Sheffield’s burgeoning crop of talent is becoming difficult to ignore, a fact that is no more true than in the case of NUKG upstart, Weagle, dropping his latest on acclaimed label Southpoint.

“More Noise” is a busy two-tracker with a bright, sunny feel that arrives ahead of summer rather opportunely. Much of the ancillary work on the first track of the record, “Lucky”,  is performed by the dizzying arrangement of instruments and samples, with syncopated keys playing off chopped vocals and clavinet and saxophone-like sounds serving as accompaniments throughout. These tuneful flickers are complemented by the liberal use of sidechaining and the track’s 4×4 drums, which manage to maintain a lively pace throughout.

The brightest spot on the record, however, definitely belongs to “Stormin”. An altogether more terse affair, the release’s second cut is a more concentrated representation of the sounds that initially enamored many to Weagle; the tasteful creation of space around the drums is supported by excellent stereo work, which is used to fire off vocals and key licks across the left-right spectrum. A subtle, detuned progression adds background color, helping complete a dynamic and, at times, hyperactive groove, which leans into the stylings most prominently exhibited on “With the Ruff N’ the Smooth”, a NUKG pressing that became a personal favorite of 2020.

More Noise is an effort constituted of two halves—both entries are impressively solid, with Stormin representing the more incisive distillation of Weagle’s distinctive sound.

Burt Cope’s latest effort shows the hard-earned results of his ongoing sonic negotiation; from the new kid on the block in UK bass to the established presence he is today.

“Broken” is a potent amalgam of Cope’s sounds, situated somewhere between his unapologetically off-kilter entries, as shown in “E Numberz” and “Sword Fight”, and his large and in charge efforts, such as the recently released “Business” EP. The Oxford resident’s knack for tuneful build-ups is on full show, marinating the meat of the track before dropping harsh screeches and chromatic bass licks that play fetch and return over a commanding kick. It stands out as an entry that, whilst embedded in the EDM-influenced sounds of the day, still pays homage to those that came before it in the scene. The vocal is, by all accounts, very memorable, and is sure to be earworm in the quieter hours of the working week.

A host of impressive features complete the EP, with UKG standout Yemi teasing the gentler flavors out through the vocal line. The use of stereo lifts the added keys to the sublime, and bright strings accompany the emotive buildups before dropping into the comfort of a bouncy bassline and crisp NUKG drums.

If Yemi’s flip was working with the lighter elements, Deadbeat’s entry makes full use of the shadow. Sheffield’s busiest wizard of bass pulls no punches, reveling in the grottier sounds that he has, over time, shown a complete mastery of. Guttural, warping lows and 4×4 drums are wonderfully layered, and a commitment to the use of variation across the main motif does the track, and bass music more generally, a great service. Take notes aspiring bass producers.

Finally, Mr. Dubz’s release ramps up the BPM to drum and bass territory, suggesting jump-up flavors before confounding expectations, delving into droning, detuned bass, and chopped-up vocals. Cosmic arpeggios and dissonant synth breaks stitch the action together, making for a welcome uptempo addition amongst the remixes.

“Broken” is a neat addition to Burt Cope’s established catalog, with the featured remixes showcasing impressive work from standouts in UKG, bassline, and drum and bass.

 

Seagrave’s second instalment of their compilation EPs “Quarters” is a tetrathlon of wonky club rockets, with the course charted out through the leftfield.

The release plods into action with “KEK”: a tightly-coiled collaboration between seasoned dubstepper Stereotyp and Malaysian standout Arabyrd. No stranger to eclectic pairings, Arabyrd’s riffs are a piquant accompaniment to the sinister instrumental–a rolling, sludgy effort with trap and dubstep flavours à la Disco Rekah. From Vienna to Kuala Lumpur via London, KEK shows the time-proven value in international link-ups.

Next on the billing, K-65 goes straight to the rave with unapologetic drum and bass flavours, matching uptempo drums, guttural strings and punchy 808s with histrionic vocals; bell-style arpeggios creep their way up through the middle of the track and make for a wonderfully euphoric crescendo–one to be heard through a post-covid club system.

