Varios Varios116 & Rising
Finding longevity in the fleeting world of electronic dance music is not easy. Doing so, or at least achieving a potential for longevity, in a short time even more so. Yet that what’s Ramadanman, Ben UFO and Pangaea, the three men behind Hessle Audio have done in roughly four years.
I actually still remember them from the old dubstep forum before, and shortly after, dubstep blew up in 2006. They were young and obviously – as much as is possible to make out via text based communication – deeply passionate about the music that dubstep was and could become. So to see them celebrate four years of their label with a compilation that brings together some of the most forward thinking and exciting producers in and around dubstep, old and new, is a pleasant surprise. I often remark that to me there are 3 or 4 key labels that helped shape dubstep into what it is today pre-2006 – Hyperdub, DMZ, Tempa and Hotflush. After listening to “116 & Rising”, it would be fair to say that Hessle are likely to be one of those labels that helped shape the music’s future soon after, and during, its entrance into mainstream music consciousness.
The double CD, and 3 vinyl, compilation follows a standard approach – delivering 12 new tracks alongside 12 classic cuts from its back catalogue of just 18 releases so far. The line up on the exclusive tracks reads like a who’s who of the more interesting and daring producers to have tackled dubstep in the last 5 years – people like Untold, Cosmin TRG, Addison Groove (aka Headhunter) and James Blake alongside two of the label heads (Ramadanman in his Pearson Sound guise and Pangaea) and newer talent like Joe, Blawan and Elgato (another name from the early dubstep forum days I was pleasantly surprised to see appear on the label roster last year). Just as impressive is their roping in of two older producers who have been integral in the sound’s spread and early days – D1 and Bristol’s Peverelist.
Across the 12 tracks these producers throw the listener in at the deep end of the dubstep and bass music pool, very much exemplifying the oft-cited but rarely delivered early potential of the genre for exploring the murky depths of electronic dance music and using it as a playground for sonic experimentations. Whether it’s Untold’s “Cool Story Bro” with its mutant house feel that disguises dancefloor ecstasy, Joe’s “Twice” where he once more explores the unashamed pleasures of odd percussion-led grooves or D1’s “Subzero” inducing flashbacks of nights spent at DMZ with eyes down skanking, “116 & Rising” showcases great dance music and its potential for exploring new music avenues. What’s also remarkable is how well put together the compilation is, fleeting between influences and styles without sounding forced. Other notable mentions include Addison Groove’s “Fuck Tha 101” which further shows his knack for blending juke’s rhythmic aesthetic with dubstep’s bounce and bass or Peverelist’s beautifully hypnotic and haunting “Sun Dance”. To be fair though there’s little, if anything, to throw away on those 12 tracks.
If you’re new to the label than “116 & Rising” is about the best introduction you could wish for – not just to familiarise you with the label’s own output but also its work showcasing the potential of dubstep to be more than party music by numbers. And if you aren’t new to it, than the 12 exclusive tracks on offer are among some of the best you’ll have heard so far this year and an essential addition to any self-respecting collection. It’ll be interesting to see where the label and the producers on it are in 4 years time – if it’s anything like the past 4 years, it’s anyone’s guess.
Pangaea “Run Out”