31 March 2007


The urge for a bloody good Spring-clean has come upon me and, as part of the effort to rid my groaning shelves and choked cupboards of all superfluous flotsom, I took the decision to finally dispose of all my DAT tapes. This is not something I do lightly: Those DATs represent nearly a decade of personal musical expression and experimentation. But I haven't had a working DAT player for several years and besides all the best stuff got transferred to cd-r ages ago. I had half a mind to try and sell them, but I'd only do that if they were blanked first, which I have neither the time, inclination or facility to do. So they've been consigned to the dustbin, for the sake of a few extra precious inches of space in my little den.

It occurs to me that there might be some readers who don't even know what DAT tapes are. For a quick history check the Wikipedia entry. DAT tape never caught on as a serious alternative to cassette or cd in the consumer electronics market, but by the early nineties it had become the standard format for mastering in professional and amateur studios alike. All your favourite tunes from the early hardcore/jungle days were almost certainly recorded on these babies. I bought my first DAT recorder in 1993 - a budget model by Aiwa - and it completely revolutionised my recording methods, simply because I was able to record, copy and playback music in perfect digital fidelity for the first time. Those tapes weren't cheap - about a fiver for a 90-minute version - but I loved them. I remained loyal even when mini-discs came out offering cool editing features. Yet now, in the age of cheap hard disc recording solutions and even cheaper supplies of CD-r/CD-wr/DVD-r , they seem as archaic as the old 8-track cartridges of the seventies.

Farewell, my beauties, you have served me well...

30 March 2007


Thanks to The Blissblogger for sending all his loyal readership over to check my 'UK Pressure Mix'. My bandwidth is getting annihilated as I type. Check the 'Woebot/Funky House' controversy while you're there. Matt's championing of the funky 'scene' (which is in itself open to interpretation) coupled with his pouring scorn on the dubstep and minimal/micro scenes and postulating that innovation within the 'nuum is essentially dead, was bound to trigger heated debate among the Dissensus cognoscenti, which was no doubt his intention. But I'm a 'live and let live' kinda guy these days (definitely going soft in my old age - as long as people keep making music I like, then I'm happy) so I'm not gonna get embroiled in all that, but it does make for fascinating reading.

Thanks also to Droid for the linkage and additional commentary. When I wrote about the difficulties of mixing at slower tempos, I hadn't even considered that the tracks themselves, powered by steam-driven sequencers and sloppily edited loops, might actually have minor tempo variations hidden within them like booby traps waiting for the unwary dj! How much truth there is in that I'm not sure, but I'm prepared to put my faith in Droid's appraisal, cos it makes me feel better about things!

PS. Over 18 months after I gave this blog a makeover, I finally got around to giving it a logo (see top of page). Now at last passing surfers will know what this blog's called!

28 March 2007


Another name to add to the growing list of Bristol-based dubstep labels: Mode Recordings. Mode will be tapping into the vast resources of the local scene, along with some choice international artists. The first release is due to drop this week, featuring the long overdue vinyl debut of White Boi (left) in collaboration with Komazmuk. The A side is 'Shank Step' (as featured in the mix I recorded for riddim.ca last July) with 'Bless' on the flip, perfectly showcasing the high production values and textural depth that these guys bring to the agenda. Muted trumpets parry and thrust with wraith-like vocal swoons, spooked-out echo droplets and fibrous layers of dub-tissue flicker across these typically brooding halfstep workouts. As anyone who tunes into Wedge's weekly Sub FM radio show will know, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There's already an enormous backlog of material waiting in the wings, but hopefully Mode's commitment to a monthly release schedule (which will also be available to download via Boomkat's MP3 boutique shortly) will help to redress the balance.

24 March 2007


I finally managed to sort out a few problems I had with my hosting service, which means that I now have a bit more space to play with - but still a relatively minuscule amount of storage; only enough to service my own needs, so don't go asking for any favours, okay? This, combined with the rather nifty 'FireFTP' extension (a neat little FTP file manager for Firefox that I only recently discovered) will hopefully encourage me to get more audio up on this blog again in future. For now, I've reinstated my Post-Natal Oppression Mix, for anyone who missed it first time, and thought I might as well go public with an oldskool mix I recorded, but was a bit unsatisfied with, recently. A few close friends, and Dissensions, will already have heard this via the original Yousendit upload, and although I still don't think I achieved what I set out to do, and god knows there's more than enough dodgy dj-mixes online as it is, the responses I've had back were encouraging enough to make me turn a blind eye to it's shortcomings. So here it is, for anyone who fancies a listen...

