Brotherly Bristol pair The Kelly Twins will launch their own label, Happy Skull, later this month with the debut release coming from Systems Of Desire, a new collaborative project from Kowton and Hyetal.
Considering Kowton’s TFB is only the third release from Glasgow-based All Caps in 18 months, it seems remarkable that the label’s releases should inspire the kind of fevered online excitement usually reserved for their more well known peers in the crossover world of techno and bass. Retro 70s sci-fi typeface aside, the label’s hand-stamped aesthetic isn’t anything particularly unique, but more so than most low-key operations of its type, All Caps’ steadily increasing reputation lies in the high level of quality control that goes into the music selection process overseen by Ryan Martin, Matthew Muir and Bake – no doubt informed by their show on Glasgow’s Subcity Radio.
Tony Poland speaks to Bake, a rising DJ and one third of the All Caps collective who are making great strides to maintain Glasgow’s rich techno heritage.
A resurgent Süd Electronic call upon Anthony “Shake” Shakir and Kowton to remix Portable for the label’s unexpected 13th release.
Read the rest of this entry »
Peverelist and Kowton have individually been responsible for some of the most inventive dance music to come out of Bristol in recent times; though both have been creating genetic hybrids of dubstep, garage and grime for longer than the term “bass music” has existed, both seem to have hit a creative stride of late thanks to the Livity Sound label they run with Asusu and its accompanying live show. Like many artists who free themselves up by striking out on their own with a label that requires little more than a short run of vinyl and a hand stamp, it seems to have teased the most exciting material out of the pair.
Bristol duo Peverelist and Kowton combine on the first Hessle Audio release of 2013.
A few months ago I wrote that this year had been characterised by a lack of major narratives in underground dance music. Nowhere is this more evident than in the arena of what we call bass music, the genre formerly known as post-dubstep, whose early years seemed to be dominated by a clutch of producers releasing on Night Slugs, R&S, Hemlock, Hotflush and Hessle Audio who have increasingly been copied by a younger generation. Arguably bass music’s biggest change in 2012 was that it became a major commercial force; as divisive as his album Personality was, nobody could deny that Scuba and his Hotflush imprint are major brands now; Disclosure came out of nowhere to offer a bright, accessible take on the genre that cracked the British top 40, and even Ministry Of Sound released a compilation called Future Bass. As a term, however, bass is one that many writers (this one included) still feel reluctant to use with any degree of certainty, and the likes of Scuba and Disclosure encapsulate why this is so; although the musical inspiration for these artists may have started with dubstep or garage, you’d really struggle to describe the music they make as anything other than a strain of house music, and to call it “bass” feels like a fallacy.
We have a pair of tickets to give away to the forthcoming Electric Minds outdoor summer session in London featuring Âme, Sven Weisemann, Kowton and BNJMN.
The latest EP package on the ever intriguing French imprint Sound Pellegrino sees some much welcome new material from Finnish producer TEETH backed by remixes from Lazer Sword and Kowton.
It’s been interesting observing the musical evolution of Joe Cowton. When he first crept onto the radar it was as Narcossist, displaying a fearless attitude that made sense in the dubstep context, but possessed a spirit far removed from it. As he moved closer to his real name (although not completely), he also shifted towards a slower tempo range, emerging on Idle Hands with a gloomy and yet taut take on house music with girth. For a while it seemed like the bass heavy leanings of his productions was reflective of the resurging trend towards house music in Bristol, but in fact the emergent scene is quite removed from the ambiguous space Kowton inhabits with his music.
The third instalment in our Scratching The Surface series sees Scott Wilson investigate the raw strands of electronic music emanating from the Livity Sound, Clone, Skudge, Spargel Trax and Third Ear camps in recent weeks. Scroll down to listen to a mix Scott has compiled to accompany the piece.
Two different but compatible interpretations of underground house and techno feature on this latest Project Squared release. The common bond is the absence of track titles – perhaps a reference to the slew of anonymous techno releases of recent years - but that’s where the similarities between Kowton and Tom Dicicco’s “Untitled” tracks end.
