27 May 2006


Had a wicked time at Noir's birthday bash last night. Arrived too late for Elemental's set, but Distance delivered the goods in fine style, followed by Boxcutter making his Bristol debut with a live laptop set which involved lots of tweaking with his little box of midi-controller magic (love it when he sweeps the frequencies) and occasional bursts of jazzy bass guitar (just don't mention Squarepusher, okay ;-). Awesome set. My only complaint being he didn't bring along his normal guitar and pedal board - I was hoping for some more of those delay-drone washes, but never mind. Come back soon lads - big-up the ex-rockers!

Also shouts to Bubonic, Stealth and Kymatik for some vibey 'Sludge' action in room 2 afterwards (Sludge = "dubstep/grime/gay-rage/dirty breaks/some ol skool n random shit"). Vex'd mixed with Public Enemy acapellas?! Bare madness. By the time I left, the main room was deserted, but the party was still in full swing with those guys upstairs. Big up Thinking for dropping a couple of choice tunes too, even though he was stoned out of his mind. You're all fucking LARGE. I love ya!!

16 May 2006


Really, do I need to bother reviewing the Burial album? Paul Autonomic totally fucking nails it over at Riddim.Ca, and also includes a comprehensive selection of links to all the other reviews/ discussion about this remarkable album (although you should also check Blackdown's Pitchfork review and some interesting observations from our friend at Peanut Butter Words). What more is there to say, really? Although I should point out that I was the first one to link Burial with the amorphous 'Hauntology' genre back in January, heh heh.

Okay, okay, some specific points. This is a really good electronica/listening album, even though that idea would certainly horrify Burial and his allies. It's creased-up, aged patina of dusty sonics works well as a lo-fi indie album too. So what? Get over it. These tracks would probably sound crap in a club, and the fact that they elected to only release it on CD sort of proves the point. It's profoundly mood-altering headphone music, best listened to when alone at home..."Dark Side Of The Moon" for the dubstep generation? Maybe. Does it matter? Those beatless ambient tracks, "Night Bus" and "Forgive", are the best examples of distressed isolationist beauty I've heard since Aphex's "Selected Ambient Works Vol. II", which, in case you didn't notice, was the greatest album of the '90s. Maybe that album isn't part of Burial's genetic make-up, but its totally in the same zone. Get over it. I love the Space Ape, but his appearance on, er, "Space Ape" is too near-focus and it's ruining my vibe. So what? Get over it. You really should buy this album, cos it's fucking cool. How's that?

In stock at Warpmart.

15 May 2006


Goddamit, after two consecutive weekends of exposure, I've been completely brainwashed by the H.E.N.C.H. crew. Scorpio's simple-but-effective vocal mantras keep revolving around in my brain...I can't get the bitch out of my head!! Their two hour takeover of Dubloaded last night was nothing short of a mini-triumph. Despite the truncated schedule and lack of any big-name London djs, the regulars turned-up en masse for a night of pure Bristolian dubstep flavas. Whether that's because there's a genuine buzz about H.E.N.C.H., or an indication of the strong loyalty that Dubloaded now commands, I'm not sure. But basically, it was a re-run of what happened at Lakota last week, except with a decent room full of committed dubheadz, all of whom seemed to skanking-out proud to the unstoppable cycle of beats coming from Headhunter b2b Wedge b2b White Boi (above) b2b Kommonasmuck. The usual visual backdrops were absent this time, and the room was illuminated by just a single beam of blue light, adding an eerie, twilight hue, which was nice, although rendered my Nokia completely useless, yet again. So thanks to 'Carlybag' for posting a few pics at the Hijack forum.

Headhunter and Wedge delivered the goods as always, whilst new recruit Kommonasmuck (left) turned heads with his energetic performance and huge production sound. Having barely stepped-up to the decks, he deployed his first weapon of the evening, the "HENCH Dub", which he had to pull-back almost immediately due to the palpable ripple of excited approval from the crowd. Later on, the White Boi delivered possibly the most intense moments of the evening, beginning with the syrupy bassline swagger of "Manson", followed by the apocalyptic blitzkrieg of "Rommel" (dodgy title, I know, but somehow it seems entirely appropriate) climaxing with the epic grandeur of "Hard Life". As anyone who tuned-in for their guest slot on Wedge's show last week will attest, these two are absolutely murdering it at the moment. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the big dj's in the scene are begging them for exclusives...assuming they aren't already? I feel extremely privileged to be exposed to this music on the frontline, as it were.

