Taking stock of our story so far...I started this process as a way to work my way through what appeared to be an insurmountable amount of interviews and research I've compiled in the past six months in an attempt to provide some clarity around the current crop of producers working in the post-dubspace since 2013. In that time, the use of the post-dubstep label by critics has waned in tandem with the amount of probing, often anxious criticism that thrived through 2012, often championing new styles and geographically-grouped scenes before discarding them for the next mutation (see UK funky, wonky, bassline, future garage, the purple sound, etc.) With the lack of such voices as Simon Reynolds, Simon Clark, and K-Punk (Mark Fisher) alongside the diminishing role of Dissensus in fueling any type of coherent lack of definition-giving criticism and scene-destroying hype, a far more organic scene has emerged that tends to get lazily filed under the insufficient genre labels of 'techno' and 'bass music.'
And while the concept of the hardcore continuum served as something of a critical albatross throughout the 00s in which each new UK dance development was judged by its ability to live up to Reynolds' increasingly outdated and inflexible theory, something wonderful has emerged in its critical absence. For while the concept itself has become a politically charged site in which one's critical-theoretical leanings were laid bare by its continued existence--basically, the fact that so many nuum supporters fell into the post-Marxist camp says a lot about Reynolds' exercise in Hegelian-informed historical narrativizing--something rather funny has happened as the clamor faded into the background. UK dance has entered its more creative and exciting period since the mid-00s and has been realized by an axis of Hessle and Hemlock-informed and -aligned producers and labels eager to recreate dubstep's supposed 'shock of the new' in between the space that has emerged between readily identifiable genres.
As we have seen twice already, Bruce (née Larry McCarthy) burst into the post-dubstep space with a fury in 2014, releasing two wildly different yet equally confident singles for two enduring institutions of bass-focused post-genre sonic explorations, Hessle Audio and Livity Sound's farm league Dnuos Ytivil imprint. Though his two-tracker for the latter label hewed more to the tropes forged by Livity's co-founder Peverelist (Tom Ford) and the post-Livity sound he unintentionally fostered through his continued involvement in the scene, it was his two platters for Hessle Audio--the broken techno of "Not Stochastic" and the mangled broken beats of "Steals"--that announced him as someone unafraid to desecrate sacred cows.
Still, for his debut twelve on the scene-defining Timedance imprint run by Bristol native Omar McCutcheon (Batu), few could have expected what would transpire on the record's A side. Roaring into action at a big room-ready 132 BPM, "I'm Alright Mate" is big room techno made by a producer seemingly hell-bent on destroying the big room. As my cursory descriptions of his other breakthrough records above indicate, McCarthy is an artist who often sounds as if he is at war with the genre of music he's inhabiting for his own anarchistic stylistic purposes. That said, the opening minute of "Mate" plays it shockingly conservative as a tightly-wound kick gallops forth, its carriage containing a standard tech-house vamp of staggered triplet stabs. One of the primary criticisms of producers like Bruce, Batu, and Beneath is that they're simply making techno with a more pronounced low-end that makes it uniquely "UK." That a country boasts such a pronounced and readily identifiable sonic lineage within electronic dance music is no small feat and what much of the music we've discussed shares is a desire to craft music that is as British as it is new and strange, synthesizing established forms in new and daring ways. And as the shapeless thump of "Mate" starts to fill out its perimeter, its distinctly UK nature comes through in the post-funky snare pattern that sounds like it's been melted in a Manchester steel vat. Despite being based in Bristol, McCarthy's sights seem to be set on his country industrialized north while churning out a not-at-all-subtle dancefloor deconstruction far more exciting and nuanced than anything ever producer by Factory Floor. Calling to mind the digital noise devastation proffered by such storied labels as Editions Mego, McCarthy sets the track afire as its third0minute roars into existence with the unsubtle drop of some serious mix mangling as the beat suddenly begins to self-cannibalize, foreshadowing the dropping-of-the-ground enacted by the barnburner of a breakdown. Though keeping time throughout, Bruce lays waste to any notion of structure as a DAW-rendered reconstruction of the Montparnasse train crash totally derails the mix in a bloody mess of noise and silence. Almost as quickly as the whole thing falls apart the track is soon back up on its own two feet, but the damage has been done to listeners who are left scarred by the unceremonious burning of the beat, a traumatizing event McCarthy teases for the remainder of the track's riotous six minutes before abandoning the big room for the inevitable Redshape track entering the final 32 bars. Don't worry about McCarthy though, he's off in room 3 on the B side, playing with the bloated corpse of electro like a cat would a dead mouse on the equally beguiling "Post Rave Wrestle' that was wonderfully remixed by Mosca last summer on Timedance's first pack of remixes.