While producers such as Batu and Lurka had both put out a number of decidedly post-dubstep records in the early 10s before moving into more exciting and experimental territory, between 2014 and early 2016 a number of producers emerged such as Bruce, Ploy, and Laksa began to emerge with records that have played instrumental roles in adding definition to this new, under-defined terrain. Despite many of them (Batu, Ploy, Bruce, and Laksa) were either from or had moved to Bristol for university and the like shared a geographical commonality, they have been hesitant to define themselves in relation to that city's tradition of fostering local scenes and stylistic mutations. As Omar McCutcheon (Batu) notes, "I think all of us come from a generation where we haven't been tied to a localised or insular scene."
For Callum Laksa who, like McCutcheon, hails from the city, his move in 2010 to London for university was instrumental in providing him with those seminal musical experiences from which he began to develop a referential style all his own stating, I’ve always gone clubbing but I think since moving to London in 2010, to study, those clubbing experiences have been the most educational." Of course, being a Bristol boy, "My personal connection to Bristol does make me feel more aligned to the city and the producers occupying it." Still, like McCutcheon, he is quick to note that even with a certain degree of shared space, being in "a different place (geographically and lifewise" has fostered "a looser sense of collectivity for me."
Musically, he is also ready to dispel any sense of a shared genre or approach. "I also think my music is less futuristic then the other producers mentioned, probably playing to genre tropes more often," he wrote in our conversation last fall." Personally, I was rather struck by his use of the word "futuristic" to describe the music of some of his peers, who tend to focus on the 'experimental' nature of the music they're making. For McCutcheon, in an interview with Alyce Currier, "I think there are a lot of producers from the UK who have moved naturally into making music that falls into very established categories, house, techno, whatever… That’s cool, I like that stuff; but I’m more interested in working with people who are operating on the fringes of different styles. Stuff that isn’t quite so easy to pigeon hole! I generally feel there is space for more experimentation and bold club music. It feels like DJs and producers are happy to play it safe a bit too much at times – I’m guilty of this too, by the way. I want to hear music that challenges me!"
And whether the music of Batu is somehow more futuristic or challenging in Laksa is ultimately down to personal taste in my opinion--though Batu will definitely take some risks not many others will--there's still no denying that all of the producers we've discussed share a desire to create truly forward music without reinventing the wheel. That said, there are certainly certain tricks and tropes that start to appear when one starts closely listening, but whether they're even intentional ones or products of the genres they are pilfering remains unclear. As Laksa commented in response to my questions about what, if anything, the his music shares with the other producers on labels like Timedance and Mistry, "I’m unsure if there’s any specific commonalities between mine, and the other mentioned producers music. You’d probably find little commonalities between my 4 releases to be honest haha. I think the connection is we make UK bass bobbler’s and our music’s different to a lot of what’s out there at the moment. In a climate of music where producers tend to be recycling ideas and seem happy to indulge in nostalgia alone, you’re more likely to stick out and/or be branched together (especially if there’s a shared space you occupy such as Timedance and Bristol). For me, the connection would be more of a value base then style."
In addition to gifting me with the term of "bass bobblers," one I've been making ample use of, Callum's comment on the stylistic disparity between his four releases struck a nerve with me. For while I own four of his five records, it wasn't until reading his response that I found myself listening with almost new ears to his music, shocked at his command of nuance when inhabiting and sampling different genres and styles. At the same time, I was also struck by the fact that outside of certain sonic throughlines (those rubbery kicks on "Contrasts" and "RAM," the laser-like hooks animating "66 Rebels" and "Like It's 99"), if I was pushed to articulate what the artist's particular voice was, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a succinct summation. And Laksa seems to agree with this, saying, "Personally, i’m not really trying to chase or develop an aesthetic. One thing I do always try and achieve is a good balance between home listening and club functionality. I would never really like to make a track that is so focused on the dancefloor that it loses qualities I look for when listening to music at home/travelling etc. I also think that gives a track a better chance of longevity and therefore something you can go back to. I wonder whether these conscious choices are something the other producers mentioned make, and also whether home listening was a concern for producers pre internet/youtube age. Whether or not that’s an aesthetic choice I’m unsure."
Across his five releases, that intersection between pleasurable, engaging home listening and floor-moving functionality tends to reflect the producer's acumen as a DJ. Last fall I unfortunately was unable to see his fantastic at the wonderfully queer Groovy Groovy party, a set they fortunately uploaded. Over the course of ninety minutes, the producer pulls for an array of different genres while teasing a climactic junglist excursion and this dexterity with styles shines through in his productions. On "Draw For The," his first release put out by Beneath's Mistry Muzik, Laksa channels the unrelenting pulse of techno over a staggered, post-Livity bass kick sequence as an almost atonal Banshee's screen is chopped up into a rhythmic fog that settles over the beat. Things lock into a solid groove around the one-minute mark when a skipping snare line is added to the beat alongside an equally ghostly synth bleep before locking into a forward-driving banger with the snare hitting on the two and four, a pneumatic cymbal hit exhaling on the one. An eerie three-note melody kicks going into the song's final third as the beat slips into the shadows before a simple, intertwining melody is weaved into the mix as the drums change between the pensive kick and snare dance of the beginning and the electro-leaning thump until all dissipating in a ghostly haze. Stellar debut.