Since the explosion of dubstep, the UK’s characteristic shade of underground club music seems to be in a state of flux as the Boiler Room generation helps to reposition a once relatively exclusive culture closer to an all-encompassing blandness or creatively rich ground (depending on your viewpoint), and the internet in turn creates and then breaks musical fashions within weeks. Over the past few years the term ‘bass music’ has been well and truly galvanised by the hearts and minds of the mainstream music media, whilst clubs like Fabric have successfully shifted their programming capabilities to afford labels such as Hessle Audio and Hyperdub Room One status, and Disclosure’s middle-of-the-road house inflections have invaded both your nearest student union and the Radio One playlists with equal veracity. Basically, things are different.
In early 2010, London/Brighton producer/DJ team Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990 followed up their Dress 2 Sweat-released Night Slugs EP – essentially a 4 track distillation of the pairs successful London-based club nights of the same name – with a newly minted record label that was to take the year by storm, resulting with the fledgling labels first ever compilation late that same year. Releasing a collection of music less than a year into a labels existence may be seen as bold, yet the wealth of music put out by the label throughout 2010 was both groundbreaking and in it’s way, zeitgeist-defining (think Mosca’s still startling Square One EP, or Girl Unit’s anthemic Wut).
Coming just over two years since the London-based label’s initial outing into the world of club music compilations, Night Slugs Allstars Volume 2 connects with a club climate now all too used to the genre-splicing capabilities of that first collection. However, this isn’t to say that the label exactly lacks the talent needed to push the game forward. With inclusions from Lil Silva, Jam City, Helix, Kingdom, Egyptrixx, Girl Unit and relative newcomer Morri$, not to mention a couple of cuts from the label bosses themselves, the twelve tracks on offer certainly encompass some of the finest minds operating within the Night Slugs universe.
Kicking off with the Night Slugs Allstars remix of L-Vis 1990’s Lost In Love is a somewhat flat opener for such a forward thinking label, as the Javeon McCarthy vocal is worked through with grime-like bass stabs and Baltimore handclap rhythms – the staple ingredients then, yet not hugely inspiring. Girl Unit’s Ensemble (Club Mix), lifted from his Club Rez EP from early 2012, is still a decent ‘floor filler, but not the strongest thing to have come from the Londoner’s studio, or that very same EP. Things pick up slightly with another appearance by James ‘L-Vis 1990’ Connolly – who’s stuttering Not Mad is one of his finest pieces of post-album work – and Lil Silva who tones his club-ready sound down for The 3rd, a perfect execution of stumbling percussive interplay, as ever delivered with style and intent. Bok Bok’s all conquering Silo Pass takes things up to anthem level, bringing some much needed grit and drama to proceedings at the halfway point, as his ever-fruitful take on classic grime still delivers almost two years after it’s first release, whilst Jam City’s How We Relate To The Body acts as a blissed-out palette cleanser, as muffled B-more kicks are overlaid with searing synths and piano house keys.
Yet whether as a sign of the UK’s possible period of stagnation within the ‘bass music’ scene, or perhaps an indication of a somewhat more considered approach our American cousins may have taken over the past 12 months or so (EDM withstanding), it seems the finest offerings here originated Stateside. A pair of tracks from LA producer Kingdom reaffirm his position as one of modern club music’s most innovative producers, bringing some seriously brukked-out atmospherics to his ghetto take on Masters At Work’s The Ha Dance for his Stalker Ha track and creating a gorgeous embodiment of euphoria in the forthcoming Bank Head. Equally, Toronto’s Egyptrixx turns in an affecting four minute workout that sees chiming lazer chords accompanied by stomping metallic noise and trap-like hi-hats to make something dramatic, powerful and unique, a perfect reminder of why his much overlooked debut album for the label was so thrilling.
Night Slugs Allstars Volume 2 is nothing if not perfectly programmed, a point realised with Kansas-based producer Morri$’s closing White Hood, a track made up of echoed cymbals, shattering percussion and a strangely fitting accordion melody, again reinforcing the idea that the label’s US counterparts are perhaps pushing the envelope a little harder these days. Special mention should of course be given to Helix’s still-astounding Drum Track and Girl Unit’s follow up to Club Rez cut Double Take, Double Take Part II, both of which more than live up to the hype afforded both these top grade producers.
Still ahead of the game when it comes to the majority of their peers, Night Slugs latest volume works well as a bookend to the past couple of years activity, maintaining a high level of quality throughout a
relatively high number of releases (both Bok Bok and L-Vis have to be two of the hardest working in the current scene). Yet with a plethora of new talent on the horizon in the form of acts such as Arca, Thefft and Artifact, the label will undoubtedly be raising their game throughout 2013 to ensure their mantle as one of the UK’s finest independent club labels remains intact.
Night Slugs Allstars Volume 2 is out now.