UK Pressure Mix 90-91
50 mins, 128kbps
Cabaret Voltaire - What Is Real (Virtual Reality Mix)
Man Machine - Man Machine (Electronik - Automatik)
F-X-U - The Scheme
Success - 808 (Tripwire)
Ubik - Non Stop Techno
Tomas - African Dream
Bass Culture - Facts Of Life (Bleeper Mix)
The Step - Yeah You (Robert's Dub 2)
Sweet Excorcist - Samba
Rhythmatic - Demons
Bassix - Close Encounters (Club Mix)
The Scientist - The Bee (Gargle Mix)
Nightmares On Wax - Sal Batardes
Unique 3 - Weight For The Bass (Original Soundyard Dubplate Mix)
Xon - Bopulate
LFO - LFO Remix

Recording a mix from this period has been on the back of my mind for ages. I just don't see much of this stuff represented anymore. Most oldskool mixes I've come across tend to focus on the hardcore milieu from '93 and beyond (in fact there's a new one up at Bloggariddims this week) but I think there's a fascinating period around 1990-91, when British techno first started to have it's own identity. Whilst London had it's proto-junglist rave scene, it was the Northern sound that I really felt drawn towards. It didn't really have a name then, but now it's generally referred to as Bleep & Bass. I've already written about this quite a bit in the past so won't dwell on definitions too much. But what I wanted was to try and capture the flavour of that time, as I remember it, through the records I bought. I also wanted to try to recreate the sort of dj mix I would've recorded at the time, as my earliest attempts at mixing were with these kind of tunes.

As with all my mixes, it was recorded entirely live, without too much forward planning, because I like to try and capture something spontaneous and emotionally-driven. No other method of mix creation holds the slightest interest for me. But obviously this approach is very hit-and-miss. I've already had several aborted attempts at recording this mix. This was the first one I even got close to achieving my aims. But the mixing is a bit wonky in places (I've heard others say that beat matching gets trickier the slower the tempo, and I think I have to agree. As an example, I've also been having fun recently mixing d'n'b from the mid-90s Metalheadz/Moving Shadow/No U-Turn period with far more accurate results). The recording levels are variable and there's some unwanted distortion here and there (trying to digitally capture these sub-heavy analogue platters is an art in itself) and I don't think it packs enough content - it should've been longer. But what there is, I'm quite happy with. Perhaps one or two tracks jar with each other, but the important thing is that it's an unusual selection, focusing mainly on b-sides, alternate mixes and '2nd Division' tracks that have been largely forgotten.

A few comments on individual tracks...

Cabaret Voltaire were a natural starting point for this mix. Afterall, they were the godfathers of the whole Northern independent electronic scene, with a legacy extending back to 1974. 'What Is Real', on Belgian indie label Le Disques Du Crepescule, was their first release after leaving EMI, and seemed like a total reaction against the more commercial material they produced for the major label. Stephen Mallinder still contributed vocals on the A-side, but it was obvious his time on the mic was nearly over. His limited vocal style was from another era. The instrumental 'Virtual Reality' mix on the flip stands-up far better. In fact, I think I was subliminally trying to achieve this sound with some of my own tracks last year. Of course, the Cabs' other member, Richard H. Kirk, was enjoying parallel success with Sweet Exorcist at this time. Their big track was 'Test One', but I thought it would be more fun to dust-off 'Samba' from the Clonk remix 12" which was the template for their 'C.C.E.P.'

Eagle-eyed trainspotters might've noticed that Man Machine's eponymous track was actually released in 1989. I guess I wanted it in there to give a bit of contrast. As I mentioned recently, it strikes me that there's a sort of gulf between the post-acid sound of the late eighties and what came next in the early nineties. Even though it points towards the future, 'Man Machine' still seems partly rooted in that hip house sound a la Coldcut, Bomb The Bass, Simon Harris, etc, full of novelty film dialogue samples and a big catchy vamp. On the flip are two alternate mixes in collaboration with The Forgemasters, which jettison most of the cheese, but I wanted to get a little taste of where we'd just been before showing where we actually were.

