A Journal Of The Dark Arts
it can be hard to keep track of electronic music. For the longest time, dance music was plunging forward with reckless futurism, discarding genres like cicada husks. A few years ago, much was being said about the hardcore continuum, showing how garage to dubstep to grime has been part of the same nocturnal flow. Now, we’re living in 2013, post-singularity, and the evolution has imploded. We’re living in the now, past and present superimposed, and forced to deal.
There’s a lot of g0ddam music out there, and the discerning basshead and pallid noisefreak is left to wade through the lot. Finding ways to find QUALITY is our main goal, our only task, and Bristolian bass collective Young Echo are dreaming up scalpel sharp innovations to broadcast their own productions, using a mixture of radio and mixtapes and releases to spread the gospel. It’s an intriguing illustration at the blurring lines between DJs, producers, bloggers, remixers. We’re all falling into the audio soup, recombinant RNA splicers, one million mutations before the taking of a toast and tea.
Nexus is the collective’s first album, a murky and beguiling chimera of soporific drones, agitated techstep, grime, rhymes and soul. This is hardly surprising, seeing as how this collective is 9 strong. Nexus is part album, part mixtape, the tracks put together from the individual’s work, and strung together like a Cornell constellation, to show the commonality and communality, the group sound.
Young Echo are from Bristol, the cradle of trip-hop, home to the revered trinity Portishead, Massive Attack, and Tricky, and the collective are open about their love and influence. Almost everybody who was spoken of this record talks about ‘that Bristol sound’. That’s a bit reductive and dismissive, as this is the perfect opportunity to get into the heart and the soul of a place. What are the essential ingredients that make up the sound?
The first, and most noticeable, influence is a symbiotic relationship with the dub sound system culture. You cannot talk about Bristol, Trip Hop, or early UK dubstep, without considering Reggae. One million tons of bassweight, and spacious amounts of echo, that’s the dubbers creed. There is a laid back lope, that brings in the spirit of jazz and old skool hip hop as well, and it is this shuffle, this groove, and the careful use of space, that the current crop of contender’s for dance music’s crown could take much from. If anyone has any thoughts, or knows why, Bristol has such a huge reggae influence, i’d be curious to know.
I would like to give a short shout-out to whoever raps on these tracks (it’s rather difficult to tell who does what). His stately measure, smooth as a basalt monolith, and gorgeously echoplexed. There is a technological stoicism here, a dystopian romance, stark full of poetry and eloquence. If you’ve never had the pleasure of introduction to the world of Grime, that is British hip-hop, this could get you started. It’s gangster, it’s thuggish, it’s paranoid, it’s intellectual, it’s arty. It’s all my favorite things about what hip-hop can be, which is poetry from the streets, which is all about every day people refining every day life into sublime inspiration. American Hip Hop could take a lesson or two from this approach (stop making bullshit trap remixes).
One last point (i could go on forever) becomes apparent when watching Young Echo work in the flesh, like in this video made for The Wire. They gather around, in one room, like a drum circle or a seance, and channel the vibe with retro electronics, controlled synthesis and crispy beats. This is a jam, believe you me, even if it has been pre-ordained and thought out. This shows the intersection between technology and improvisation, bringing a more human element into the normally clinical world of electronic production. It brings to mind fellow cyborgs and futurists like Can, Kraftwerk, and Neu, as well as the last decade of the noise underground, bands like Emeralds and even the mighty Wolf Eyes. It’s another illustration of the atavistic return, the archaic revival, cyborg shamanism, technological ritual. This is definitely part of what we are chronicling, this interest in old world magick, melded with technology and the modern world. So much of the hippie ethos has been rejecting the modern world, and romanticizing a past they weren’t even alive to experience. I mean, really, must we all live as Quaker and Amish to be evolved, or interested in the spirit. The spirit is alive and thriving in the cities, mutating and modulating at alarming rates. These noisy cyber rituals make for some of the most compelling listen, to this reviewer’s taste.
Young Echo are here to help you navigate the post-dubstep world. Like many, i was obsessed and enthralled with the early UK dubstep, Burial, Kode9, The Bug et al., as well as the stream of brilliant conceptual writing that was springing out at the time, which laid the foundation for my own literary ambitions. The sins that have been perpetrated by the LFO oscillated sub-bass have been tragic, heartbreaking, inexcusable, as dubstep transmogrified into the next generation of date-raping nu metal (some of which i still like. i’m no snob.), but it put producers in a unique position, as dubstep was the most successful crossover electronic genre since Disco; its sounds were everywhere. And the continuum impoded, as the next generation figured out what exactly the fuck they wanted to sound like. How do it while bearing no resemblance to yr mongoloid distant cousin? Not only that, but the sheer amount of dance music flooding the synapses exploded around the same time, so there was a tremendous amount of REALLY BAD DUBSTEP (and every other genre) being made, and how the hell do you find the good shit, how do you know it when you hear it, and once you find it, what do you do with it? That’s why people like Young Echo, and geographically-oriented scenes became handy, navigating the data streams.
Young Echo have refined and perfected the skeletal kung-fu beats of the early dubstep, and later refined into surgical precision by the likes of Peverlist and Appleblim. They take us back to when this was a vibrant movement, and maybe it always has been in Bristol.
That’s the joy of Young Echo, and movements everywhere. They are like the White Rabbit, leading you down a tunnel into nocturnal wonder and splendour, taking you by the hand, finding and showing off the miraculous. That’s what it’s like, getting obsessed with a really tremendous producer, label, genre, or scene. It reveals a whole dark continent of influences and history, as the new wave tips their hats to their heroes, their mates, and whatever their influences are at the time. Young Echo have been doing an online radio show for quite some time, tons of shit to drown yrselves in their aesthetic, to become obsessed and possessed by.
Much as i would like it to be otherwise, i am no expert on the current state of British Electronic Music. Part of the purpose of this blog is to chronicle my education, as i continue to try and learn how to write about and make music. There are so many angles, so many ways, to talk about any single piece of music, and the ideas are shifting endlessly. Part of why Young Echo are so enthralling is it’s an introduction to a whole scene, a whole culture, a whole world, a whole different way of thinking and doing things. It’s a pretty damn fine example, as the Young Echo crew are doing fantastically, super prolific, both collectively and individually. There’s a whole web of music to find and lose yrself in, and get introduced to some of the finest sounds extant.
As i put it in an article the other day, about the indie rock band The Dodos, we want to remember. We don’t want to forget. There have been so many innovative sounds in the last 2 decades, so much learning and processing and experimenting and moving forward. We pause for a moment, look backwards, look forwards. It is like the Roman god Janus, triple-faced, guardian of doorways; looking backwards, looking forwards, still and silent in the present.
Nexus is highly recommended for anyone who has been despairing about the direction dance music has been taking. Here’s the sound of the present, and of the future. I highly recommend it, as well as the wide web of its individual components.
recommended tracks: Voices On The Water, Blood Sugar, Flying
Young Echo are:
you can still get a limited edition 2×12″ direct from RAMP RECORDINGS, with a bonus flexi disc, as well as a download: http://recordsaremypillow.myshopify.com/collections/main/products/young-echo-nexus
listen to the whole thing @ FACT Magazine