Low End Activist then jumps aboard with a refix of “4am”–a murky UKG cut underscored by the click-clacks of a cold snare and a subby bass that fast finds itself front and centre after the halfway point. Dancehall vocals swell in and out along with terse synth motifs, providing brief flecks of light before again shrouding the listener in a moody soundscape.

Finally, on a release replete with disjointed features, Sentinel 793’s “Hat Rocks” is perhaps the most eccentric of them all. The range of stereo work is deft and anxiety pushing, with uncertainty emerging as the prevailing feeling. The format of a partially-reconstructed, progressive electronic track is there, but it is clear there’s intentional subversion at hand–one to annoy the purists.

Quarters volume 2 is a well-curated snapshot of leftfield bass music around the world, with a little something for everyone.

Following hot on the heels of September 2020’s “Higher” EP, a collaborative effort with noteworthy producer Medlar under the alias Nitework, Ell Murphy’s debut EP Freedom sees the South-East Londoner fast establishing herself as a UKG mainstay. Composed entirely during lockdown, the five-track release features collaborations with some of the hottest names in the scene and is an astonishing body of work that is a testament to Ell’s creative ability and vision.

Title track “Freedom” grows on you with every listen. A joint effort with Rotterdam resident and fellow South London Pressings affiliate DJ Crisps, the title track sees Ell Murphy in bloom – the virtuosic quality of her full-voiced vocal flourishes ooze with gospel sensibility. The hair-raising tune first emerged in 2019 as an acapella that soundtracked a turning point in her life: “I’d been through a difficult time…” she writes, “… so I wrote Freedom about finally looking into some sort of hope for my future.” Her lyrical content features the same glowing positivity as of her radiant 2020 tune Sunshine, only in this instance, her triumphant vocals emerge artfully counterposed against grainy breaks, hedonistic organ comps, and distorted, sweeping sub-bass set to rattle bass bins and car stereos nationwide and beyond. It is at once a nostalgic nod to rave-era euphoria, but also the timely lockdown easing anthem we want and deserve. “Hours” presents itself as a different beast altogether. Delivering a low-slung Sheffield sound, Japanese producer Stones Taro suspends heavily syncopated broken beats, ephemeral, whispered vocal ad-libs, and echoing mid-range synth pads over a bumpy, humming bassline, the melodic quality of which is equally as infectious as Murphy’s vocal hooks. It delivers a laidback atmosphere that would be well suited to an opening set, or simply nattering with friends over a beer in the park.

B-side opener “Letting Go” is as close to riding in dodgems as you can get without suffering a regrettable case of whiplash. The bouncy high-end synth lines are energetic and bags of fun, packaged in a neat 4 to the floor format that comes equipped with hissing hi-hats, ticking rim-hits, and compact segments of vocal samples. Murphy and Highrise have successfully ensured that this forward-facing iteration of speed garage is equally as mixable as it is enjoyable. Closing the album, Ell Murphy and Tuff Trax take you back to the funfair with “Close” which boasts an understated, bleeping bassline and groovy vocal riffs, and a smattering of swung-out synth-lines, excellent material to bump your head to as you sip a mojito in the pouring rain under a badly placed beer garden umbrella.

Sandwiched between the two, “Blue” takes another turn entirely. Picasso and Murphy lead you through a misty soundscape alive with birdsong that blossoms into spoken word, crackling with record static. Syncopated, jagged vocal thrusts and sparse drum-programming punctuate the track, juxtaposed with sustained, hazy synth lines to maintain a mellow and reflective quality despite the song’s melancholy themes, offering the perspective of an outsider looking coolly in. This one is sure to leave a good impression on your sonic palate, as well as cleansing it nicely between the two speed-garage heaters.

As well as supporting this release, be sure to check out Ell’s own recently launched label “Jucey Tunes”.

“Freedom” is available to buy and stream in full on Friday, 21st of May.

Arfa’s “Freefall” is a thrilling EP that shows a remarkable command of space, displaying the rare skill of concision in electronic music. “Transit” kicks things off, a scratchy 2-step beat, thudding kick/sub combos, and woody hits do the bulk of the lifting, with reverb and delay-washed stereo work doing the rest.

“Pacing” is next up, and goes about doing just that—setting pace. Warm sub and bass tones are even more present in the second track, with droning synth strings and dreamy pads elevating the track to the ethereal, gently lilting to rest midway through before returning to its dizzy heights.