Ubik's 'Non-Stop Techno' was, until now, my best kept secret. From the EP of the same name, released on Zoom Records, it's head and shoulders above anything else they ever recorded during their brief career. And it's anything but techno as we knew it then. More like a minimal electro experiment, with a deadly, convulsing sub bass battling with obsessively juggled beats. That tuned 808 cowbell 'solo' slays me everytime. One of the most adventurous tracks I ever heard from that period.

Robert Gordon's 'Dub 2' was the final, most extreme and emptied-out of three versions he turned-in for The Step's 'Yeah You' remix 12", released on Warp. Experimenting with on-the-fly dub-echo fx and something like a proto-wobble bass skit, the EP as whole is one of my favourite one-riddim excursions of the period. As I've always maintained, Gordon exerted a colossal influence on this sound overall, both as a backroom engineer and through his work with Unique 3 and The Forgemasters. He's also represented here in collaboration with Richard H. Kirk, as Xon, with the track 'Bopulate', from the one-off EP they released on Network Records. A truly inspirational figure.

Although the mix focuses on the sparse drum machine programming associated with the Northern sound, I wanted to catch a glimpse of breakbeat too, and 'Close Encounters' by Bassix was an obvious choice, featuring a lovely bleep rendition of the film's classic five-note catch-phrase, over some filthy looped breaks, subby bass and sizzling 808 hi-hats. It's great, but I must say not quite in the same league as the 'Warpy' stuff in terms of mastering and bass density. Also featured is one of the lesser-known versions of 'The Bee' by The Scientist. I was very keen on the early breakbeat sound of Kickin' Records and no mix from that era would be complete, or honest, without a little touch of flava from that school.

Whether or not this is 'UK Pressure Mix version 1' or 'Part 1' remains to be seen. I don't think I'll be ready to have another go for a little while, but suspect I will get the urge to explore this era again at some point, possibly with a slightly different emphasis.

21 March 2007


A couple of intriguing 12-inchers that have come to my attention recently. Both coming from mysterious sources in Germany and both focused on a minimal slice 'n dice approach to dubstep that takes no prisoners.

First came Stamp Archive 001. I assumed that the label and artist were the same thing, a la Sleeparchive, but whoever submitted this release to Discogs reckons the artist is somebody called Jegor Teplow, and confirms the rumour that Sleeparchive co-produced the record, which seems perfectly believable. The beats have the same dry, clinical edge, with subtly applied reverbs adding splashes of depth and colour. Both 'L A C' and 'Russia' are broadly experimenting in the halfstep mold, but the arrangements are far more austere and artificial, cruel and heartless. But there is a strong emotional content via the simple but effective melodic synth parts which extend a friendly, if slightly clammy, hand to the listener. It's not blowing my mind, but I like it.

'Aeto', by Anstam arrived almost simultaneously. Who's that? I have absolutely no idea. The record comes lavishly sheathed in two layers of good quality black sleeve, and has a proper printed label, but is totally unforthcoming with regards to minor details like, er, track titles or anything else that might give some clue to it's origins. The two tracks display an even more ruthless cyborg intent, with busier beats like sexless 2-Step stripped of the synthetic flesh, cleaving the air like a rampaging exo-skeleton. The vicious electronic blurps, blips and squawks are bolstered by occasional flurries of funky tabla, undulating bass frequency, nasty overdriven kick drums and ominous layers of ambient texture. This one's big.

Whether these are a just a brief flirtation or an opening salvo from a minimally-inclined army of euro-steppers remains to be seen, but I for one am waiting with bated breath...

20 March 2007


It's funny how certain artists kind of drift off my radar, sometimes for years, but then I gradually become aware of them again - like Anthony Child aka Surgeon, who's been exerting a strong gravitational pull recently. His name seems to crop-up in all the right places, and then I hear things like his remix of Monolake's "Alaska", which draws me inexorably back into his orbit (and anyone needing a crash course in Surgeon-lore better go check his website).

