Friday, February 10, 2012
Despite the frequently championed buoyancy of vinyl sales, record stores in New York City are few and far between. There are a few strongholds (Halcyon, Deadly Dragon) and collector havens (Good Records) but for the most part, if you want to get your hands on something specific online distributors are the way to go. This creates something of a puzzle for fans of UK bass musics (Dubstep, Funky, Grime etc.) situated outside of the UK, since an impulse-buy of a "Friday Shipping" new release will often result in receiving your vinyl round about the time the release has hit digital shops. This is by no means standard practice. Many labels now release on digital and vinyl simultaneously. Mysteries of distribution aside, buying vinyl is a choice to invest in an object. It will not crash or become corrupt (well, there are ways to corrupt your vinyl ..) and it can be resold without getting you arrested.
For the label/musician, vinyl is a slightly different kind of investment/strategy. Especially, if your release is vinyl only. Which brings me, finally, to the self-published gem of No Symbols 001. The premier release from Sheffield producer Beneath, NOSY001 is a four track EP of intensely bass-heavy UK Funky. The tracks are stripped down (were they ever built-up?) to a kind of dubbed-out essence, patiently constructed out of echoing pads, efficient drum patterns and the aforementioned foundation-crumbling sub-bass. Mid-range synth does figure here and there but it is hardly the focus of these tracks. To get a sense of this producer's potential you should download this guest mix from Blackdown's blog, which is how I know that any of this stuff exists in the first place. While it's downloading you can also have a listen to another mix which pairs the four tracks on the EP with a choice selection of funky riddims and gospel house(!). The track list can be found here.
I could go more in depth on each of the tracks on the release, but Manchester distro Boomkat has already done a bang-up job of compressing that description into a single, dense insider-speak paragraph. The consensus seems to be that Beneath's work is a throwback to the minimal aesthetic of an earlier era of mid-noughts Dubstep. While I recognize the urge to constantly frame the sounds of the present in relation to the past, I prefer to say that these sounds are part of a new direction in the existing landscape of British underground dance music - something beyond the genre-hybridizing of 2010 into 2011. If there is a tie in this EP to a time when Dubstep was being propagated by a handful of labels, it is in the so-called "outsider" nature of it's marketing strategy, which exploits the allure of the unknowable in an age of the information obsessed. I point this out not to undermine its effectiveness, but rather to show that it is a choice to avoid the double-bind of internet hype. A decision worth respecting since it is mirrored in the well-crafted nature of the sounds themselves. If you are in for the long haul, buy this record. It's the difference between hype and history.