Rinse FM’s commercial mix series will turn to Hyperdub founder Kode9 for its 22nd instalment, with a mix taking in house, UK funky and footwork.
All the talk surrounding Ben UFO ahead of the release of Rinse:16 focused squarely on the fact his reputation has been built as a DJ, not a producer. In an age where the waters between the two have been muddied to the point of no return – far too many promoters book artists to DJ based purely on their production skills – this is an important point. Without a discography to speak of, it is DJing, along with curatorial responsibilities as co-owner of the Hessle Audio imprint alongside Ramadanman and Pangaea, that constitute Ben’s main creative outlets.
In this respect he has an obvious contemporary in Jackmaster – also a label boss (of Numbers) and DJ of considerable repute, but whereas the Glaswegian’s Fabriclive 57 mix from earlier this year showcased his fondness for complementing upfront neon-tinged jackers with judiciously selected party classics (such as the timeless “Don’t You Want It” by Davina), Ben’s opus is a calling card for his own idiosyncratic mixing and selecting style, which effortlessly joins the musical dots between London, Bristol, Berlin and beyond. This begins from the moment the A-Side from Kassem Mosse’s recent Workshop 12″ drops into the XDB edit of the late Aaron Carl’s “Crucified”, and what follows is a wonderful 29-track set that twists, turns, ebbs and flows, all the while retaining a pleasing rawness that is neither over-thought nor over-polished.
Like all good DJs, Ben UFO thinks one, two, three moves ahead. Before there is time for the flow to retreat into dark, undanceable corners, a sun-kissed curveball – be it the rapid-fire arpeggios of 2562’s “Winamp Melodrama” or the saccharine vocals of Champion’s “Sensitivity” – is thrown and the mix is yanked in a new, pleasing direction. The mixing is sharp and on point, layered but never cluttered, juggling broken beats and 4/4, with some tracks only remaining in the mix for a minute or two. The upward progression through BPMs is barely perceptible, and the deep techno leanings of the first half soon gives way to a more UK-centric vibe, with brilliant ’97 garage anthem “Keep Your Love” by Ordinary People leading the way into the darkside manoeuvrings from Pangaea, Shackleton and Kode9.
Spaced responsibly throughout the mix are a couple of YouTube anthems (“Swims” and “Sicko Cell”, the latter remixed by Pearson Sound), and some unreleased heat (a dubplate mix of Blawan and Pariah’s Karenn project), which serve as peaks for the casual listener. Of course Rinse:16 isn’t free from the kind of issues that plague all commercially released mixes: the fact remains that the best place to hear Ben UFO always has been – and always will be – in a dimly lit club with big speakers and a couple of 1210s, and licensing issues inevitably come into play (there would have definitely been some Livejam representation here were it not for the German label’s militant vinyl-only policy), but these are mere quibbles in the most worldly and outwards facing addition to the Rinse mix canon to date.
Female funky star du jour, 20-year-old Katy B is definitely on a mission. A graduate of the Brit School and Goldsmith’s College, London, she has worked with Benga, Geeneus, Zinc and DJ NG, sung on Magnetic Man’s “Perfect Stranger”, The Count & Sinden’s “Hold Me” and is swiftly becoming the go to vocalist for all manner of funky, R&B, house and garage tracks. With a credibility that belies her years, she’s garnered interest from across the board. Rinse FM have been plugging her hard, fabric have pledged their support, even The Guardian have dubbed Katy their hot ‘New Band Of The Day’. She’s also heading towards a top ten hit…with this song right here.
Taking Benga’s original “Man On A Mission” riddim, Katy effortlessly translates it into a shimmering slice of gently matured, pop-orientated beauty. “When we erupt in to the roo-oooo-oom / And hear the sub go boo-oooo-oom,” she sings, “so I sink in to the tune…” Her honeyed vocals are smooth, polished and oozing with class; lyrics are catchy, but cool; and the tenure of the track, the reason why it’s captured the heart of millions, is due to its downright danceability. It’s hard to tire of that glorious refrain, the throbbing bassline, which basks underneath those swooning, serotonin soaring vocals, those strong Benga drumbeats with their honed dubstep edge and simple repetitive low-end synth riff, which drives it along.
Zinc brings his crack house production skills to flipside “Louder”. Waves of rocking synths, whispering percussion and jacking bass undulate like a stormy ocean, as Katy’s cry to make it “louder…louder…louder…” heralds a progression in the music, a rise in volume and a shift in the tempo. Lyrics such as “As I buy another round / With my final twenty pound / It seems as if my money’s spent / How am I gonna pay the rent?” seem a little Lily Allen-esque at times, but with rather more gravitas and refined aplomb.
There’s no doubt about it that the next year is going to be a big one for our heroine. With mounting hype, attention from major labels, a coveted place on the Radio One playlist and impending chart success, the question on everyone’s lips is: what will Katy do next?