Like Villalobos, he's another established Techno dj/producer who's been acknowledging the influence of dubstep, though in a very discreet way. To get a good idea of where his head is at these days, check his recent mix over at Spannered, which has a nice sense of pace and development, running the techno gamut from frigid 4/4 through broken/dirty electro-flavours (I'm still a sucker for the old distorted kick drums) and using a few tunes that I've also been mixing with during my practice sessions in recent times, like the old Jeff Mills 'Enforcement' mix , 'Handwerk' by Add Noise and 'TV Controls Your Mind' - one of my favourite tracks by Warlock precisely because it has that sparse, techy feel about it.

Surgeon's latest release is the "Whose Hands Are These?" EP, a 12" four-tracker just out on Dynamic Tension Records. The real eye-opener here is the Autechre remix - I was amazed that they'd come up with such a hard, propulsive version after so many years of abstract, undanceable nonsense. In some ways, the whole EP reminds me of that period around 1994-95, when Autechre and others were making some incredibly experimental electronica, but still with enough of the black stuff to make it work on the dancefloor - remember the 'Basscad' and 'Anti ' EPs? It's not melodic, but the beats are punchy and the textures are crunchy. Serious shit. I'm well up for it.

15 March 2007


Well, I had a vague notion it was gonna happen, but still I got a bit of a shock earlier today whilst idly flicking through the latest issue of Mixmag in W.H.Smith's. It's one of those magazines I haven't checked for ages, but the cover promised a 'Best Of British' feature explaining 'why UK dance music is back on top with Optimo, Klaxons, Dubstep and a raving nation', which I thought sounded vaguely intriguing. I assumed there might be a little feature on someone like Skream, or perhaps Youngsta, but it seems that Mixmag is already exploring beyond the boundaries of dubstep's Croydon heartland. The mag fell open on page 80, and there under the title 'Home Win For Bristol Ravers' (ouch!), all my crew - Headhunter, Peverelist, Joker, Pinch, Blazey and Atki2 - were staring back at me. It's a strange feeling, to see all these people you know, perhaps in some cases even consider to be friends, suddenly becoming The Next Big Thing in an established glossy publication like this. I felt something a bit like fatherly pride, but also a twinge of anxiety, cos until now I felt like I had a little monopoly on reporting about this regional scene, but now they're all coming of age and moving on, upwards and outwards, which is entirely as it should be. I feel a bit like I did after the first big dubstep special on Mary Anne Hobbs early last year, when the original London scene blew-up so spectacularly...a sense of redundancy, that having helped to midwife the scene through it's earlier phase, my job was done. But that's just me being stupid and elitist. I'm really pleased for these guys and I hope they all become absolutely fucking huuuge....

...just like Shackleton, who got a whole page to himself. When that first Skull Disco promo cd-r landed on my doorstep two years ago, I could tell it was something original, but I never dreamed it would develop into anything more than an esoteric sub-sector of the dubstep landscape. Yet now Mixmag are hailing Shackleton as "poised to become one of dubstep's first stars", and, for reasons I've already made clear recently, it couldn't happen to a more deserving case. Sometimes the good guys do win! I might post scans of the pages for the overseas crew, but I'm gonna wait until this issue is out of circulation, cos I don't wanna upset anyone again.

Actually, this edition is a pretty good read all-round. Also featured in the 'Best Of British' section are Chantelle Fiddy's report on Grime at the ICA and the rise of Funky House on the capitol's pirate stations (as predicted by Blackdown a few months back), plus reports on Birminghams' Acid House revival scene and the popularity of Hard Dance raves in the south west. Oh, and a big feature on The Klaxons. I heard one of their tunes recently. My response? Comfortably numb.

Plus Q&A with Goldie (the new Rufige Kru album is a spectacular return to form for the Metalheadz mainman, by all accounts) and all the usual news, reviews and nice photos on nice paper. Who says the printed word is dead??

10 March 2007


I had to laugh earlier this week, when sorting through some old vinyl. Came across this compilation called Teutonic Beats - Opus 2, released on E'G Records way back in the dark ages (1989, to be precise). E'G was a decent art rock sub-label of Virgin Records, set up in the seventies to release music by acts like Roxy Music, Brian Eno, King Crimson and, later on, Killing Joke. The Joke's roadie was a guy called Alex Patterson, who as we all know would later achieve huge success with ambient-house pioneers The Orb. He gets a mention on the credits for this compilation, so I assume he had a hand in compiling it. There's a really good reason why I haven't played this record for many years: it's not that great. Apart from the fact that it was made back in the days when it was acceptable to cram ten tracks onto a single piece of vinyl, the music on offer gives absolutely no hint of the colossal influence the Germans would bring to bear on Techno in the following decade. Despite contributions from Westbam and Thomas Fehlmann, the collection lacks any kind of defining character or sense of direction, being merely a stylistic mish-mash that freely pillages from the easy-going hip-house styles emanating from the UK at that time, with a dash of Belgian New Beat.