Jakes( right) was sharing mic duties with Scorpio, but his "3.09 v.1" and "Gilly Weed" riddims represent the most 'out there' experimental side of the H.E.N.C.H. equation. Extreme, compressed, bubbling with innovation and minimalist intent, Jakes' tracks skip to their own inner logic. One of the great aspects of this team is that they all have their own sound, and I can usually tell who did what. Hopefully the world at large will get to hear more of this stuff soon, but in an effort to spread the H.E.N.C.H. love, I've managed to acquire a recording of the evening, captured on Headhunter's minidisc recorder direct from the dj mixer. The actual sound quality is really good but, as before, there are quite a few drop-outs. Dunno why this keeps happening, but this is a D.I.Y. recording, straight from the fucking sewer, and we're just doing what we can here. The worst bits have been edited out, and hopefully you should be able to get a good impression of what's going on in this little neck of the world. Frankly, its just too damn good to keep it to ourselves. Check it....
Download H.E.N.C.H. at Dubloaded 13/05/06

By the way, although the first release from Tech Itch's new Ascension imprint isn't in the vinyl racks just yet, it's now available to buy in downloadable form via his page at Tune Tribe. As previously mentioned, this is a split release featuring Headhunter's debut commercially available track, the impossibly luxurious, beautifully constructed "7th Curse", along with Tech Itch's own "Implant", a tense, psychological thriller that sees this long-established d'n'b producer flexing his creative muscles in the exploratory waters of dubstep for the first time, with a surprise acid excursion kicking-in after the breakdown. Don't miss this one...

13 May 2006



Who is MRK 1? Well, he used to be Mark One, but had to change his name for some ridiculous legal reason. He was one of the three artists featured on Rephlex's "Grime" compilation, which was instrumental in sucking an old electronica head like me back into the murky world of the underground, inspiring me to explore the fresh pastures of dubstep, which is quite ironic when you consider that he isn't actually from Croydon, or even the South of England! He's a prolific producer who seems to flit instinctively between all the major disciplines of the art. He's dabbled in breaks, halfstep, vocal grime and, maybe, has his sights set on the crossover potential of mainstream acceptance. There's a slew of new releases featuring his sure hands at the production helm, including the relaunch of "The Work Related Illness", his album with bad ass Manchester grime MCs Virus Syndicate. I reviewed the album in it's original form back in June last year. Reading back, it's funny that I suggested they should "...get it in the shops with a 'parental advisory - explicit lyrics' sticker", cos that's exactly what they've done this time, presenting the album in a way that could appeal to a more 'rap' oriented audience, although I actually preferred the original cartoon design. It had a bit more charm, I think. But it's not just the sleeve that's changed - there's a few additional tracks, including "Gun Talk", which, after the ambiguous posturing of some of their previous lyrics, seems to make Virus Syndicate's anti-violence stance explicitly clear ("You need to keep all that gun talk to yourself - real G's don't do dirt and spit on wax"). Buy the CD here, or download from Bleep...

Another new track on the album is "Ready To Learn", which strikes me as a blatant attempt at cracking the mainstream, with it's futuristic r'n'b stylings and helium diva samples, which, depending on your point of view, could be seen as a homage to early hardcore or a cynical cash-in on that whole Kanye West production style. Coupled with the open-hearted 'relationship' lyrical content, it could certainly have some commercial mileage, which is probably why Planet Mu have released it as a 12" single as well, backed with a reworked vocal version of "Major List MCs". There's also a second remix 12", featuring a more stripped-back version of "Ready To Learn", with heavy rock drums offset by junglist breakbeat shuffles, plus Jammer's vocal and instrumental remixes of "Major List MC's", which take a surprisingly minimalist halfstep approach. Releasing two versions of the same 12" simultaneously is an old record company trick for achieving higher chart-placings, which adds further fuel to the idea that this is an all-out push at the mainstream. Is it actually working? I've no idea. I don't follow mainstream music much, so can't say I've noticed. "Ready To Learn" is a bloody good stab at creating a fresh spin on the 'pop song' format, though. Don't think I'm trying to knock it- I think it sounds great! Best of luck to 'em! You can buy 12" #1 here, and #2 here.

Anyone looking for a more instrumental flavour should check a couple of other MRK 1 12" releases that have surfaced just recently, the first one being a four-track EP from new label Tyke Records. It opens with "Empire", a grimey barrage of strident orchestral stabs, string section shivers, gun-totin' 'cock back' sound effects and a big squarewave bassline. "Neva Argue" features more helium vocal samples, which, on closer inspection, appear to be of Billy Joel singing his 1978 hit single "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)". Presumably MRK found that record at the back of his mum's record collection?! Some nice woodwind arrangements, too. On the flip we have "Dirty Birds", a more stripped-back cousin of his "Plodder" riddim, laced with horror-flik scraping violin shards, surveillance camera whirrs and guttural bass. The EP is rounded-off with "Loungin", a dense forest of eastern percussion with a wailing saxophone battling with a Moog-like synth melody. Buy it here.

