Bandshell - Caustic View

Bandshell – ‘Caustic View’ EP (Liberation Technologies)

Mute seems to have a clear idea for their new sub-label Liberation Technologies, wanting to continue their ‘long tradition of working with innovative artists’ while planning to ‘extend that freedom and vision’. It is safe to say that Bandshell‘s ‘Caustic View’ EP most definitely fits the bill. It is an astonishingly good release, one which ought to cement the new producer in a league far above many of his contemporaries in the UK dance music fraternity.

The EP begins both loud and brash, setting a decidedly more frenetic tone than seen in his previous offering for Hessle Audio. ‘Winton’ kicks off with absolutely no frills, it seems to have certainly borrowed some of the energy and stylings of Vex’d’s early output but provides an extra layer of detail in the melody department. While the track shocks the listener to full attention, its closeness to Vex’d in style and execution leave it perhaps the most throwaway piece on the record. However, it is without doubt the most dance floor friendly and will certainly be perplexing and thrilling audiences in equal measure.

It’s tracks like ‘Landfill’ and ‘Nice Mullet’ where Bandshell exhibits his sophistication and technical ability. Both tracks take the aforementioned Vex’d influence and drop the tempo considerably, plunging the listener into some seriously twisted rhythmic territory. ‘Nice Mullet’ keeps a swelling grime bass the main melodic focus, gripping you with drops of noise and incessant percussion. It’s also worth noting that it is short and sweet; the track comes in at just under four minutes, and in that time does all that is required of it: captivating the listener and moving on. Bandshell’s disregard for formulaic intros and extended outros normally designed for DJs is just one of the many small but decidedly nuanced tropes which really set this release alight.

‘Landfill’ sees Bandshell drop the tempo yet again, favouring a stuttering four-to-the-floor back beat over his normal breaks. The percussion again, is outstanding, with complex textures developing from the outset. The level of distortion and sheer volume of sounds used, initially feels cold and artificial. However, when combined with the richly textured synth melodies which appear heavily after the initial minute of frenetic noise, it creates a blissfully rich piece of music. Bandshell seems akin to the experimental edges of UK dance music tradition, and this release sits very comfortably.

Perhaps the most remarkable track on the EP is ‘Perc’ which was recently included by Ben UFO in his mix for Fabriclive. The percussion and noise which has coloured most of the record simply drop away, only allowing for small, flittering percussion lines to colour the stereo field, with a disjointed back bone chugging beneath for good measure. Ultimately though, the track’s focus is shifted towards a beautiful synth line, which exhibits the depth, clarity and musical playfulness of luminaries such as Aphex Twin or Luke Vibert. It’s with this track that Bandshell demonstrates his versatility and maturity. His ability to weave textures and melodies together so precisely – yet sound so playful – is a real skill and one which most producers will never acquire.

All in all, it really is an astounding release. To be honest I wasn’t totally convinced by the hype surrounding Bandshell after his release for Hessle Audio, but ‘Caustic View’ proves he is a producer with stunning ability.

Sean Hughes

Bandshell’s ‘Caustic View’ EP is out today, February 11.