“Motions” sustains the vibe, carefully cranking up the intensity with warping basses that occasionally lean into speed garage sensibilities. Succinct ostinatos on the keys serve as the preferred punctuation throughout, and the whole track carries beautifully through the night—a prime cut for the after-hours listener.

The record ends ambitiously, with “Freefall”, which, rather fittingly, is the longest entry on the release. Switching up styles, but retaining much of the hazy atmosphere that characterizes the previous songs, Freefall skates on top of smooth jungle breaks and spacy vocal/synth work, peaking and dipping off to match the ebbs and flows of the rave”s many dancefloors.

Freefall is a smooth, immersive ride through UKG and jungle sonics, wonderfully showcasing the idea that less, is indeed more.

Joedan has long been an unsung hero of UKG’s underground, garnering support and respect from many of the scene’s finest and foremost. 

‘Forget the Girl’ is Joedan’s latest E.P. offering, making slick use of the oft-remixed Tony Terry vocal of the same name. The ‘Tunnel Mix’ is the EP’s first cut, combining a growling speed garage bass, a thudding four-to-the-floor kick, and the aforementioned vox to delectably sinister effect. Joedan seems to have thoroughly refined the art of making broody club bangers, and this introductory track is no different. 

On the flip side Skillz pulls out his producer chops to craft an entry similar in vibe, but on more of a deep and jackin’ house tilt, teasing out some rave flavors with piano riffs, tight hats, and claps, and a crunchy, descending bass motif.

Forget the Girl is a welcome addition to a reemerging UK underground club scene. Expect dark, sulky rave energy alongside a healthy zesting of house and garage drums.

From the moment it starts, you’re transported to London at night when 2 step garage filled the airwaves, lights blurring by, pirate radio connecting you to the underground. I keep waiting for the DJ to start announcing callers. If “Grooves” wasn’t new, it could’ve easily been a hit back in the day. It’s such a warm and friendly sound if tied to a specific moment in time.

And “Cinco” follows suit. More bumpy than “Grooves”, infectious syncopation drives the tune, illustrating the classic divide between house and garage (from a US perspective).

In the early 2000s, major radio had made its way online and at work, I had a T1 line. Radio1 was pop all day, but thanks to the time difference in New York, I started catching some of the late-night and weekend programming that included garage and 2-step. It blew my mind. I was never a fan of the repetitive house music that dominated our dance floors. I was awed by the complexity of jungle and IDM, but they were not popular or accessible enough to hear in the club. garage and especially 2 step brought the drum programming I loved into house music. And because I was a few years late to the garage and 2 step game, it was starting to turn darker and producers were adding polish but also more creativity.

I love when this sound turns up in the mix.

This collection leaks UK funky at the edges, blending with bass house, bassline and the classic grime elements that made UK funky stand up as a separate genre. Catchy leads lure you over big drops into bumpy bass lines. Voices from far away connect you to places foreign yet familiar and the best nights you remember. There’s something here for anyone who likes the deeper motifs of bass music.

A few highlights:

“Ting and Ting” feels like a live mash-up, capturing the UK funky-meets-ragga feel perfectly, which not everyone can pull off. The vocal is high energy, over catchy UK funky beat, bass, and grime licks. It’s the type of tune that will get pulled up twice and then mixed into something else, which is a shame because it’s solid right to the end.

UK Funky on a bass house tip, “Dutch Cheese” Is a deep and dirty little roller centered around another ragga sample, but stands in contrast to “Ting and Ting”. This one’s about getting low. Grimey basses slither around your ankles in the dark, while toms and dry snares elbow for room.

“Afrobass” is tough as nails. Stacked basses hit hard over a snappy rhythm, offset only by 8 bar octave leaps and the tension and release that comes with it. “Afrobass” feels like the middle of a tune, off and running, setting a darker mood of classic UK garage.

“Standby” is the kind of track you want banking when you walk into the club at 10:50 PM, just before they raise the cover. It’s the first tune that gets pulled up. It’s the type of big bottom tune that kicks off a night. And there’s a whistle. You can’t go wrong with a whistle.