Then there's his second release for the ever-reliable Boka imprint, again featuring four instrumentals, kicking-off with the sub bass warbles and clever interplay of synth melodies on "Tinkerbell", followed by "Trenchwalk", featuring more cock-back and gun blast samples combined with latin percussion, swerving reversed snares, gloopy ocillator droplets and an 808 cowbell. Then it's back to the grimey orchestral stabs and yet more gun blasts on "Deadman". But, from a very personal point of view, the best track is saved for last. "Quiver" is a wonderfully understated combination of slinky, clinical-yet-funky 808 beats, overlaid with portentous polysynth sweeps and pure sub bass undertow that connects MRK perfectly with his Northern forebears. Yes, I hear the cold, spacious beauty of classic Bleep 'n' Bass in this track. This is my kind of 'roots 'n' future' music. Brilliant! Buy it here.

MRK is also gearing-up to relaunch his own Contagious imprint, commencing with "I Got To", a collaboration with reggae legend Sizzla. I was really surprised when a cd-r promo arrived through my letterbox. I've had no direct contact with MRK ever, and I've no idea where he, or whoever does his admin, got my address. But here it is. Once again I can't help thinking that this has some serious crossover potential, propelled by a catchy halfstep skank riddim and Sizzla's rousing chorus of "I got to smoke up the 'erbs", which could become an anthem for all the weed-smokin' kids out there - as far as I can tell everyone smokes the stuff these days! The Virus Syndicate mix is a bit more sparse and experimental, plus you get the instrumental versions as well, so there's something for everybody here! Release date for this one is 12th June.

Oh, there's also another MRK 1 EP due on Planet Mu anytime now, called "Ready For Love", but I haven't actually heard that one yet. There's just no stopping the man right now!

08 May 2006



The Lakota club in Bristol played host to a massive Dissident all-night rave last night, offering a varied roster of artists from the worlds of d'n'b, breakcore, jungletek and all manner of breakbeat microgenres inbetween. But I was there specifically for a three-hour H.E.N.C.H. dubstep session in Room 3, tucked away on the top floor of this labyrinthian building. Hardly the centre of attention, it was nevertheless a significant event for me, as it proved that a level of self-sufficiency has been achieved for Bristolian dubstep. The fantasy of my fevered imagination is starting to become a reality. I reckon there was a hardcore audience of about 10-15 people, which would occasionally swell to nearly 50 over the course of the evening. Not bad when you consider that all the usual dubstep-devotees had taken a mass exodus to DMZ in London for the night! With Jack away, and my little Nokia phone only producing indistinct blurs in the near-total darkness, I was worried I wouldn't get any photographic evidence of the occasion. But then I found a few images at the Hijack forum. Thanks guys!

Appleblim Wedge
l-r: Appleblim, Gutta, Wedge, White Boi

I arrived shortly before midnight to find Blazey in full swing, reppin' the Black Ops grime sounds for a small but appreciative audience. After that it was time for H.E.N.C.H.'s Bath-contingent to step up on the one's and two's, with DJ Wedge going back-to-back with Appleblim (who isn't actually a H.E.N.C.H. member, but lives in the same house as Wedge, which makes him family, I guess). Appleblim provided the only non-West Country sounds, via Digital Mystikz' "Earth Run A Red" and "Ancient Memories", a track from "Skreamisms Vol. 2" played from a very rare test pressing (from the rejected first batch), a bit of Skuba, Luke Envoy and of course his own "Fear Riddim", but this was a new vocal mix, featuring a ragga mc (forgot to ask who it was). This is the tune that updates the 'Mentasm' riff, but one of Appleblim's semi-famous friends reckoned it was just recycling the vibe of old Metalheadz records, yet they were just borrowing secondhand energy from Belgian Hardcore anyway. It was Joey Beltram who first found that 'hoover' preset buried in his Juno 106 synth around the turn of the '90s, and for me its one of those classic sonic signatures that's always ripe for a bit of re-contextualisation every few years. I mean, why deny yourself the pleasure? Wedge was mainly dropping his own beats with those really intense, undulating sub-bass lines that really come to life over a soundsystem. "Dogtown", "Vampire", "Fever"...all the 'Hits from Hades' that regular Dark FM listeners have been learning to love these past few months. But also new track "Trenchtown", which, although still driven by a distinctive Wedge-riddim, sees a slight loosening-up of the groove, with the addition of some well-placed hair-trigger skanky guitar licks. Big tune, that one. Definitely one for the ladies, of which there were quite a few in attendance. The track also features a sample from Alvin Lucier's classic tape-process piece "I Am Sitting In A Room", adding some weighty referencialism into the mix. There was also a track with a really weird, lurching riddim, which was apparently made by their other house mate, a guy called Will, who I've seen around a few times, but only got chatting to for the first time last night. It's early days for him yet, but I reckon there could be some potential there...

