Considering their output to date, it comes as something of a surprise to find Kowton and Hyetal conjoining for the inaugural release on Happy Skull. The label is one of the freshest ventures to emanate from the wider Idle Hands family, curated by Bristol DJs par excellence The Kelly Twins and featuring two regular fixtures in the shop on either side of the counter.
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.
With all the dubstep-gone-house kerfuffle currently engulfing the UK scene, it’s very intriguing to observe the myriad reactions and interpretations to be found about the place. Of course the argument for many artists would be that they were never strictly dubstep, and true enough a lot of the purist producers (say, the DMZ crew or the likes of Distance) are still plying their trade without a hint of 4/4 touching their productions. Hyetal was certainly testing the limits of dubstep when he first emerged with his glossy, warbling synth-laden sound, and then last years Broadcast LP smacked the script out of context altogether.
Dave ‘Hyetal’ Corney’s much anticipated debut album brilliantly demonstrates his development as a producer. Initially celebrated for the atmospheric quality of his heavy dubstep beats and typically Bristolian fusions of techno and what’s glibly called “bass music”, Corney has gradually been moving in different directions for the past 12 months.
For those familiar with recent musical developments in his adopted home city of Bristol, it may not be much of a surprise. Having always been a city obsessed by bass and beats above all else, Bristol’s scene now boasts a mix of cutting-edge producers of touchy-feely house (Julio Bashmore, Outboxx), space-obsessed synth twiddlers (even techno stalwart October has released an EP of star-gazing nu-disco) and far-sighted labels keen to push next-level electronic music with no limits (Immerse, Soul Motive, Black Acre, Idle Hands etc.) – all, of course, with plenty of low-end pulse.
In the midst of all this open-minded musical experimentation, it’s no surprise that Broadcast is a much more musically complex beast than previous Hyetal releases. Of course, there are plenty of dubstep-influenced rhythms amongst the shimmering ambience and off-kilter beats, but the lasting impression is of shimmering electronics, heavy appreggios and luscious synthscapes. Check, for example, “The Chase”, with its almost cinematic sweeps and beatless, Italo-influenced rhythms, or “Phoenix”, a pleasingly innocent, almost Balearic fusion of chiming melodies, Bashmore-ish pads and skittering percussion.
Even the album’s heavier moments come cloaked in a veneer of sparkling beauty (see the glistening melodies and floor-pummeling beats of “Beach Scene”, or the crystalline disco-step of “Searchlight”), and there are enough deliciously touchy-feely downtempo moments to thrill all but the most hardened of bassheads (check the ambient opener “Ritual” and heady “Transmission”). Above everything else, Broadcast is a proper album – and a thrilling one at that.
The output from Bristol (second home of dubstep, lest we forget) has been particularly impressive of late. There’s been Pinch’s “Boxer”, Gudio’s debut artist album Anidea and some great stuff from Komonazmuk, Appleblim and the Soul Motive camp. Amongst those leading the way, however, is Peverelist, aka Tom Ford, whose meticulous approach in everything from production to label management to A&R has meant he has become one of the key figures in Bristol’s dubstep scene and beyond. As the owner of Punch Drunk imprint he has been responsible for putting out records from the likes of Guido, RSD, Pinch, Shortstuff and Hyetal. This 12” sees the label boss teaming up with Hyetal, whose previous productions “Phoenix” and “Pixel Rainbow Sequence” have garnered huge attention from across the bass music fraternity.
Kicking off with “The Hum”, the contrast of the deep, murmuring hum of the b-line, percussive hiss and twinkling, dancing synthetic skittering of the melody is immediately striking. After a moment of doubt, where the two layers of sound are distinctly separate, it seems they accept their differences and move along in unison thereafter. The pattering drums and rippling swathes of synths which bathe the beats become more and more prominent as the track progresses. The influences and echoes are many, but it is hard to put your finger on exactly what each part reminds you of why, suffice to say that the sound is very much of that elusive “Bristol Sound”.
On the flip, “Rrrr” compliments its A-Side counterpart with a rather different flavour, but equally as impressive in terms of sonic quality. A bewildering intro paves the way for a more sparse, stripped back and intensely meditative piece. A swirling synth dies out to expose a creaky sound repeated with hollow, loping beat and gentle onomatopeiac rustlings embedded into the very fabric of the track. Textures are muffled and withdrawn, with intriguing whirring moments, rattling elements, neat blurs and bleepy arpeggios towards the end. It’s a contemplative venture all round here from Peverelist & Hyetal – hats off!