But what really made me chuckle was spotting the name Von Oswald in the writing credits for a couple of tracks. A quick bit of research revealed that this was in fact Moritz Von Oswold, aka Maurizio, aka one half of Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound, undoubtedly one of the most influential producers to emerge from the Berlin school in the past fifteen years. Listening to 'Love Park', recorded under the Marathon alias with his then partner Ralf Hertwig, it's hard to believe that just four years later he'd be releasing seminal Basic Channel tracks like 'Phylyps' onto an unsuspecting world. I don't think this necessarily reflects badly on Von Oswold as an individual, but it does help to illustrate the sort of gigantic leaps that were being made all over the continent during that incredible time. Compare the 'cutting edge' dance music of 1989 with that of 1993, and it barely recognisable.

By the mid-90s, Von Oswald had perfected a kind of stripped-down, dubbed-out techno that's still inspiring producers today. With tracks like 'M6', all the activity happens at close quarters: the barest fluctuation in equalization...a minor percussive flutter in the distance...the more you focus inward the more information the rhythm yields. Then pull-back and view the track as a whole and it becomes a serene, tranquilizing wash of pure 'rhythm and sound'. To quote Eno's definition of ambient music, it really is as 'ignorable as it is interesting'; the onus is on the listener to decide what level of attention he or she is prepared to devote to it. From a dj's point of view, these sort of tracks make excellent mixing tools: their gradually evolving nature, coupled with extended duration, providing acres of creative space for prolonged beat-matching excursions, and certainly useful in a three deck situation, one would assume.

For the past decade, Von Oswald and his partner Mark Ernestus have been moving ever nearer to pure dub; as likely to create some fearfully empty extended instrumental as they are to construct a more concise, accessible vocal track, working with the cream of Berlin-based roots reggae vocalists. But always at the core is that minimal intent, combined with arcane recording techniques, whereby the tracks are artificially 'aged' through some kind of analogue mangling process, piling on the tape compression and noise levels until the music sounds buried, oxidized, calcified - 'Burial Mixes', indeed!. For the uninitiated, a good place to start exploring would be the "With The Artists", "The Versions" and "See Mi Ya" collected works. The latter is the most recent - an exercise in constructing a 'one riddim' project, an old Jamaican ploy whereby various singers record their own vocal versions over the same backing track. Serious converts should head for the 7x7" collected package, which includes some addition dubs (but don't believe anybody who describes it as a 'box set' - it's just seven singles in plain white bags sandwiched between two pieces of card, which, unless you're not intending to break the shrink-wrap, needs to be held together with an elastic band!).

08 March 2007

Cap dead? No! It can't be!!

Mind you, I seem to recall Superman died a few years back, and it doesn't seem to have done him any harm.

Come to think of it, Captain Britain died twice in the space of a couple of years. Still going strong.

The most newsworthy thing about this is that The Daily Mirror should even consider it to be newsworthy. I mean, who gives a fuck about Steve Rogers in the UK? Must've been a slow day at the office.

05 March 2007


One of those freeview channels - fTN, I think - has been screening old Space 1999 episodes recently. Now, I remember being a big fan back in the day. I watched the show, read the Look-In comic strip, played the board game, had a toy version of the laser gun that lit-up plus the action figures and a model of one of the Eagle craft, etc etc. Of course, that's all gone now. All I managed to find in my trash archive was a set of playing cards made by Whitman (see image). Worth a punt on e-bay, I wonder?

Anyway, I've been really disappointed with the shows. Or maybe disappointed with myself for finding them so fucking unwatchable. The acting is awful, the scripts are dire and the dialogue (especially the bits where Koenig an co. are having a 'light hearted moment') makes me wanna spit. Surely I should be appreciating all those things? Fuck, I'm losing the plot.