Wedge gets dark, as Headhunter looks on

Having been fucked-over by the Environmental Health at Subloaded last week, it was great to hear another set from the Headhunter, this time in full sonic effect. His tracks are characterised by serene, almost magisterial arrangements, beautifully executed and always driven by that pumping bassline sound and vast, carefully constructed halfstep beats that are filled with subtle cross-rhythms and percussive inflections. Truly sublime. And if you don't believe me, go ask Youngsta. This is just the beginning for Headhunter. Big plans are afoot, trust me. He also dropped a couple of tunes by Jakes, including the insane bassline gymnastics of "9 Barz". An off-the-cuff remark by Appleblim that Jakes's tunes are "like Coki's, but more fucked up" hits the nail on the head for me. I seriously love his shit. But where was he? A quick trip to the bar downstairs revealed the answer. Looking over the balcony into the main arena revealed that Jakes was busy whipping the d'n'b crowd into a frenzy, unaware that his tune was getting the rewind two floors above him. You see, in the drum 'n' bass world, Jakes is practically famous for his mic skills. He's even done a vocal on a TC tune called "Deep", which is getting heavy play on Radio 1 and prompted none other than Grooverider to proclaim "this is what drum and bass is all about right now". Yet, when he's not being a super-charismatic d'n'b mc, Jakes is at home cooking-up some seriously fucking twisted dubstep futurist shit. Weird, or what? He did manage to make a brief appearance during Headhunter's set, 'slumming it' with his H.E.N.C.H. colleagues, and instantly raised the energy levels by sheer force of personality. Although Scorpio was on hand for some solid hosting, she tends to ride the beats and remain fairly 'transparent', whilst Jakes is totally pro-active, involving the crowd with demands for the reload, and imploring us to "make some noise for the Headhuntaaaaahhh!!". Wherever Jakes is, there's an instant party vibe. But then he was off again, to host another party somewhere else. The man is superhuman.

Jakes, busy being famous downstairs

We were also treated to some more Tech Itch productions, including the venomous "Know", which will be on the second Ascension release, along with "Distort", a new creation featuring some fascinating twists and turns that's sets new standards for rhythmic 140bpm invention. Mr. Itch was actually there in person too, although only as a spectator this time. In a building literally heaving with d'n'b, his decision to hang-out with the dubsteppers upstairs must be an indication of his ever-increasing affinity with this sound.

The final hour was left in the hands of White Boi, back-to-back with latest addition to the H.E.N.C.H. family, Kommonasmuck, who between them managed to fill 60 minutes almost entirely with their own productions, which seem to be coming at an astonishing rate of productivity. The thing is, all these guys cut their teeth writing d'n'b , and the comment that they all make is that writing dubstep is relatively 'easy'. This sort of attitude could be seen as slightly irritating, especially for people like me who think its actually quite difficult, but it's results that count, and they just keep firing out quality tracks at an alarming rate. Some of the new ones, like the epic string-drenched "Hard Life", are industrial-strength half-steppers of the finest calibre. Then there's the brooding bassline wobblers like "Abel Sinner" and "Manson", kicking-out some quality subsonic pressure. Their abilities have not gone unnoticed, as they are scheduled to be on the third release from Ascension, which seems to be shaping-up as a vital imprint for Bristol-originated dubstep music. These guys mean business. I'm sure DMZ was fantastic, but frankly I experienced more than enough quality shit in those three hours to keep me satisfied - and it was only a ten minute journey from my doorstep. My fantasy of a Bristol-based FWD>> community took a huge step towards reality last night. Exciting times ahead...

