UK Bass Music

UK dance music has a history of taking influences from abroad – hardcore, jungle, UK Garage and dubstep can all be seen through the combined veil of Jamaican sound system culture and early house and techno. So round about 2009 when dubstep had lost momentum and many of its best prospects were moving on, speculation begun upon whether UK dance music would solidify around a distinct sound again, and what that would be. Three years later, it’s hard to say whether there is a particular sound around which the UK scene is gathering (which probably means there isn’t) but the roots from which hardcore and rave were born are evidently present. September 10th is a good example of this, with releases from three of the labels that gave the creative push away from dubstep and placed the foundations for what’s happening on dance floors now.

Swamp 81 sees a 4 track EP from resident MC, Chunky. These tracks pair the four to the floor kicks and gently rattling hi-hats of 90s house against broken percussion and heavy sub-bass of jungle and dubstep sensibilities. The EP provides a refreshing look at the current trend of dark, percussive dance music with touches of warmth – the soft pads on “Decca” and female vocal sample on “Thang” giving vital relief and making these tracks suitable for all sorts dance floors. The stylistic signifiers on ‘The Chunky EP’ aren’t blaringly obvious, but compared to the latest 12” on Hessle Audio by Pearson Sound, Chunky is screaming his influences from the rooftops. The three tracks present are devoid of any sure indicator of genre and also of Pearson Sound’s regular motifs. No 808 clave sounds or hooky vocal samples can be found here, instead precise and eccentric percussion darts around, accompanied by little harmonic content. On “Clutch”, pitch-shifted high-hats and a trembling pad adds nervous energy to the bombastic drums. On “Piston”, irregular snares and kicks are set against slow synth lines that feel as if they are being played underwater. In terms of physicality, it’s unlikely that these tracks will completely mess up the dance but like many of Pearson Sound’s output they still manage to hold a certain momentum.

The oddity of the group comes from Hemlock Recordings: ‘MB/Studio Power On’ by Joe. Almost nothing is known about Joe and with almost as few releases to his name as letters in it, it’s remarkable that he has such a unique sound. The A side – “MB” – displays this well with a jazzy guitar lick, a slightly broken house groove and a warm bass tone to create a brilliant, funky track. The B – “Studio Power”- is a more enigmatic creature. Offbeat snares bounce off a staggering high hi-hat, both of which are punctuated by the sounds of glass smashing, wood being sawed, and a sub-heavy kick. It makes for a confusing listen, especially when what sounds like a SNES malfunctioning comes in over the top, but the piano sample that follows pulls everything back together. All these elements added together create a very odd experience, but one that is definitely worth hearing.

To hear these records on dance floors – or good records in general – Manchester is the place to be. Running until the New Year, Warehouse Project is hosting weekly parties with incredible line-ups. There are simply too many top names to list and are highly recommended events. For sounds more local check out Ben UFO playing Mint Warehouse in Leeds on the 3rd of November (rest of line-up not yet released) and DJ Qu playing his particular take on New York house in Mint Club (also Leeds) on the 1st of December. Even more local is DJ Zinc playing at the Duchess on the 6th of November for It’s A Bass Thing’s 1st birthday, and with that on our doorstep there’s very little excuse not to go.