Various VariousWorth The Weight ? Bristol Dubstep Classics
PUNCH DRUNK There is no exclusive theme, nor is it a selection especially mixed for the occasion, nor is there any special event to celebrate at the house of Punch Drunk. So to start with, there is no overriding incentive in this compilation to tip the balance in favour of adding it to our shopping cart. The fact that Tom Ford, the label’s director, known to you all as Peverelist, went to the bother of selecting 26 cuts put out in his neighbourhood, thinking to bring together the most representative of Bristol dubstep on one collection, should be reason enough for listening once—or several times—to this double CD. And it is precisely this geographical character and not Peverelist’s hand that ends up being the greatest attraction of the piece. This detail, the geographical location, was the excuse for the birth of Punch Drunk in 2006: to serve as a platform for displaying the emerging talents of the city’s dubstep scene. What is going on there socially, artistically, and musically isn’t my job to tell and evaluate, because I’ve never set foot in Bristol in my life, and nobody’s asked me to. But from this kilometric distance, from an adolescence where trip hop was the soundtrack, and from my open fanaticism for the series “Skins”, Bristol seems to be a cultural pressure-cooker, a smaller version of London, with its own idiosyncrasy. Let them correct me if I’m wrong.
And with a population much smaller than the capital of the England, it is surprising how many artists hail from the coastal city. So making a compilation of the pearls of Bristol dubstep isn’t hard in the sense that the good stuff spews forth in abundance from this geographical location. Discarding the material that doesn’t deserve the title of classic is a bit more complicated. And once the choice is made, duking it out with labels, legal imperatives, and artistic egos, getting them to lend you that shit and allow you to include it on the compilation, had to be tough work for Peverelist, who ended up estabishing to his own label, and rounding out the collection with the crusts that others have been willing to throw him. Let’s see: “Holly Brook Park” or “Stuck in the System” by Joker; although they are the first references of Kapsize Records, they don’t carry half of the punch as classics that the rest of the king of the purple sound’s songs do. If you see his name and think of classics, “Snake Eater” or “Digidesign” come to mind. But especially “Purple City”, written with another Bristol resident, Ginz. If “Purple City” isn’t the 100% made-in-Bristol dubstep classic (major and par excellence), then we can just pack up and go home right now.
So as I say, problems with permission and copyrights have left holes in this compilation, which is made up for with other material released on Punch Drunk. In the stylistic line of Joker (iridescent, synthetic dubstep), Guido takes over from him wonderfully. “Orchestral Lab” and especially “Mad Sax” are the best of “Anidea” and the best of what there is on this double album. Halfway between Guido’s sound and the tense exercise in obscurantism leaning towards “techno” practiced by Pinch –collected here in the form of “Midnight Oil”, “Qawwali,” and the very Shackleton “Lazarus”, three of the most brilliant pieces of the whole album– as well as Peverelist and Appleblim, we would find Gemmy’s “Bass Transmitter”, which is as simple as it is effective, or “3kout” by Jakes, which reminds us that there was a time when wobble, used with moderation and mastery, was really cool. The problem here is definitely not the raw material, as the city of Bristol has a splendid brood of makers of good dubstep, both in the more sinister line of Appleblim or Pinch and the lighter variety, like that of Joker or Guido. The problem is in the use of terms—what is understood as a classic and how to place limitation on this adjective. That the scene has given birth to 26 songs worthy of being placed in this category is something that, to outsiders, may be easily identifiable. For those of us from elsewhere, 26 classics and 1,700 kilometres are too many, and this compilation would have done more justice to its name if Tom Ford had saved himself the weight of one of the CDs.
Pinch - Midnight Oil