Bristol Bass Music Scene Report
2010 was an eventful year for the Bristol underground. Liam from the Liquid Steel Sessions, one of the most forward thinking Soundsystem crews in Sheffield has this report…
2010 saw Easton’s Dubstep wonderkid Joker sign a publishing deal with heavyweight label Universal and a landmark collaboration between some of the local scene’s luminaries and Jamaican Dub engineer Scientist. Curated by Tectonic label boss DJ Pinch, Scientist Launches Dubstep into Outerspace received widespread critical acclaim and featured reworkings of local material from Guido, RSD and Pinch himself.
After a year that also witnessed the untimely passing of nationally respected independent record shop Rooted Records and the closing and subsequent re-opening of The Black Swan, it’s clear that things don’t always run smoothly. However, the outlook for 2011 from numerous DJs, artists and promoters is unanimously positive. At a time when commercial Dubstep is finding favour in the mainstream, the emergence of more experimental Techno & House oriented sounds feature heavily in the Bristol landscape. Local label Idle Hands – founded by Rooted Record’s Chris Farrell encapsulates the city’s turn towards more niche aspects of established genres. With previous releases from the likes of Headhunter, Kowton & Peverelist, Farrell feels Bristol’s somewhat laid-back approach allows the chance to carve out unrestricted styles and sounds, removed from the London hype machine:
“We’re kind of shielded from hype a little bit in Bristol. We just get on with things. Things move a bit slower which gives us a bit of breathing space.”
Filling the void left by Rooted is Farrell’s new venture – an Idle Hands Records shop. Despite being faced with the increasingly low markup on vinyl, Chris still sees the independent record shop as viable and important: “There’s still room for a shop that’s geared towards Bristol’s underground music scene.” Stocking all the usual Reggae, Dubstep, Drum & Bass, House & Techno vinyl as well as Bristol memorabilia, books and clothing, the new shop opens on Stokes Croft next month.
On the Reggae side of things, Ruffnek Diskotek’s DJ Dub Boy is noticing the start of a new musical cycle in the city: “It reminds me of 2004 when Dubstep was starting to come through”. He sees the emergence of the younger generation and nights such as Peng Sound! displaying a renewed interest in Reggae & Dub. On a personal level, Dub Boy is currently building a home studio in an attempt to tap into the raw vocal talents in the city. Notions of a Reggae revival were echoed by roots veteran and one half of Dubkasm, DJ Stryda. Whilst very busy with a flurry of releases forthcoming on the Dubkasm imprint, a number of shows across Europe alongside vocalist Solo Banton as well as continuing the legendary Teachings in Dub at Trinity centre; Stryda is buoyed by the revitalised Soundsystem culture in the city:
“Another generation are now building dub, buying vinyl and even starting soundsystems of their own. It’s important the baton gets handed on and the fire keeps burning!”
Both Stryda & Dub Boy have seen the influence of Dub & UK Steppas in the productions of Sureskank duo Gorgan Sound – made up by local DJs Kahn & Neek. Having had support from various Bristol luminaries including Rob Smith (RSD) of Smith & Mighty, Gorgan Sound have no planned releases – at the moment choosing to stay under the radar with a few choice dubplates doing the rounds. Conversely, Kahn’s solo productions are putting faith back into the more archetypal Dubstep genre.
Whilst admitting Dubstep has become ‘a bit of a dirty word’ and with clear nods towards Grime and UK Garage, the diversity of his sound from atmospheric, sinister soundscapes to club bangers guarantees a big year for the London based Bristolian. His imminent release on Peverelist’s Punch Drunk label will definitely be one to watch out for.
With so many artists wanting to distance themselves from the ‘typical’ or ‘mainstream’ Dubstep that has saturated the market in recent years, there appears to be exceptional creative freedom for a lot of producers in the city. More recently, this has also translated into the club scene. Jonny Holmes from Bristol clubnight ‘Crazylegs’ sees the night’s success, including being named as best club night 2010 by Venue magazine, as a testament to Bristol’s appetite for more leftfield sounds:
“A lot of people seem to like the really forward thinking, almost genreless music that’s being pushed – it’s exciting.”
Obviously, this is nothing new to Bristol. The city has always been a breeding ground for esoteric music and culture, albeit sometimes erratic. However, the current crop of new artists emerging off the back of the cultural explosion that was Dubstep lays a solid foundation for sustainability.
As well as more under the radar artists set to blow up this year like the percussive house sounds of Hodge, Holmes tips tropical bass badman Julio Bashmore to make a serious impression in the dance world: “Bashmore’s gonna absolutely takeover this year.” After recently forming the collaborative project ‘Velour’ with fellow Bristol producer Hyetal – dropping ‘The Velvet Collection’ on London label Night Slugs; Julio Bashmore is a name set to continue to dominate the blogs and forums over the next 12 months.
With so much musical talent in Bristol, it’s easy to wax lyrical about it. My advice is to get out and listen to it.
Fancy a trip to Bristol? 5 events to check out this year…
Bi-monthly events at Cosies plus epic Monster Bass sessions featuring the resident Mungo’s Hifi Soundsystem with the latest instalment on the 18th March at the Blue Mountain club. Great diversity of styles from Soca and Bashment to Dubstep & Funky.
Teachings in Dub
Heavyweight roots and culture at Trinity centre that plays host to some of the most established sounds in the UK, most recently Channel One. Expect a mammoth collaboration with Pinch’s Subloaded event in the spring. The food’s not bad either!
Monthly Sunday afternoon sessions down at The Bell pub focussed on pushing the deeper elements of the Bristol underground. Always free and always sure to find top local talent.
Just over two years in the game and these guys have already received plaudits from Resident Advisor & Drowned in Sound for their superb line-ups containing the brightest and boldest in contemporary Bass music. After winning Venue’s best club night of 2010, the event relocates to Blue Mountain in March.
Wicked vibes always found down at Take 5 Cafe on Stokes Croft. Rooted in Dub but exploring all other forms of Bass culture, this night typifies the new generation emerging in Bristol. Intimate, affordable and with a refreshing DIY ethic. Well worth hitting up.
5 Artists to watch in 2011
Already a household name in Bristol and beyond after last year’s Um Bongo’s Revenge. This year expect worldwide appeal.
Grooving, percussive House not dissimilar to Hackman. Forthcoming releases dropping on Well Rounded, Immerse & Pollen.
Melodic, dream-like beats from this prodigious 19 year old Grime kid. Standout tracks so far include ‘Rubicon’ set for release on Subdepth.
One part of Gorgan Sound, Kahn’s double A side 12” Like we used to / Helter Skelter drops on Punch Drunk on the 28th February. Stunning.
Kibir La Amlak
Recently booked to play at Teachings in Dub, this local Roots soundsystem is running great midweek dances down at the Attic bar and other venues with new dubs also coming out of their studio.
- Locking off the dance.
- The Conditions For Electronic Noise.
- Cowboys and Kymers
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