It’s been a recurring narrative in British electronic music across the past 18 months to look towards jungle and drum ‘n’ bass for inspiration.
Paul Woodford swapped house for ’92 hardcore with his Special Request project, while Four Tet found mixed success by looking towards the golden era of pirate radio on ‘Kool FM’. Even Jamie xx got in on the ride, nabbing some vocal snippets for his London salute, ‘All Under One Roof Raving’.
So Sully’s ‘Blue’ EP arrives via Keysound with a few antecedents. ‘Solitaire’ is a sparse opener, the rugged basslines rattling against little more than the crackle of snare drum and wisps of synthetic sound. ‘Checkmate’ is dub abandon, while ‘Charms’ opens with vaporised electronics before bulldozing into deconstructed breakbeats.
If Zomby had ‘Where Were You In ’92?’, then Sully most definitely has ‘Know The Score In ‘94’. There are shades of those Metalheadz sessions in here, in the brittle tones and the stunning rhythmic dexterity – all spine-shattering twists, limb-crushing drops.
Yet the EP stops short of becoming a retro exercise. When Jamie xx linked the hardcore era to the current house scene the comparison felt slight, with the comfort, the excess of modernity sitting uneasily against a truly underground scene.
Sully seems to circumvent this. Try as he might, shades of his background rush through – elements of footwork in those skittering rhythms, with grime’s skeletal futurism lingering in the EP’s DNA.
Perhaps appropriately, the most striking sonic exercise pits an out and out ’94 sound against a grime pioneer. Title cut ‘Blue’ is an aggy monster, the stuttering vocal sample given an inhumane, robotic twist before giving way to the relentless onward rush of those tumbling Amen breaks.
Boxed mainstay Logos steps in on remix duties, with his Vapour Dub adding renewed intensity. There’s a sense of drifting through space – not comfort, so much, more the knowledge of absolute zero, of being unable to grasp hold of any suitable landmark. Three-pronged bass futurism that could only emerge in 2k14.
Words: Robin Murray
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