03 May 2006


As mentioned last week, this month's Gutterbreakz FM is an extra-long special, celebrating the 1st Anniversary of its existence. I started doing this for a laugh one year ago, but somehow it just kept on going, and now its actually starting to become what I always wanted it to be. Although the mixing is hardly perfect, its getting towards a reasonably high standard in places. Over the course of 80 minutes and 30 tracks, there's only one outright trainwreck (sorry about that, Pete!), retaining the gritty live feel of a genuine pirate broadcast, whilst aspiring to a level of accuracy that would've been completely beyond me just a few month's ago. The whole thing was, as usual, recorded live as it happened in real time. I think the mixing loses its way a bit around the 45-60 minute mark, but I managed to regain my focus towards the end for a really satisfying conclusion. Despite the extra duration, this is probably the purest show I've done so far, being almost exclusively dubstep. I guess I wanted to make a bit of a statement this time, although will probably be more eclectic next month. It also features more unreleased material than ever before, and this is a trend I hope to continue with in future.

This is also the first GutterFM to be hosted by SmokeRing. My own server space is pathetically small, but with some help from my friends I'm now able to bring you a longer mix at a slightly improved sound quality, 96kbps, and this will continue for future transmissions, which will be 60 minutes every month from now on.


Delia Derbyshire - Happy Birthday (BBC Records)
Forensics - Warm Storm (dub)
White Boi - Abel Sinner (dub)
Cogent - Dirt Bag (dub)
Secret Agent Gel - Banker (dub)
Appleblim - Fear (dub)
Tech Itch - Implant (Ascension)
Skream - I [Loefah Rmx] (Tempa)
N-Type - Ghetto Yout Rmx (dub)
Bass Clef - Untitled Strings (dub)
Mathhead - Stagger (forthcoming on Pitch Black)
Starkey - Strike Now (Werk)
Kion - Nusrah (dub)
Elemental - Deep Under (Hotflush)
Takomo - Bomb Man (dub)
Amit - I'll Hunt You (forthcoming on Commercial Suicide)
Atomly - Hotdougs Riddim (dub)
J@kes - 3.09 v.1 (dub)
DJ Distance - Temptation (forthcoming on Tectonic)
Atki 2 - Guilty Pleasures [Pinch Rmx] (Werk)
Monkey Steak - Lighthouse Dub (dub)
Moving Ninja - Alien (dub)
Peverlist - All this talk of blood and iron is the cause of all my shaking (dub)
Serantis - Senseless Riddim (Senseless)
Forsaken - Thunder (dub)
DJ Wedge - Dogtown (dub)
Boxcutter - Hyloz (Planet Mu)
Emalkay - Frequency (Boka)
Headhunter - Final Cut (dub)
DJ Kudos - No Man's Land (Soundproof Recordings)
Skuba - Dream (Hotflush)

I haven't the strength to write a blow-by-blow account of all the tracks and artists featured here, but I've added links for anyone interested in finding out more. Links attached to artists/labels will take you to a website, blog or Myspace page relating to them (where known), and links attached to track titles will take you somewhere that you can buy them (where applicable). There's so much that needs to be written about this music, and I know I'm not doing enough. Its getting to the point where I could easily have a full-time job running this blog, but until someone figures out a way of earning a living from blogging, I just have to muddle on as best I can with the little time and energy I have at my disposal. But here's a few quick thoughts and special mentions for some of the music that is currently (or immanantly) available to buy...

Two labels really working hard at the moment are Hotflush and Werk Discs. Hotflush in particular are killing it at the moment, with recent releases from luke.envoy (as featured on last month's show) and Elemental, who's debut "Deep Under/Sparkle" finally found its way into my collection recently. Although I used the A-side in my mix, I actually think the flip might be even better, with a much more subby bassline and spooked-out lashings of electric piano floating around a strong breaks-inflected riddim. Then there's the latest release from Scuba, which again features a really strong B-side in "Dream", with its unashamed display of poignant emotion and serene melodic flow. Beautiful music. There's another Scuba EP on the way on a rather different tip, but I'll talk about that another time.

Werk Discs have two new 4-track EPs out in quick succession, the first from Starkey, of the Philadelphia-based Slit Jockey collective, which really shows-off his wide range of influences. "Strike Now" is the killer cut, a filthy, industrial-strength grimey hybrid that will surely destroy any dancefloor, whilst "The Heat Vulnerable" reveals a more introspective, experimental hip hop approach. "Almost Now" seems to be coming from the Aphex school of drill 'n' bass, which isn't a sound I'm in any hurry to re-appraise, but Starkey's delicately applied melodic touches give it enough emotional impact to work. Then there's the new Atki2 EP, featuring some of his most essential tracks to date. There's still plenty of beat-splicing trickery afoot, but the grooves are rock solid. "Guilty Pleasures" features the wonderful vocal acrobatics of Indi Kaur, which provides the focus for DJ Pinch's characteristically stark, pensive remix. Play side A all the way through and you've got the essence of Bristol's Grim and Dubstep sounds in a nutshell. Landmarks, mate. The flip side is well worth your time too, with "Duty Paid" being one of my personal favourite Atki 2 numbers, mainly due to that playful riff, that could be a pure 'pop' sound in an alternative universe. Take note kids, that's what a decent hook sounds like. I like the new Werk Discs label designs too, along with the customised disco bags. Looks propa!

