Various – ‘Back & Forth: A Hotflush Compilation’ (Hotflush)

Eight years is a long time. It was back in 2003 that Paul Rose (aka Scuba, now simply SCB) first set up his Hot Flush imprint mainly as a vessel for his own slabs of digital heat back when dubstep was little more than a glint in the electronic milkman’s eyes. This sub genre, initially full of sub bass and steel, was grown behind closed doors like a musical monster left to growl, roar, boom and rattle. Fast forward to 2011 and dubstep’s aural shape has morphed far beyond the blueprint of the original.

Big changes have certainly been afoot – The embrace of the mainstream has been strong enough for Skream, Benga and Artwork to now be classed as popstars while the sonic goal posts have shifted to somewhere far more kaleidoscopic, ethereal and in some cases, banging – those working loosely within the original walls of dubstep have crawled through the darkness to reach a rich musical cocktail brewed from various colourful ingredients. If you were to examine the genre under a microscope, then you’d find everything betwixt house, garage, 2-step, techno, electro, drum and bass and r’n’b wriggling away inside the music’s DNA.

The two sides of this latest Hot Flush compilation, entitled ‘Back and Forth’, helps throw some light on movements. Rose’s fingers have been so tightly grasped round bass music’s main arteries that the label history is totally intertwined with the fate of the key players – and provides pictures of where they’ve been and what the pulsing light at the end of the creative tunnel may hold.

The historical half showcases classic moments from Hot Flush’s back catalogue. Some would argue this is an impossible task over only ten tunes but, whatever your thoughts, those included are a reminder of how large the label’s influence has loomed. Joy Orbison’s ubiquitous ‘Hyph Myngo’ still sounds utterly vital while Mount Kimbie have a pair of look-ins; the hospital funk of ‘Sketch on Glass’ and James Blake’s rework of ‘Maybes’ – both of which are perhaps two of the label’s most accessible flashes. They and other noteworthy numbers from Untold, Jamie Vex’d and Pangaea all show the sort of prime cuts Hot Flush ripped from dance’s underbelly.

The second half of the compilation points to a future equally as exciting – the influence of Berlin and Berghain, where Rose now resides, dances and raves at, is glaringly obvious in much of the musical direction. His own ‘Feel It’ (as Scuba) is a roaring rave pile driver which takes your ears off guard such is the force of its jack. Boxcutter and George Fitzgerald deal out hearty techno while Boddika’s ‘Warehouse’ does exactly what it says on the tin – chunky yet pulsing tackle aimed like a torpedo into the night. Rinse FM’s Roska and New Yorker Falty DL also prove to be highlights, the former voyaging down an avenue of odd, off-centre, mysterious beats while the latter’s ‘Regret’ is a huge orchestral crescendo given extra beef by huge cymbal crashes.

On this evidence the new crop are more than measuring up to Hot Flush’s old school putting out tackle big enough to match contemporaries producing sound for the likes of Planet Mu, Hyperdub and Hessle Audio. And at eight years young, they sound like they’ve still got new ground to gain.

Jim Ottewill

‘Back and 4th’ is out now on Hot Flush Recordings.

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