It’s that time of year again; one of the most effervescent compilations in the UK music calendar is back with its third incarnation.
‘Future Bubblers 3.0’, released by Brownswood, is another dynamic slice of fresh, exciting sounds coming out of the UK’s new music scene, continuing its tradition of wonky electronica, soulful rhythms and jazz infused bops.
Previous volumes have showcased the likes of Skinny Pelembe and Yazmin Lacey, and this edition is set to push forward more emerging talent. But the series is more than just a succession of compilations - it’s also a mentoring scheme, started by Brownswood founder and 6 Music broadcaster Gilles Peterson, supporting left-field music by offering practical advice and guidance to the acts hand-picked from a multitude of applications each year.
“We’ve selected them based on their musical bravery, exploration and potential,” says Amy Frenchum, one of the curators of the project, explaining how the process works. “So we kind of always feel quietly confident that they are going to come with a wonderful spread of innovative music. I think that’s the thing that’s so fun about the compilations coming together, because we have picked such a diverse range of artists from the outset - they are naturally likely to deliver a diverse range of sounds for the release.
“There’s not really a thread that connects the volumes of the compilations sonically - it’s more like an ever expanding musical family.”
The curators say that matching artists up to mentors at the beginning of the programme is a careful procedure, spending time with each of the 10 Bubblers, playing music, chatting about what their personal version of success is, discussing what they want to get out of the year of Future Bubblers support.
“Then we go away and digest it,” says Amy, “and make a careful pairing of Bubbler-to-mentor. It’s kind of like the most stressful matchmaking of all time - someone who gets them musically, someone that has an industry experience and skillset that fits the Bubblers development intentions AND someone that is going to work personality wise.
“We’re really open to the fact that sometimes it doesn’t work, but when it does work, it is so beautiful. We’ve been super lucky and 99.9% of the pairings we’ve made have been really positive and helpful and we’ve met some really wonderful mentors, so generous with time and knowledge who have brought so much to the Future Bubblers table. Big up all the mentors!”
As well as offering a chance to release music, the scheme aims to help artists develop creatively as well as expand their business know-how, without having to compromise their left-field approach due to commercial pressure. “We’re just trying to create a network where these young artists from across the country - who are so broad musically but so similar in terms of outlook and ambition feel connected and supported, by us and each other,” explains Amy.
The free-flowing improvised hip-hop of Liverpool’s Nutribe finds its way onto the record via ‘Sittin On Me Step’ - an old school beat layered up with bars in their distinctive lilt and an unexpected vocal refrain. They draw on everything from hip-hop, dancehall, garage and jazz, describing their approach as “fluid”.
“We like to be quite open with our work, a set path, but no set way…it’s where we find our magic, being able explore different tings and not putting a boundary on ourselves,” they explain. “’Sittin on me step’ is inspired by our times on the step - our place to chill, to vibrate, to eat. We grow here! Dancing to rhyming...it’s a place we all share. Whether it’s your kitchen side, your balcony or your own step, it’s a place you feel bliss. Music plays while we taking in rays.”
For Nutribe, being selected to be part of the Future Bubblers scheme has been a boost - in both confidence and creativity. “The experience has been one of the biggest blessings to our musical journey. All the team are so committed to the cause which really made us feel like we had an actually support system we could depend on - big up!” they say.
“This boosted our confidence a lot and caused a domino effect of progression in bare aspects of our group. Other than so many good contacts, we’ve gained a standard from Bubblers, a standard that is always evolving and is not actually to be reached but to always strive for…forever loving.”
Aaliyah Esprit brings a the sultry RNB tinged hue to the collection on ‘Mind Control’ - with its UK garage edge and sugary vocals - which is a mark of creative progression for her.
“My tracks prior have been more trap soul style,” she explains. “’Mind Control’ is the same RNB tinged vocals but over an electronic backdrop that makes the whole sound different, it’s the natural evolution of my artistry and has allowed me to jump out of the box of what’s expected from me, while still making a timeless classic that also gives a litlle nod to the old school garage tunes that I grew up on.”
Esprit’s music is based around the poetry she writes, shaping everything I creates, and with this track she says she wanted to make something people could dance to: “Something that would go off in the club, and with insane producers like Metrodome (a part of the legendary collective Levelz) and Yusseff Maleem both Manchester’s top tier.”
Like Nutribe, working with Future Bubblers has been a major moment for her. “I would never have got to this stage in my career if it wasn't for their consistent support and guidance both in the year I was a Bubbler and ever since,” she says. “Future Bubblers is a family and I never truly believed in myself until they did and they made me see ‘Yo, this is possible, you got this. Here’s a little direction, now fly’. And I’ve been flying ever since.”
Wilroy’s contribution to the compilation is ‘4F3D63 Hex’, full of intricate, layered, glitching percussion building to a warm drop. For him the Bubblers process is a part of finding his own sound, which he describes as “heavily layered, structurally free and rooted in the musical language of RNB”.
Taking this RNB language as the root of it all, he also incorporates primary elements in hip-hop drums, jazz harmony and electronic textures. “Hex started as a loop from a different track I made that didn’t really go anywhere,” he explains. “I just kept building around the loop to where you couldn’t identify it anymore. I wanted to reveal new ideas in a more protracted way from some of my previous work where there are more hard left turns.
“Prince was a huge inspiration to the track and I incorporated many elements that are considered hallmarks of his mid-80s output. His string arranger, Clare Fischer, was also a big influence in some of the directions I took the harmony.”
Like his other contributors, Wilroy is taking plenty from the Bubblers process - deeming the team “passionate supporters”.
“My mentor Aly got me thinking about what is unique to my music and ultimately how it could best be presented to the world,” he says. “I’ve learned to recognise opportunity and to know when and when not to invite others into the process.”
“The experience has been amazing.”
Check out the full ‘Future Bubblers 3.0’ compilation below.
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