Outside of our conversation about Night Slugs' serial genre-hopping and the singular year in British dance music, we haven't talked about Mosca much in this space. This is a bit of an oversight when you consider that for most of this decade, he's been on the frontlines of UK techno. Though when he first reached the attention of international electronic music fans, well, I sure didn't have him pegged as a techno lifer.
n conversations with some of the producers we've been covering, Mosca's Square One EP has come up more than a few times with folk like Gaunt citing it as a massive inspiration when it came out as the first Night Slugs release back in 2010. Listening to both the six-plus minute title track and the ten-minute "Nike" today, it's easy to see both pieces as early examples of the top of genre science we've been analyzing in the younger generation who came of age to dubstep without getting to take part in any of the IRL fun while also seeing such an innovational genre grow so staid so quickly. Following the Newtonian Laws of Cultural Physics, there has been a marked flight towards well-established genre and styles with varying results. Though I'm 100% guilty of throwing up my hands to the dubstep-trap of "Wut" or the electro novelty of "Sicko Cell," hearing Mosca for the first time was almost overwhelming as here was an artist who would change genres mid-song, seamlessly stitching together house, electro, UK Funky, and a host of other niches into a piece of music that would have been referred to as "progressive" just fifteen years earlier. And that's not even taking into account the B side of "Nike," a track that effortlessly moves from LA-indebted beat science to a deliciously intricate funky broken beat. Commenting on the tracks five years later, he observed, "The stuff I first came out with – ‘Square One’ and ‘Nike’ and whatnot - even though I think they sound terrible now, they're a lot more typical of what I'm about. Experimental but efficient club music." And if there's a better description than 'experimental but efficient club music' to describe what makes this present moment in UK so compelling, well, I haven't come up with it yet.
In the intervening years, Mosca has proven himself to be a reliably unpredictable producer, but also one content working within established formats like house, electro, and techno. Speaking with RA in 2012, he discussed his willingness to be "pigeonholed" by listeners who perhaps heard his UKG-flexing track "Bax" and perceived the producer as working solely in that genre. He attributed such facile categorizations to a failure to comprehend post-genre thining, noting that "when you don't have [a pigeonhole], people get more annoyed. When you just say: "Oh, it's this type of music that brings in all these elements," people don't know what that sounds like in their head. They haven't got the imagination. You need to be able to say "it's a variant of... bassline, or grime or something."
It's an interesting discussion to read six years on as in one sense, many of the creativity-stifling issues he cites--the desire to not be tied to a single genre, the linguistic inadequacy of the "Bass" genre, the way that 'rules' emerge within music--resonate directly with many of the artists and themes we've been investigating. And they're themes he regularly returns to in later interviews, noting in Attack Magazine, "Music doesn’t necessarily need words to describe it, least of all from me. People will project their own thoughts and descriptions onto the music. I do it to other artists." It's an observation that gets at the heart of our present moment when we have more types of music than ever, yet there seems to be a far less deeper understanding of it--or to borrow a phrase from the world of IT security, music fans these days feel the pressure to have knowledge a mile wide, but which is also only an inch deep.
"Experimental" is another word within dance music that has been used to describe so much non-experimental music that it starts to lose its meaning. Speaking about the relative freedom afforded by running his own Not So Much Label to create 'weird' and 'experimental' music, he notes that "the trouble with experimental is it's actually quite easy to do, as is straight up club stuff. It's trying to get the best of both worlds that's the tricky bit, y’know?" And ultimately, that's the story we're chasing here; producers who either grew up around dance music or were able to access it early on via the internet along with every other kind of music and who choose to work within established forms while creating music that's unmistakably their own. While I might bristle at what I see as insufficient and misleading genre categories when 99% of critics refer to artists like Batu, Ploy, LOFT, Facta, Bruce, and so many others as 'techno' and 'bass,' the open-to-wide-interpretation nature of both terms creates a space for the aforementioned producers and others like Mosca to innovate anew in ways that might not immediately alter the course of music, but that at the very least, keeps things interesting. In that same Attack interview, he makes this excruciatingly incisive observation::"House getting big isn’t like drum and bass getting big. House isn’t a niche thing, you don’t need to follow certain rules, it opens pathways to techno and experimental stuff and all that history. It’s such a broad tempo range that most things you mix with house can be considered house, you know?"
LInguistic colonization is not a new idea and is something we see happen daily in meme culture--remember when 'swag was a cool word? Yeah, exactly. And while I'm sure Mosca is not the first person to make the observation of how hegemonic (hegeneric?) power dynamics, it's a subtle but profound observation that goes easily unnoticed by punters and DJ's alike. At the same time listening to Mosca's recent raft of material, he's been moving in a direction I like to call 'weirdo electro" for the past few years, a sound that has been gradually coming down in terms of fidelity and BPM. On his two most recent releases in particular, he's been employing an eccentric sound palette and sensibility that has seen him embracing big, clunky melodies over beats that seem to creak and limp their way to the finish line.
Last year's Timedance Remixes - 1 compilation saw the label looking beyond its coterie of artists to remix some of the highlights from the label's first eight releases. And while it certainly wasn't bad, for a label that confounds with every release, it was an unsuaully staid affair. That is, however until the listener gets to Mosca's 'Dead Leg Version' of Bruce's boisterous "Post Rave Wrestle." Galloping in on a low-slung beat and 112 BPM that splits the difference between slower electro and Strafe's "Set It Off," the producer's elps and screams inject both a liveliness and textural nuance to the proceedings. A relentless, descending melodic motif takes center stage, shifting between two notes while an assortment of counter-melodies and FX keep listeners on their toes, resulting in a track that is as infectious as it is baffling.