From around the summer of 2006 up through around 2013, I was positively entranced by UK dance music. The creative explosion set off by dubstep in the first half of the 00s was a seismic one. While the late 00s saw a bumper crop of post-dubstep subgenres come into being--including wonky, bassline, UK funky, the purple sound--before having their particularities ironed out by the all-consuming "post-dubstep" tag that endured well into the mid-10s. I'll never forget the moment that I started to fall out of love with the seemingly unending supply line of new talent emerging from the UK when in 2011 Untold, one of the most excitingly forward-thinking and challenging producers to emerge from dubstep, started making almost as shockingly formalistic techno. And while Night Slugs offered up a polychromatic if momentary distraction and Swamp 81 saw its promise of a rejuvenated and traditionalist strain of post-dubstep dissolve into electro fetishism, labels like Hemlock that had once served as curators of the new felt increasingly staid. It and other labels like R&S soon ushered in a raft of single-named techno-focused producers (Blawan, Pariah, Hodge, Randomer, Beneath, Facta, Tessela et al) who all seemed content to work within established genres while making often pale-sounding paeans to their Britishness through a slightly accentuated low-end.
Now, in this very space I've discussed how former critics and scene intensifiers like Martin Clark have continued to deride the current new school of producers still coming into focus in similar ways while critics have unfairly undercut the genuine innovation of producers like Batu, Ploy, Bruce, and Laksa by grouping them all under the banner of "techno." And it's been the work of producers like those just mentioned alongside labels like Timedance, Beneath's Mistry Muzuk, and Facta and K-Lone's Wisdom Teeth that has caused me to re-evaluate my initial over-simplification of many of those producers who were deeply inspired by dubstep while working in genres and styles that preceded it.
The first of their two joint outings to date, Randomer and Hodge's "Second Freeze" b/w "Simple As" was released in September 2016 on LIvity Sound's sister label Dnuos Ytivil that has played home to all of the artists discussed to date. Riding a restless and phantasmically in situ polyrhythmic energy that can best be described as "tribal," "Second Freeze" (as well as "Simple As" on the flip) is not exactly the type of track one would expect to arise from two producers whose music often seems destined for the big room techno set. In his articulation of his hardcore continuum theory in which he lists off the different elements a style of music must possess in order to fit into the historical narrative, there is one requirement that deeply resonates with the music we've been discussing: "beat-science seeking the intersection between ‘fucked up’ and ‘groovy.'" In our previous analysis of Ploy's "Sala One Five," we identified the staggered triplet bass kick as being one of the hallmarks of more technoid tracks to have emerged from this emerging axis of producer and a militarized version of it underpins the restlessly accented sixteenth-note tom rolls that give "Second Freeze" and other tracks like it its forward momentum--see Tessela's recently released "Glisten" for a masterclass in this school of hovering-in-mid-air beat science. The track's lead rhythmic-melodic hook is introduced in its opening moment, sounding like a trampled-upon pan flute treated with enough inorganic sonic tuning to keep it and the hand drum-heavy percussion from sounding as it if the producers' are seeking to capture some tropical techno vibe. Once the track hits the requisite post-build breakdown, acid-inflected handclap patterns and ringing bells join the party to fully disorient the listener's sense of musical geography as percussive industrial techno, balmy tribal atmospheric, and acid house-style rhythm trax all seem to cohabit the pair's synthesized sonic space with ease while subtly displacing any sense of identifiable regionalism. It might not be the bass beatdown either producer has been known to craft, but its rhythmically multi-lingual sensibility make it the type of chameleonic track that can work in a host of different settings.