's time. Although they never recorded for Warp again, in 1991 Network released the "Black Steel" EP, featuring a jittery remix of "Track With No Name", along with the absolute killer tune "Stress", rightly highlighted by Mr. Reynolds in Energy Flash as one of the key recording of the genre, featuring the same kind of unearthly textural patterns that made LFO tracks like "Freeze" so spellbinding.

Network also released another seminal Gordon EP, "The Mood Set",this time in collaboration with 'Living Legend' Richard H. Kirk, under the alias Xon. "Dissonance" remains the absolute stone-cold classic here - a brutal electro-throwback, with morphed snatches of Cybotron's "Techno City" weaving through the dense, alien sound-matrix. Gordon's working relationship with Kirk was extensive during this period, including regular remix work for the still-active Cabaret Voltaire and, in particular, his definitive interpretation of "Testone" (by Kirk's other side project Sweet Exorcist) known as "Test Four", which is so essential it's practically the official version now. Hallowed ground...


Who were F-X-U? I've no idea. They released the "Steel City" EP on the Made On Earth imprint, which suggests a Sheffield connection. I don't actually own a copy of that (it's one of those releases I feel I really should own, but never got around to tracking down). What I do have is a white label copy of "The Scheme" b/w "The Chase", featuring some very "LFO"-ish synth melodies and some pretty raw sub-bass with a violenty sharp attack time. The 909 patterns and proto-trance riffs are efficient but unremarkable...a bit similar to some of the early Belgian stuff from Spectrum and CJ Bolland. "The Chase" features a crude mono-synthetic approximation of the true 'test tone' bleep riff. Without doubt F-X-U were a second-division bleep act, but still this is an interesting period piece that may find it's way onto the decks at some point on Thursday...