It all started two years ago, at some wild, anti-formulaic parties during which, instead of just strictly dubstep or house, the old warehouse rave spirit was recovered: they would promote the parties cryptically, people would gather at some obscure and forgotten place –far from the London clubbing establishment– and from there on it was anything goes. Horns were blaring and the people wore colourful clothes; unknown DJs were playing and the music was a tasty mix of drum’n’bass, dubstep, hardcore, garage and rap. It was then the founders of Night Slugs, the party –Bok Bok and L-Vis 1900– released their first mixtapes and tunes on the Internet, and nature took its course. Night Slugs went from being a small and unknown party to becoming one of the hippest London club nights, while at the same time Bok Bok’s and L-Vis 1990’s profiles as producers started to grow thanks to the hype, the blogs and word-of-mouth. With their niche isolated, there was only one option left: exploit it with more parties, some dates abroad and, of course, the creation of a label.
From January to today, Night Slugs have released nine standard vinyls and six limited edition ones (white labels with the info stamped on the label itself). Having them all means having been watchful of the development of the post-dubstep scene but also being skilful when it comes to buying records: many of these 12”s, less than a year after their release, are sold out and are reaching high prices on the second-hand market. To me, along with the Numbers label of Glasgow, it has been the best label of 2010, which has been a year flooded with quality products, but it hasn’t always been surprising, and that’s the first thing you have to appreciate in Night Slugs: how the majority of sonic codes we have been assimilating over the years (and many times, over the decades) cut out a new silhouette in the hands of signings such as Mosca, Lil Silva and Girl Unit. “Night Slugs Allstars Vol. 1” isn’t exactly a “greatest hits” of the label, but it is of the parties: the CD –the first CD release on Night Slugs; in 2011, we’ll see the release of the albums by Egyptrixx and L-Vis 1990 – and this record collects some of the tracks celebrated by the fans but also a lot of material that was only out on dubplate or CD-R and that has been recovered to give the compilation some extra cachet. And although part of this “new” material was released on vinyl for the limited Night Slugs series (like “Broken Embrace” by Optimum, which sounds like an old galactic Detroit techno classic, or the amazing hybrid of garage and deep-house with helium voices by Jacques Greene on “(Baby I Don’t Know) What You Want”), its true nature belongs more to the mix, the party, than to the plastic. It’s good that they’re on it: they are part of the story and deserve to be on the document.
“Night Slugs Vol. 1” is exactly that: a document about a unique moment and in constant development. Many times, compilations have purely commercial intentions and are simply background noise, forgettable within days from their release. They’re usually opportunist moves that don’t leave us context nor diversion. Not this one. To stick “Vol. 1” at the end of the title makes sense because the story of Night Slugs hasn’t ended yet, au contraire: there aren’t a lot of labels out there that have so much of a future as Bok Bok’s and L-Vis 1990’s; in 2011, they can readjust the rules of dance music in London in an exciting way, which is like changing the rules of dance music worldwide. The 13 cuts on this CD reveal many processes of deformation and transformation of dubstep, house and funky that can only become bigger. Did someone say wonky? They also said UK Garage (mutating), R&B and grime: just listen to marvellous tunes like “Wut” (Girl Unit), where the voices recover the golden days of 2step, or “Bust Broke” (Kingdom), a mix of urban American sounds and British rave, or “Liberation Front” (Egyptrixx), a redefining of hyper-complex IDM via grime.
I don’t want to forget the tribal grime-house of Bok Bok & Cubic Zirconia on “Reclash (Dub)”, nor the pneumatic deep-house of Velour (the collaboration between Hyetal and Julio Bashmore) on “Body Slammer”, nor the tremendous hardcore-rave full of complex breakbeats of the VIP version of Mosca’s “Square One”. And, above all, let’s not forget that “Night Slugs Vol. 1” isn’t only one of the best compilations of 2010 because of its quality, but also because of its importance: this music holds the seed of a new twist in the rave continuum. Towards what? I see a polymorphic house, broken, passionate and explosive, but it’s better not to try to anticipate a future only Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990 can see clearly. With my eyes closed, I’ll accept anything coming from them with blind trust: the deserve all the respect and admiration.