Emalkay might not be a name that is familiar to everyone, but on the strength of his latest offering on Boka Records, I think this Birmingham-based producer is gonna be in the news a lot in future. He released the "Grimecore Vol.1" EP on Morphic Sounds last year. That was a weird little experimental grime 4-tracker that I never got around to writing about, although I did use one of the tracks from it in my Dubloaded set back in March. But for this new release, Emalkay is focusing on dubstep, and the results are impressive. "Gut Feeling" is a dirty half-stepper which I know has had a lot of airtime on the pirates, whilst "Frequency" marshals an irresistible bass riff with trickling ambient synths and swooping, glassy textures. Mouth-watering stuff. This one's selling fast, so grab it while you can!

I don't know much about Soundproof Recordings, or DJ Kudos for that matter, but I came across "The City" EP in Rooted recently and was hooked from the opening modulated riff of "B-Town", which develops into a monstrously oppressive subsonic soundtrack to your worst nightmares. Its a bit like a Coki tune, but without any joy, just brutal horror-flik vibes. Seriously evil shit, although I chose to use b-side "No Man's Land" in the show as it fit in with the mood at that point. The final track, "There's A Party", is a nice little vocal grime number (MC unknown). I don't know of any web pages specifically relating to Kudos or Soundproof, but you can see his email address on the label if you wanna say hello.

Another Rooted discovery was the first EP from Senseless Records, a five-tracker by Serantis, who I know absolutely nothing about whatsoever, apart from being based in Leeds. This is really a Grime record, but coming more from the dubby end of the spectrum, with some heavy sub pressure, particularly on "Low Riddim", although I selected the "Senseless Riddim" cos I find that horny riff simply irresistible. This is just one example of the sort of odd little grimey records I come across in Rooted every month. I've got loads more here that I haven't mentioned at all yet. I'll get around to it eventually...probably when they're long out of print. Sorry, can't be helped.

I've received a few test pressings recently, including Ascension Records 001, the first dubstep release from Tech Itch, combined with Headhunter's vinyl debut - the magnificent "7th Curse". Although its not due for full release till later this month, a few white labels have been circulating. About fifteen copies appeared at Rooted Records last week, but were sold out within hours. I received a complimentary copy as well, although it arrived after I recorded this mix, so "Implant" was spun in from a cd-r. I'm saving "7th Curse" for next time, but Headhunter is represented here with the equally impressive, and highly exclusive "Final Cut". This boy is gonna be absolutely huge, trust me!

A couple of other white labels appeared in the post, but there's no point scanning the labels cos they're just, y'know, white. Incidentaly, do most djs just annotate the labels themselves when they receive these things? I just can't bring myself to do it, which means I'm always holding them up to the light to read the run-out grooves. It's that collector mentality, you don't wanna deface your records. Anyway, first is the new release from Tempa, featuring two Loefah remixes of classic Skream tunes. "Monsoon" has been played out on dub by the leading djs for what seems like forever. Actually it was conceived two years ago - one of Loefah's earliest halfstep experiments, and as such it's a vital slice of history. His refix of "I" is utterly deadly too. In your shops this week!!

Then there's the new album from Amit Kamboj. I'm not sure why the distributers at S.T. Holdings wanted to send me this...maybe it was cos I played a load of d'n'b in my last Gutter mix, and "Never Ending" is definitely a drum 'n' bass album, although I wasn't sure what speed it was supposed to be at when I first played it! It transpires that its definitely supposed to be played at 45rpm, although I was quite enjoying it at 33. In fact, I found that if I adjusted the turntable's pitch to +9, some of the tracks mixed in well with dubstep, and to prove it I did exactly that in this mix. But its not just about matching bpms...some of these tracks have a particular feel that suggests a similar textural/rhythmical approach to dubstep. For instance, the opening tune, "Unholy" (a collaboration with Outrage), functions like a halfstep riddim, except its at 180bpm instead of the usual 140. And it seems to aspire to similar sonic realms, with lots of space in the mix for some deep sub bass, creepy atmospheric pads and echo-chamber dub environment (perhaps that's why they wanted me to hear it?!) . "Unholy" is a really good track, actually! I might play that one at correct speed in next month's mix. If anyone wants to send me some similarly non-conformist, dub-spacious d'n'b stuff that I can mix-in with it, be my guest (could be letting myself in for it there, mind!). The album comes in either 3 x vinyl or CD format, released by the Commercial Suicide label on 29th May. I might have some more thoughts on it by then...