First up it’s Dicicco’s contribution, a rolling dubby groove underpinned by doubled up claps and subtle yet effective filtering. Its strength rests on its ability to integrate elements of Chicago jack and the cheeky swagger of late 90s London tech-house. By contrast, Kowton’s “Untitled” is more distinctive. The Bristol producer also borrows from familiar sources; there are slowly arcing acid lines and a repetitive ‘you make’ vocal sample - which sounds very like the one used on Spooky’s progressive house anthem “Land of Oz” – but the synths swirl about in such a haunting manner and the beats are so heavy that the end result is truly different.
Kowton proves his mettle again with his take on Dicicco’s “Untitled”. The arrangement is more stripped back, but it achieves the same effect with less, as its humming bass and lead-heavy beats bring Dicicco’s groove back to a mid-tempo rumble. Dicicco then brings the release back to where it started with his version of Kowton’s “Untitled”. Filters sweep in over a dense, tracky rhythm as percussive ticks and claps show that while Dicicco may not be operating at the outer limits like Kowton, his understanding of underground dance music is second to none.
For the past two years or so Kowton has been one of the producers at the forefront of the gradual movement of Bristol’s bass scene into the exploration of house. His stripped back productions are often fairly devoid of melody, but “Dirty Little Bomb” occupies a particularly murky zone that pushes the extremes of his template further still.
The track’s modest 108bpm speed is slower than anything Kowton has produced before; in taking it down to this level he provides the bass tones with considerable breathing room, with the LFO modulation that provides the track’s main hook adding a nice bit of lift to what may otherwise become a trudge. But it’s the distorted, bit-crushed hi-hats and snares which give the track its real textural focus, with their abrasive wire-wool tones providing enough shock to prevent the comparatively cushioned surrounds of the track, along with its samples that evoke dusty hypnagogic memories of black and white films, from becoming lethargic. It’s an effect that’s difficult to achieve at this speed, but Kowton manages it admirably.
The real masterstroke on this release however is the remix from techno producer Rivet, whose recent singles on Naked Index have impressed with their industrial take on warehouse techno and bass. Rivet’s remix manages to straddle the divide between these two genres with confidence similar to Untold’s recent “Little Things Like That” on Clone’s Basement Series. At 128bpm it’s incredible that he has managed to extract any of the original’s essence, but despite their relatively different approaches, Kowton and Rivet both share an excellent understanding of negative space; by isolating the shattered-glass percussion and breathy vocals, and recomposing them alongside Berghain sized synth stabs and a warbling bass drop, Rivet creates an absolute monster of a track which is utterly deranged, yet somehow retains the more introspective, darker corners of the original.
Steadily becoming one of the deadliest weapons in Bristol’s expansive arsenal, Kowton doesn’t seem in a rush to get his material out there, letting the impact of his formative releases on Idle Hands and Keysound gently ripple out to a hushed acclaim from the keen eared. This policy is a neat match with Irish imprint [Naked Lunch], which, under the stewardship of Micky Mara, has maintained a release schedule unencumbered by the restraints of riding the zeitgeist. Like many artists moving in similar circles, Kowton has achieved some kind of affiliation to dubstep (partly down to his earlier releases as Narcossist), when in fact his music comes from a refined, contemplative outbuilding of house music.
This release serves as something of a definitive stance between house and garage dynamics. Where Kowton’s earlier tracks were draped in sinister drones and melodic absences, the A-Side “Keep Walking” grooves along with a positively content, Metro Area kind of cheekiness. The beats fall smooth and steady, the bass plucks away and the pads swell in and out of the mix with elegant poise. It’s not an overtly happy track, but rather sits in a kind of emotional ambiguity that matches minor notes with an overall upbeat party feeling.
“Show Me” plumbs a steppier duct, keeping the beats in charge for a good half of the track as a house tempo gets invaded by skipping claps and hats. It’s not until the aqueous synth washes in that any light is shed in the oppressive gloom that Kowton has a real knack for creating. The hushed female snippet of, “c’mon,” only adds to the creepiness, seemingly inviting you to a place you know you probably shouldn’t go to, but want to visit all the same.