141’s ‘In Out’ has got the shakes. It’s a sullen brooder; destined synths and sweaty percussion speaking a repetitive mantra of glowing-, tumbling-gut bass swells that are to be clung to through soft drizzle and bus stop mind drift, a way to cope with the sudden and mundane heckle of sirens. It doesn’t sound like it’s used to being outside, quite simply - it’s an agoraphobic thriller, devoted to tight spaces and interior angles: backs-to-the-wall rather than scrape-me-off-the-ceiling, deflated rather than pumped.
It’d be wrong to describe Ben Thomas’s recording project as being at the forefront of anything. His bounce - this bedroom Garage – is pretty shy but just seems extra-repped at the moment and is relatively detached from anything currently holding sway in the network of clubs that constellate UK bassland. It’s a sound forged by and for lonely bedroom boys rather than the out and sweat-drenched, inducing not dance action but a whimsical inertia frozen in place by the glare of whatever it is hidden in your memory that’s regretful and bites. To return to ‘In Out’ – the thing just sounds like one, long sigh. I suppose when you’re as far adrift from something as 141 is from turn-of-the-century UK Garage, what comes out is always gonna be lacquered maudlin and bittersweet. Producers like Thomas – along with Sbtrkt, FaltyDL and Pariah to name three – are, for me, the continuing afterglow of UKG’s first burst, inevitably detached from the communal euphoria that existed first time around, the sound of these orphans now suitably forlorn.
Moving away from the quiet, barely-remembered tragedy of 141, FaltyDL’s Love Is A Liability LP – available now through Planet Mu – rounds out this backwards vision with synth sounds that are alien and exploratory, like the eye stalks of some ecstatic snail. Recalling Detroit revisionist Terrence Dixon, ‘To New York’ bleeps and blinks with a feeling for Drew Lustman’s home city that is at once uncontainable and inexpressible. By acting as an agent for such a dilemma the track almost manages to extricate itself from notions of backwardness and forwardness altogether, until around about two thirds of the way in, when clubland’s eternal anonymous diva starts grunting and the moment once again belongs to memory – or at least a playful, loose idea of what that memory may have been had it ever had the chance to form.
The most stoic purist couldn’t begrudge Lustman those ideas – he only started making music of his own two years ago and even that he describes as Jungle. Garage wasn’t discovered ‘til later (“I wanted to slow down, I needed to slow down. I dropped the bpm by about 40 and found this shuffle. It’s amazing”). As such FaltyDL has no guilt in skewing the objective truth of past sounds. One with deeper ties to Garage is Londoner Sbtrkt, whose recent mixes are more dancefloor-ready but possess a considered introspection that hints at something not built merely from the here and now.
“UK Garage was a huge influence on me from ‘96 to 2000,” says the anonymous producer, who sported a mask during a set at FACT’s latest Lock Tavern night.
“It seems there are quite a few producers using those UKG influences - taking the bounce, the extra double time rhythms and not being too dark and serious about everything.”
MP3: Sbtrkt - NPIP001
Those producers are numerous and all worth checking – Bok Bok, Hessle Audio’s Ben UFO, Oneman, Brackles, Joy Orbison. But where they differ is that their tunes sound geared towards clubland now - taking in elements of Funky House and Dubstep – rather than embarking upon an isolated raver spinsterism. Ambling spliff-headed back towards the bedroom we find Pariah, or 21-year-old Londoner Arthur Cayzer, whose ‘Detroit Falls’ was picked up by the usual (GvsB, Pitchfork) after it was posted at No Pain In Pop around this time last month.
‘Detroit Falls’ itself – a hip-hop cut that that lopes like Dilla and was built from one diced-up Motown track - isn’t representative of Cayzer’s take on UKG. For that, see the glowering, somnambulant ‘Don’t Go’ or a forthcoming remix of The xx’s ‘Basic Space’. The first chimes with the loss of 141, but in a more urbane, less visceral way; as if whatever was eating away at Cayzer’s guts has been momentarily quelled – perhaps by the track’s own self-awareness, in a ‘it thinks, therefore it is’ kind of way. It exists, at least, and is spurred on by a sudden, surprising knowledge of that – as if it’s been willed into existence by sheer melancholic boredom – even if its hesitant middle section needs the rumbling, rolling 2-Step bounce to shake it from its reverie. It bounces eventually, but when ‘Don’t Go’ bounces it does so quietly and half-heart, gently rattling windows in their frames and mildly aggravating the dreams of sleeping neighbours as it aches from so many strewn bedroom clubs.
http://nopaininpop.com/2009/06/that-doldrum-joy-sound/ (Joy Orbison)