Finally, just a few quick notes about some of the exclusive tunes on offer. Takomo are a production team from Helsinki in Finland. Their track "Bombman" is on a heavy breakstep tip, and I think they're from a d'n'b background. Its really well produced and apparently they have some serious interest from a couple of UK labels, so fingers crossed for them. N-Type has been extremely generous recently, giving me three exclusive tunes, one of which, "Ghetto Yout" has been a firm favourite of mine since he first started playing it on his Rinse show last summer. I'm playing the remixed version which features a busier riddim pattern. Not sure how many people have heard that, so I'm really pleased to be able to include it here. I also got advance digital versions of the next Tectonic release which, as notified at the Rooted blog recently, will be the first of a mini 10" series this summer. One side will be Skream's "Bahl Fwd", coupled with Distance's "Temptation", which featured in Pinch's mix last year, but I wanted to get it fresh in people's minds, cos its a beauty. There'll be another 10" after that, followed by a CD album thing, but I don't have any firm details on that one yet. Stay tuned...

Finally, thanks once again to all the producers out there sending me bare beats. I tried to represent as many artists as possible here, but it still wasn't enough time to include everyone I wanted. Next time, I promise...

02 May 2006


It had been carefully planned for months, but for the first couple of hours at Subloaded IV, there was a palpable feeling that it might become the biggest anticlimax of the year, sabotaged by the hateful sound-limiters installed at the insistence of the dreaded Environmental Health Officers. The Black Swan hosts extremely loud events on a regular basis, but, probably due to the unbelievable decibels generated by Subloaded II last year, it seems that this particular event has been marked out for special attention by the Powers That Be. The bastards want to kill our sound. And for Headhunter's set at least, that's exactly what they did. Anytime the soundsystem went beyond a certain level, the limiter (an evil little box at the back of the main room) would kick-in and squash the beats flat. Plus the microphones didn't appear to be working, which meant that J@kes and Scorpio were unable to host what remained of Headhunter's music. The 45 minute H.E.N.C.H showcase was utterly annihilated. It was so frustrating. As I mingled in the crowd (where you could easily talk without even having to raise your voice) the general feeling was of despondency and dismay. The limiters had reduced the impact of Subloaded III last November as well, but nowhere near as badly as this. Rumours started floating around that the engineer was gonna try and disconnected the wretched thing. We waited and prayed for a miracle. Things hadn't improved much by the time Blazey and Pinch stepped up to the decks. With the mics still out of action, Blazey gamely played on with a choice selection of grime instrumentals whilst his MCs stood impotently by his side. But I know what this music's supposed to sound like, and I could hardly bare to witness it in this neutered state, so I went for a wander, chatted with Vex'd in the bar, recorded my interview for Madboy's Dubstep documentary in the yard outside, and tried to at least enjoy the socialising.

l-r: unknown, Blazey, Plastician, Skepta

I returned to the main room sometime after midnight to find that The Plastician was already on stage, with a noticeably improved sound, although still nowhere near what it should've been. The beats were hot and Skepta made a surprise appearance on the mic (functioning at last!) but, unbelievably, I just couldn't feel much enthusiasm for it all. That was perhaps partly due to the lack of volume, but also the lack of new Plastician material (the only one of his I noticed was the "Cha VIP"). It seems like ages since he released a record. The last I heard, his album was supposed to be released at the end of last year, but that seems to have disappeared off the agenda. It looks like he's focusing on his djing more these days, but I wanna hear some of his new productions! Admittedly, any set that includes Wiley, Slew Dem and DMZ beats is worth hearing, but I was hungry for some new shit. I wasn't even massively impressed with Skepta's performance, to be honest. He did a few of his customary "go on then, go on then" scats and kept bigging up the "alcoholic massif", but just seemed like he was going through the motions. Or maybe it was just me - my perception tainted by the depressing turn of events. I could see that the crowd were really up for a it, we all wanted to hear a big explosion of sound but it just wasn't coming yet. A couple of guys from Bath introduced themselves to me, explaining how they'd discovered this music from reading my blog (I always love it when people say that) and that this was their first live event. I felt bad for them cos I knew they weren't getting the full picture, although they seemed to be enjoying Plastician. One of them was a bit bemused by all the rewinds. He'd never seem a dj 'pull back' a tune before. I suppose I should've explained about the rewind tradition that comes from Jamaican soundsystem culture, but just said "that's the way its done in this scene, mate".