You wanna know which repeats I'm really enjoying?

The Crystal Maze.


You remember it, right? The show hosted by Richard O'Brien (of Rocky Horror fame) where the contestants have to win crystals to buy time in the Maze at the end, and hopefully win a crap camping holiday if they collect enough gold tokens. I watch it with the kids. We're all loving it. My eldest gets all tense, and I keep telling him, "son, don't worry, everything you see happened long before you were born". Dig those eighties haircuts. Actually, most of the ones I've watched were made around 1992. We forget that the early nineties still had a big hangover from the eighties. I think it was 'The Rachel' haircut from 'Friends' that finally killed eighties hairstyles.

So there you have it - I like the Crystal Maze more than Space 1999. How the hell did that happen?


I know I've been seriously lax with the record reviews, but will try to redress the problem this month. Maybe. First it's time for a quick trawl through the current crop of releases coming out of my home town. Of course, I'm in an impossible position because I'm friendly with the people running the labels and socialize with several of the artists featured, so it's not like I can say anything bad about them, is it? Just take everything I say with a pinch of salt, then go check out the audio clips at the vinyl emporium of your choice and draw your own conclusions...

Peverelist - Erstwhile Rhythm/The Grind (Punch Drunk)
I feel like I've already reviewed these trax in furtive snatches since the end of last year. What more can I say? Apparently, when the 12" finally rolled out of the pressing plant, Hard Wax in Berlin ordered a massive batch - fuel-injecting Bristolian minimalism straight into the main vein of the Techno heartland. Incidentally, I hear that the Skull Disco roadshow was a big hit when Appleblim and Shackleton descended on the German kapitol last month. Appleblim got to meet the Rhythm & Sound crew in person and much mutual back-slapping ensued. 'The Grind', along with Appleblim's forthcoming 'Vansan' clearly points the way towards a reconciliation with minimal techno's streamlined pulse and dubbed-out hypno-chords. I don't claim by any stretch that this is the be-all and end-all for underground innovation, but I do have a certain emotional investment in this approach, and it's great that a small pocket of UK-based minimal exploration is happening right on my doorstep, as showcased when Appleblim and Peverelist went back-to-back at Dubloaded last week. Doppelganger and I arrived just as they were spinning 'Space Break' by T++ (aka Monolake's Torsten Pröfrock), which kinda speaks volumes. Mind you, I'm not suggesting that they're trying to set themselves apart as some kind of alternate stream - 'Blim dropped a couple of wicked cuts from the forthcoming Skreamisms 3 EP - but, y'know, it gives me something to write about...

Joker - Kapsize EP ('earwax)
Spotted at Dubloaded gulping down a bottle of lager, so we can assume that 'adolescent genius' Joker has finally turned 18 years of age. And what a great way to celebrate entering manhood, with his debut four-track EP on Tectonic sub-label 'earwax. A quick search of this blog reveals the earliest mention of Joker was 18 months ago. He was pretty amazing back then, so obviously expectations were high for this (even though Plastician gets first dibs on all his best stuff, by all accounts). Now I'm the first to admit that I've not really been following the Grime for some time, but if everything was as good as this I'd still be buying all those over-priced white labels! 'Stuck In The System' is a perfect opening gambit, exhibiting the grimy penchant for quasi-orchestral maneuvers and taking it into the stratosphere with a beautifully arranged (dare I say composed?!) mini road-symphony incorporating a veritable pit of string and brass timbres, underpinned by a rude octave bass that nonchalantly swerves across note and metre with a jagged confidence that belies Joker's tender years and quiet nature. Then my personal favourite, 'Grimy Princess', a sublime concoction of viscous textural layers, phat synth bass and mutant electro flavas - 808 snares and rimshots set to stun. On the flip, 'The Bop' lowers the temperature slightly with a more lo-slung arrangement of buzzing bass riff and spidery square wave melody cycles. Not bad, by anyone's standards, but I bet Joker can write tunes like this in his sleep. The set concludes in fine style with the juddering hyper-electroid stutter groove of 'JV Anderson', a maze of tight edits, filter breakdowns and hard-rollin' riffery that leaves me stunned with admiration. This is just the beginning for Joker...world domination is surely inevitable.

