Paul Rose/Scuba’s Hotflush Recordings has long held an ambivalent spot in my heart of hearts. Since setting up shop in 2003 as one of the very first dubstep-focused labels—back when ‘dubstep’ looked much different than how it would only a few years later—I was enchanted with much of the label’s early output. However, I’ll never forget listening to the label’s first comp collecting its early twelves, Space and Time, and feeling an overwhelming sense of disappointment with the halfstep tracks, thinking “Oh no, this is going to be like Trip-Hop 2.0” (and let’s be real: nothing ‘2.0’ has ever been particularly good). At the same time, early platters from the likes of Toasty, Eric H, and Toasty still hold up today, demonstrating just how exciting and fertile the early space that opened up between late UKG and early grime and dubstep was. That ambivalence caused by the Rose’s flitting between the bleeding edge of the underground and more hotel lobby-friendly sounds has become one of the defining hallmarks of both Rose’s career and his A&R inclinations. In addition to breaking artists like Joy Orbison, Mount Kimbie, and Sepalcure alongside putting out some of the best material from Untold, Sigha, and Rose himself (via his Berghain-friendly SCB moniker), the label has also put out plenty of maudlin, big room-primed stinkers. And, honestly, that’s kind of awesome when you think about it as the label approaches its fifteenth-year anniversary and still pivots between mainstream-palatable fare and more adventurous material. Having stumbled into the Hotflush section of my collection the other day, it felt like high time to revisit five of my favorite deep cuts from the label’s imposing discography…let’s get to it!
Matt Campbell’s Qualifide Recordings label was a UKG-focused imprint that started in 2001 and featured second-wave speed garage and 2-step productions from his own Qualifide alias along with releases from El-Tuff (Karl "Tuff Enuff" Brown and El-B) and Club Asylum, amongst others. Released in 2004 when the UKG crowd had been whittled down to the diehards, “Just Being Fooled” featured two mixes that are representative of the competing impulses in UK house music at that time, including a broken beat mix and a 4/4 mix. I’ve always pulled for the latter as it is just bursting with halcyon house vibes and is an absolute belter imho. Get blissed.
In 2007, Rose initiated the HFT iteration of the Hotflush catalog that saw the label capitalizing on the growing attention being given to both the imprint and dubstep as a whole with records that reflected the genre’s ever-growing vanguard of producers that were growing disillusioned with the stultifying halfstep productions while still drawing inspiration from the risk-taking labels and producers who would soon be grouped together under the maddening post-dubstep header. Reflecting the resurgent popularity of Basic Channel-styled dub techno, the short-lived production career of Emi Ono arguably reached its apex on the B-side of this 2008 release. A high-octane and atmospheric dub techno floor filler, “Moon” boasts a stubbornly halftime post-UKG snare-rim click that would give Burial chills.
It’s a Dave Huismans (2562/A Made Up Sound) remix. Nuff said.
Man, Sigha really broke my heart. Known for his industrial-leaning, strong-arm techno flexes on Avian, Token, and Blueprint, in 2009 the producer burst onto the scene seeming like the dub techno savior we all wanted to believe in. The Rawww three-tracker kicked off things in particularly immense fashion with the title track boasting the type of post-drop hook that likely wouldn’t have happened without years of LFO abuse in the dubstep scene. A true mix-stealing track.
By 2012, I had stopped keeping track of HFT releases as the label found increasing favor amongst a more mainstream audience. The label was home to some of Paul Woolford’s earlier releases and roped in Bristol badman Kowton for two remixes of Woolford’s post-dubstep burner “Erotic Discourse.” While the main remix offers up a bona fide post-dubstep showstopper—a genre that was increasingly being subsumed into more established categories like house, techno, electro and their related spin-offs—the beatless version cuts out the drums to feature the sputtering lead hook to give any blend a serious head-turning spin. Absolute maddness.