Let’s face it, longevity isn’t a term usually associated with young labels. Six years ago, the ever-prolific Hemlock Recordings label, which was birthed by Jack Dunning shortly after he started making music as Untold and in the midst of Dubstep’s good times, became one exception to this depressing fact. The label now boasts a catalogue that sounds like a sonic timeline in the evolution of the UK’s multi-faceted electronic music scene. Largely in part to Dunning and co-founder Andy Spencer’s A&R ability, but also because he’s always maintained a refreshingly eclectic viewpoint in terms of its output: from the terrifying, grotesque brilliance of Pangea’s ‘Hex’ to the sensory overload of James Blake’s remix of Untold’s own ‘Stop What You’re Doing’, Hemlock has helped to guide the scene forward by exposing some of the best talent around.
“I’ve eaten all the snacks, and now it’s time for supper” Dunning sniggered in a recent interview; his own analogy to describe his foray into the unknown with his debut full-length project ‘Black Light Spiral’. But it’s evident that, from the moment the deafening sirens of the album’s opener ‘5 Wheels’ drill their way into your conscious, he’s pretty much ready to clear the whole damn buffet. It’s certainly a statement of intent for a record that sees Dunning take a dramatic shift in his style of production, abandoning conventional song structure in favour of abstract rhythms and industrial melodies with plenty of space in-between. This ’less is more’ approach has been embraced by many of Dunning’s contemporaries recently; a hollow kind of bass music that has become a solid mainstay at Hotflush and Hessle of late and a sound that the UK dance scene has become increasingly hungry for.
Although, Dunning’s sound is a little more antagonistic which can sometimes make BLS quite hard work. It’s by no means an easy ride, but at just eight tracks long Dunning ensures we’re not running a marathon. The melodrama of the album’s opener is closely followed by two of the record’s friendlier cuts ‘Drop It On the One’ and ‘Sing a Love Song’ each centred around relentless vocal samples, high frequencies and distorted Dub-Techno. Dunning continues the fluidity of the record with the excellent ‘Doubles’ which contains a heartbeat that almost makes it human. The darker moments are saved for the second half of the record and it’s clear that his intent is to maintain a sense of atmosphere, notably in the ominous, heart-wrenching stomp of ‘Hotbrush’ or the damaging low-end of closer ‘Ion’. This is the stuff that nightmares are made of.
In a scene where innovation is key, Untold has successfully created a record that pushes way beyond the boundaries of convention. His hunger for new sounds are exactly the kind of fundamentals that formed Hemlock’s explosive catalyst of talent. The record is definitely fearless, but with all the abstract animosity of ‘Black Light Spiral’ has Dunning become a little too aloof? I guess he’ll just keep us all guessing, as usual.
‘Black Spiral Light’ is available now on digital and physical formats, click HERE to grab a copy.