"Butter the toast, eat the toast, shit the toast" - Mark Corrigan
Following about an hour of Facebook Video Chat-assisted discussion last August, the producer born Joseph Higgins (Metrist, L.SAE) re-familiarized me with the above quote from BBC sitcom institution Peep Show to describe the sort of 1:1 relationship he wish more producers had with their music. More to the point, while he has learned to embrace this "simple algorithm," he wondered aloud about the lack of activity and attention he perceived around the distinctly UK dance tunes we've been covering so far, remarking "people are making these tunes why aren’t they doing stuff more like this?" In discussing how he came into his L.SAE alias, he mentions his desire "to create something that was more UK" after having achieved some attention outside of his native country for the industrial-tinged, hardwired techno he releases as Metrist for such prominent techno labels as Black Opal and Fifth Wall. Indeed, in discussing the teeth-clenched 4x4 material he puts out as Metrist, Higgins also introduced me to a phrase I've taken to using a lot in the past six month, referring to the bad case of the "yips" he got around techno's often stringent 4x4 framework. Though he has since worked past that particular case of yips following ample discussion with Batu and other producers in both the more bass-heavy and techno scenes, he commented how that expectation of a constant kick drum hit on the down-beat "didn’t have the space, I couldn’t find any room to work within it."
And while Higgins himself did not draw this connection, it's hard not to see the far more sparse and percussively-varied material he released as L.SAE for both Batu's Timedance label and a track on the Blank Minds compilation The Poison Dwarf as potential yip-inducers, so accomplished and percussive as they are (seriously, just give "Dices Courter" a listen...the name, by the way, is an anagram for Source Direct.). What I do know is that Higgins grew up the renowned university town of Cambridge, a town with no clubs pumping out the sounds he and mate Divided--who also trades in a similar style of bass-heavy, broken techno as the producers we've already covered--were seeking. In particular, Higgins notes that "The thing that changed everything for me, when I was 14, I had 5 Years of Hyperdub," taking particular pains to note the impact Joker's "Digidesign" had upon him. Committed to creating forward sounds for themselves, they made use of a "converted garage and Gamecube," channelling their creative use of free time into viable careers as producers and, near the end of their respective time in Cambridge, also helped mentor the budding producer Gaunt, who we will discuss in a few days.
In discussing the Bristol scene that has given birth to such paradigm-shifting labels as Livity and Timedance, Higgins notes how supportive Tom Ford (Peverelist) was in supporting younger producers like Batu. In terms of inspiration, he's quick to point to Ford, noting that "Tom’s the absolute master of drums and space." One particular theme of note that arose during our conversation was what we both identified as the increased desire amongst the producers we've been discussing to create a sonic identity that is a direct extension of their respective singularity as individuals. And while there is a distinctively national aspect to the L.SAE moniker, he is quick to note that it's the one he feels sounds truly like him (or at least a facet of himself). Still, he's also more than aware of the pressure one feels to create in a certain style or genre, commenting, "I would have made electro if I was around in the 90s."
Rather, he came of age in the shadow of dubstep and enmeshed in a scene that seems to value individual aesthetic realization over a shared style of music, the only sonic glue at times being their shared national heritage. And from just reading its London-referencing name, "The West End As It Will Be" contains the type of nuanced beat construction and control of negative space that could only have come from the UK. Discussing "Dices Courter" with the producer, he talked about playing it out and not getting much a reception due to its lack of a traditional eight- or sixteen-bar percussion intro. "The West" begins in a similar vein, a swamp of noise through which the shadow of a beat slowly starts to come into shape as echoes of the track's lead bell melody are dissected and big slabs of industrial noise cut through the mix. At the 1:10 mark, L.SAE starts to repeat the song's first minute but with a more pronounced kick pattern, aborting his plans less than halfway through when at the 1:32 mark the track begins in earnest with the addition of an off-beat woodblock hit, shuffling snares, and a robo-mangled sound not unlike a cyborg talking through the engine of a blender. Gradually a second melody in the form of a two-note string phrase enter the mix as toms are thrown in to add to the free-wheeling percussive onslaught before everything comes to a seemingly pre-drop pause at 3:03, the silence pierced by a few random string stabs. From there, we get the closet thing "The West" provides in terms of a rolling, forward-propelled beat as the string stabs assume a repeating pattern over the robotic rumble first introduced in the first half of the song. An ascending and descending eight-note bell sequence that only adds the overall curious, precocious sensibility. Things hit another phase of rhythmic ambivalence before the producer seemingly embraces the fact that there will be no narrative climax and keeps listeners on their toes for the song's closing minute as just the galloping-in-place beat and robot voiceover play fight until the whole thing puts itself to rest. The B cut "Line Sunk Like I'm Sunk" is equally probing, like SND doing their pointillist take on dubstep. And while Higgins has stated he has no current intention to resume the L.SAE project, the three cuts he put out under the alias remain some of the most enjoyably challenging dance music to arise from this current wave.