V/A - Substratum EP (Immerse)
Rising from the ashes (or should that be still burning embers?) of the Noir club, the Immerse imprint is dedicated to releasing anything that comes under the banner of 'breakbeat and subculture', though with a heavy bias towards dubstep, so far. The first release played it safely with a nice collaboration between Benga & Walsh, followed by a detour into d'n'b drumfunkery courtesy of Andy Skopes (and, for the record, I thought the a-side 'Otis Drumfunk' was pretty neat). Now comes the most daring and ambitious release to date - an EP in two separate parts, showcasing some of the newer talent to emerge from the dubstep scene, slanted towards Bristol, but also featuring Spanish duo 23hz & Numaestro, who's 'Galleon Dub' opens proceedings sounding not unlike a stripped-back homage to the dark, pioneering work of Benny Ill/Horsepower Productions, with eerie crooning Indian voices swimming over a restless groove awash with ominous waves of dub-distortion. Side 2 is given over to that mercenary label-hopper Atki2, and 'Douceur' is one of his more straight-ahead halfstep offerings, swimming with playful wobble bass gymnastics, eastern atmospherics of uncertain origin, flickers of spanish guitar and distant reverb detonations. The hyper-edited sound of Grim Dubs Vol.5 seems like a distant memory now. (By the way, we managed to sneak over to Goatlab to check out part of Atki2's mammoth head-to-head with Dub Boy last week, too. Despite being more of a breakcore and gabba night, their grime/dubstep/dancehall clash attracted an enthusiastic little crowd, although I suspect Atki2's material might've been a bit too cerebral for a party of that nature. We'd been hoping to check out Dan Gusset's set as well, but he'd already played by that point. Oh well, we'll catch him one day).

Moving on to part two, 'Sitar Dub' is the work of Diem, who I'm not familiar with personally, but I've been hearing the track played out locally on dub for months. It features the same "strictly yard music" sample as Kion's 'Yard Music', but there the similarity ends. The main focus is the interplay between a resonant synth line and a plucked sitar sample, with a massive, heavily echoed electronic clap holding down the groove, and thick layers of sub and wobble bass pressure beneath. Last but by no means least comes 'Thunder' by Forsaken (aka Pete Bubonic). It must be nearly a year since Pete first handed me this one on cd-r, and I played it at Dubloaded last April, then on Gutterbreakz FM the following month, so you can probably guess I'm rather keen on it. If I recall (and I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong), this was one of Pete's earliest attempts at exploring the emptier, more atmospheric end of dubstep (his background is more breakbeat, d'n'b and techstep, with a strong allegiance to grime) and he sort of nailed it at first attempt, with an unfathomable palette of textural elements flowing between ethereal calm and gritty violence. The unpredictable placing of the snare makes it notoriously tricky to mix with, but I like a challenge. It's a true original - I've still yet to hear anything else quite like it, and nice to see it finally enshrined on wax. Big up all concerned!

Moving Ninja - Formations EP (Tectonic)
Yes, I know this isn't Bristol music, but it's the latest release on Pinch's Tectonic imprint, and besides Bristol-based labels are the only ones in the world to date that have sanctioned vinyl releases by this brilliant Australian artist, so he's family as far as I'm concerned. I'm no stranger to these tracks either, as Ninja's Paul Jebanasam personally sent me them, along with a whole bunch of other tunes, on cd-r over a year ago - 'Uranium' featured on Gutterbreakz FM exactly 12 months ago. I swear, that cd-r is like the best unreleased album project you can imagine. Thankfully, Pinch was similarly impressed enough to commission a second Ninja EP, and I applaud his choice of material. 'Blackout' emerges from an angry buzz of pylon static before stealthily thrusting forward with a writhing, morphic riff , blistering swathes of drone-matter and multi-layered percussion, all bolted together with an ultra hard, techy halfstep beat. 'THX' edges out into more abstract territory, whilst 'Kemancheh' dwells in some improbably ancient ethnic twilight world, propelled by a slurred metallic bass note and ritualistic percussion loops. Finally, the real jewel in the crown is 'Uranium', a stunningly evocative ambient vista that conjures a powerful sense of the vastness of Jebanasam's native environment, with the mournful pad melody adding an extra dimension of strong emotional impact. A truly outstanding piece of music and a damn fine record all round.