2014 was a weird year for British dance music of the bass variety. The fact that Hessle's sole release that year was "Not Stochastic," which arrived in late October, can now be seen somewhat symbolically. Amongst the other vanguard post-dubstep labels, Livity was taking a well-deserved victory lap following its first eight releases in the form of a series of remix twelves that skewed heavily techno and Hemlock only put out Untold's trainwreck of an album and a solid Airhead twelve. Other promising developments were found in the two records Dnuos Ytivil issued along with the inroduction of Beneath's Mistry label, which would become a central voice for a new generation of producers. But while 2013 brought us some exciting new ideas and directions within the post-dubstep milieu, it was high time for a new set of voices to emerge with ideas all their own and "Not Stochastic" arguably served as that first shot.
And while I'll get to those very producers and songs in a jiffy, I think it's worthwhile to take a single-song detour into what was truly exciting within UK dance music: the height of Grime 2.0. Yes, I hate that name too, though the "weightless grime" named and proffered by Mumdance and Logos made for a more attractive catch-all even if it only referred to one dominant current in what was an extremely exciting moment that ultimately failed to live up to its promise. Centered around the Boxed club night, residents like Slackk, Mr. Mitch, Mumdance, and Logos helped to inspire a new wave of producers such as JT The Goon, Rabit, Loom, Dark0, and Wen who took the eski template of Wiley and smashed it together with the post-club deconstruction that was also ascendent at the time.
Now, that's obviously not even an intro to what is a far more complicated story, but for our purposes now, we're going to take a look at one particularly outstanding track that also summarizes many of the sound's principle themes and motif. Released on Blackdown's ever-FWD Keysound label, Moleskin's "Grand Ballet" from the aptly-named Satis House found favor amongst a wide variety of club-focused DJ's with a taste for the experimental, perhaps most notably in Teki Latex's still bonkers-good, Lorenzo Senni-inspired Deconstructed Trance Reconstructed Mix. Seriously, just stop reading and groove out to that mix if you've never had the pleasure as the French mainstay smartly utilized a number of grime tracks that perhaps unintentionally the moody escapism of trance to devastating effect.
Sounding like the soundtrack to the waltz scene of a transgressive recreation of Beauty and the Beast, "Grand Ballet" is majestic in all the wrong ways. And it feels oh so good. The producer builds up his beautiful monster ever-so-delicately, throwing down post-eski percussive stabs that grow from a laser rubber coil to the car crash nu-vogue percussion popularized by Jam City. The principle melodic motif is a wonderfully plodding piece of harmonic stitching, a malevolently whimsical upward arpeggiation built around a four-note root. Like a pre-pubescent choir boy singing a solo version of Ave Maria or some shit, Moleskin gets the most mileage possible out of his minimalist masterpiece as he turns his soloist into an army choir, evoking a trance breakdown for a hideous near-futuristic brand of hedonism. It's powerful stuff and it's a damn shame that this was the last we heard from the Moleskin project.