Astride the momentum of Magnetic Man’s chart success, and with such swooning vocalists as Katy B and Anneka, 2010 was the year that dubstep achieved mass appeal and was catapulted into mainstream-consciousness. In its wake a new sound was born. With elements of Chicago Juke, Baltimore House, Hip Hop and UK Funky combined with the murky bass-heaviness by which its parent is known, this peculiar subgenre has evaded generalisation and shattered preconceptions.
If dubstep was born chiefly on British shores, and fed upon a diet of claustrophobic Croydon record-stores and London’s pirate radio stations, then this is its expansive and worldly child; the post-dubstep diaspora are as varied as they are plentiful. ‘Night Slugs’ is one label that has succeeded to bring the sound together. The London creation of Alex Bok Bok and Brighton-born L-Vis 1990, the Night Slugs crew have taken on an identity of their own this year, releasing a succession of records each one as innovative as the last. Their most recent, Girl Unit’s WUT EP, is hailed by seminal music-magazine FACT as “massive, euphoric, a tune, big, banging, thrashing, whatever adjective you might want to throw at it”.
With Brooklyn-based Kingdom, Night Slugs have consummated their American-connection. Kingdom lists Aaliyah, Brandy and Swizz Beats amongst his inspirations: in his ‘That Mystic’ EP, vocals ranging from Ciara to Beyonce are churned up then spliced amongst a shuddering rush of synths. Kingdom is one of the plethora of producers to have experimented with splicing vocals to unrecognizable degrees this year; but his are especially haunting, especially ephemeral, as they hover airily before the descent into the breakdown as percussion and sub-bass both melt away.
At 19, Lil Silva is Night Slugs’ youngest beatmaker, and perhaps hardest to place. Though his roots lie in with such grime-mainstays as the Macarbe Unit and Marcus Nasty, who provided his earliest endorsement in the game, Lil Silva denies easy bracketing and has since crossed over into funky, house and bassline, where his 8-bit beats maraud under a variety of guises. Of his recent ‘Night Skanker’ EP, ‘Golds to Get’ swaggers between carnival-like rhythms and Silva’s own sampled vocals, while ‘Pulse vs Flex’ possesses that raw energy of percussion associated with grime as sharp synth-bursts are laden over the top.
This mutated-bass music has been equally nascent north of the border. For 7 years Glaswegian collective ‘Numbers’ have provided the whole gamut of electronic dance music. From founding influences including Ghostface Killah and Autechre, Numbers have discovered the new sensations of Deadboy, SBTRKT and Kavsrave. In ‘Way That I Love You’ and ‘Long Way 2 Go’, Deadboy tears the conventions of Ashanti and Cassie to shreds as their vocals are torn and then reformed around compressed synths that sparkle for a moment then are gone. Kavsrave’s ‘PClart’ and Taz Buckfaster’s ‘Gold Tooth Grin’ offer a sugar-rush of melodies as smooth and effeminate as those coming from the more established, Bristol-born ‘Purple Wow’ dubstep luminaries Joker, Guido and Gemmy.
From Numbers to Optimo, RubADub to LuckyMe, Glasgow is whatever you want it to be: its eclecticism is remarkable relative to its size. It is a city filled with tales of musical-DIY, all starting from humble beginnings, all without the backing of a distinguished super-club. Such local talents as Rustie and the prodigious Hudson Mohawke, whose debut album ‘Butter’ was released by Warp Records last year and who recently toured with MF Doom, have ascended to the world stage and spawned such tongue-in-cheek phrases as ‘aquacrunk’ to describe their beats done the Glasgow way.
There is a certain symbiotic relationship between all of these collectives, north and south. 20-year-old Canadian Jacques Greene will release imminently on both the Glaswegian LuckyMe and London’s Night Slugs. Beyond geographical and social borders this music is intertwined: the Numbers crew regularly descend upon such London clubs as Fabric, and Night Slugs repay the favour, with Girl Unit raising the sold-out roof of Glasgow’s Sub Club in early November. As with any thriving scene, these are the tales of the many, not the few.