Behind the scenes, it transpired that the Environmental people had relented, and allowed the limiter to be switched-off, or changed to a different setting, or something. Whatever, by the time DMZ hit the decks, the soundsystem was finally operating at an acceptable level. It wasn't as heavy as Subloaded II, or even last month's Noir, but the sound was full, the bass was punchy and the high end was well-defined. It wasn't crushingly intense, but it sounded nice, and for that we were all extremely grateful and relieved. For me, this was where the evening actually started living-up to my ridiculously high expectations. Mala and Loefah, back-to-back, with Sgt. Pokes on the mic, delivered the goods in fine style. I reckon the absolute peak of pleasure was Loefah's "Mud" going into "Ruffage" (featuring what must surely be the perfect kick drum) and Mala dropping a new Coki tune called, I think, "Torture", utilizing one of those wonderful modulated bassline pulses, that was slightly out of sync with the beats, creating an amazing rhythmic swing that had the crowd in raptures. Mala also sneaked in a couple of his more Techno-influenced 4x4 bangers, including the luscious "Anti War Dub", which met with mixed reactions from my crew, some of whom come from a diehard d'n'b background, but my roots are in the 4/4 pulse of early House and Techno, and I think Mala's bringing a fresh spin on the format that's very appealing to these ears. Wonderful, fantastic music all the way.
DMZ: Mala, Pokes, Loefah

Next on were Vex'd, showcasing their new 'dex 'n' fx' format, which is still in development. Speaking with them beforehand, they explained that their ultimate aim is for a live set that doesn't rely on laptops, using hardware and bringing more 'physicality' to the performance. I think this could be a major development for live dubstep in the future. Even Loefah, a core devotee of the dubplate, has similar plans, and is already experimenting with an MPC unit at home. But for now, the set-up basically involves Jamie handling the turntables, with Rollie fiddling about behind him emitting a subtle range of bleeps, bloops and delicious blankets of pure dub-texture, like watery tape-echo distortion that sweep across the beats in ghostly waves before quickly evaporating. Vex'd are definitely interested in pursuing the more textural, atmospheric possibilities that were only hinted at on their album, and hopefully the results will see the light of day soon, although for this event Jamie was mainly selecting heavy-duty Vex'd beats, interspersed with a bit of DMZ, Distance and vocal grime. He's a very generous dj and likes to bring in lots of beats from other producers, rather than creating a pure Vex'd set. Pure class.

Vex'd: Rollie and Jamie

Youngsta was originally scheduled to play before Plastician, but somehow managed to get double-booked, so was put back to 4am. This was bad news for people like me who struggle through these allnighters, although if he had played in his original time slot the sound would've been fucked, so it was a no-win situation for me. I managed to hang on for the first half of his set, which even in my exhausted state, I could tell was superb. All the stories you hear about him being a very technically precise dj are true. It was a lesson in the art, no mistake. Of course it was all exclusive Transition 10" acetate business, the highlight for me being an amazing new Skream tune that starts out with the standard modulating bassline skank before suddenly plunging into a new section where the bass swoops and shudders in an astonishing way, the sonic equivalent of the sudden decent on a steep rollercoaster. Truly next level bassline science. Someone reckoned the track is called, appropriately enough, "Welcome To The Future", which seems to be confirmed if you look closely at Jack's photo, below...
Youngsta and Task

Amazing stuff, but by this point it was 4.30am, so I reluctantly staggered from the building to the sound of "Monsoon". Despite the early misgivings, the event kicked-off when it really mattered and I'm still basking in the memory of that final three hours. I'm still bitterly disappointed for Headhunter, cos his set was so cruelly sabotaged, but we'll be seeing plenty more of him this month. It was a very respectable turn-out, despite that fact that there didn't seem to be a significant number of Londoners making the trek over. As far as I can tell it was nearly all local support, which is very encouraging. The vibe was generally positive, and everyone was really patient and understanding during the difficult early period. I think there might've been one or two individuals making twats of themselves, but nothing serious. Big-up all the crew who made it, including Appleblim, Boomnoise, Atki2, Delsa, Wedge, Luke Envoy, Pete Bubonic, Kymatic, ThinKing and Kid Kut, Rich B, White Boi, Jack (lush photos, mate!) , Kommonasmuck, and the bloke who traveled over from Aberystwyth. I'll finish with a mini-gallery of us, the punters, the fans and supporters, the fucking soundheadz, during those wonderful peaks of shared experience. Come meditate on this...