And “Congo play” is one of the more gorgeous tunes on the album. Simple and driving, it’s got less to prove and somehow ends up one of the stronger contenders. A driving vamp plays off of clever percussion and a simple sub-bassline. While a lot of the big bass drops in this collection will hype a crowd, the vibe set by “Congo play” is what might stay with you.

This compilation covers every inch of a small circle of UK bass-centric dance music, while never quite repeating itself. Most of these tunes are bangers, not anthems, the kind that the best DJs use to set a mood, make people get low, and go home with smiles.

Quirky garage hits give way to a UK funky beat which dissolves into electro madness, and then kuduro… “1471” by Bass Clef is the darkest carnival roller I’ve heard. This is one of those tunes that every DJ looks for. It’s five delightful minutes of post-garage vibes, but it’ll never age.

“Get on the A10 and Drive and Drive” is an alien grime riddim meant only for the bravest. Hard snares descend into drill-n-bass-style mayhem over spacious squidgy bass. But it’s only the first wave. So you have no idea what happens when huge synth pads descend like the mothership.

“One Hundred Point Three” is what Burial would sound like if he lived in the movie, Tron.

And on it goes. The album gets weirder and weirder, exploring Squarepusher jungle, itchy IDM, and shimmering, disorienting ambient. It’s an extremely thick 43 minutes of music but a rewarding listen, end to end.

We need more horns in garage. We need more garage. Thank you, TC4!

“Caracas” has a wonderfully classic 2-step garage feel. Shuffling drums, steppy vocal chops, and a bubbling bassline play off a simple horn riff to create a great summer vibe at home in the 90s or 2019. I am not dressed nearly well enough for this tune, but gun fingers are definitely out. And, oh my, it is so sweet when the strings come in before the second drop. Wait for it.

Speaking of drops, the drop in “Bongo” is immaculate. Latin piano over a classic rave-up drops you into madness with a bit of clever production. I won’t give it away, but it’s one of the more satisfying riddims I’ve heard in a while. This is the epitome of a producer seeing an idea through.

Finally, the flutes of “Lobos” take you away. In an odd way, “Lobos” feels like the joining of the other two tracks, straddling garage and brilliant arrangement, but maybe with a splash of Brazilian percussion for good measure. It would work great as a grime instrumental but stands satisfyingly on its own.

“Driver” by Ali McK & IYZ comes on like a Dixieland parade, full of joy and swing, but don’t be fooled into following. They walk you right off a cliff into the thin air of bass and shuffle. Time stands still as the growls and funky riddim builds into a perfect atmosphere of bounce and tension. You’re in for a wild ride, whether it’s for the boiler room or block party.

Right away, you’re reminded that “London’s Calling” from the building staccato strings, a nod to grime, bassline and all things UK garage. Which is only right, because the bassline could be taken from climes farther norf. “London’s Calling” is a simple riddim, but not without attention to detail. The hand percussion and vocal blurts keep it rolling.

Killjoy strips the original “Driver” down to the bone and builds it back-up with face slapping claps and more bassline flair. It’s relentless, a completely different interpretation of the “driver” metaphor.

Coldpast takes “Driver” a little further back, with chunky hats and a bit of snare swing setting a more speed garage vibe. The gun fingers come out on this one, Buju sample, synth vamps, and all. In the 90’s I would’ve driven hours to hear this.

This EP is a winner I slept on earlier this year. It’s now in regular rotation.

in “HTSG”, from Doc Zee, crunchy drums and grime bleats lay an odd bed for gorgeous vocals from Dakota Sixx, but it works. Then heartache and Burial-style vocals-in-space set us up for searing bass, an odd counterpoint to the triumph of “it’s hard to say goodbye,” or maybe the perfect expression of emotion. Either way, it works. The tune does seem to go through a number of mood swings. Highly recommended as your next break-up tune.

And then there are remixes!

Murder He Wrote draws on the emotion with luscious pads and bubbly vocal treatments. It’s the quieter, side-glances of the original, even when it breaks down to a drum roller. Like all good remixes, it has a mind of its own, focusing in on a single element of the original. The tears are drying. This is the angry-sad.

Finally, Higgo covers the housey, garage euphoria of “we should just move on”. It’s done. Sadly so is the EP. This second remix is the perfect joy of losing yourself on a night out, leaving your emotions at the door.