On a recent BBC show Paul Rose aka Scuba suggested that “bass” was the best word to characterise the music he has been putting out on his Hotflush label. Listening to Back and 4th is easy to see why these producers don’t see themselves as dubstep producers – only a few tracks here bare much resemblance to that dark, brooding, oppressive sound commonly associated with dubstep.
It’s not really a case of the music becoming more approachable or watered down as it comes out of the underground since the artists featured here could hardly be described as seeking mainstream attention. It appears to be more that the loose blueprint has left itself open to be interpreted whatever way a producer wants to.
One of the most satisfying things about being a fan of this music is seeing how producers have been developing and perfecting their own unique styles and Hotflush has been a crucial label for taking chances with artists who have a different perspective. From Boxcutter’s jittery funk to Mount Kimbie’s sleepy electronica and Boddika’s dark electro the range of moods and textures across these two CDs is staggering.
As the title suggests Back and 4th is both a “best of” and a snapshot of where Hotflush is at the moment. The first disc is a collection of unreleased tracks from the labels current roster and the contributions showcase the innovation of each artist. Highlights include FaltyDL’s ‘Regret’ – a tense cinematic work out while dBridge serves up an atmospheric late night groove with ‘Knew You Were The 1’. The dubstep/ techno sound Scuba became synonymous with is well represented both with his own blissful ‘Feel It’ which begs for a dancefloor and the hard-as-nails ‘Fold’ from Sigha that sounds custom-built for Berghain, Hotflush’s favourite Berlin nightclub. New Yorker Incyde makes his production debut with the dark broken beats of ‘Axis’ and Roska closes the first half with ‘Measureless’, a stripped down minimalist UK funky track.
The tracks on the second disc, from the trippy and playful vibes on Mount Kimbie’s ‘Sketch on Glass’ and the fluttering groove of Untold’s ‘Sweat’, are constant reminders of Rose’s exemplary A&R skills. The labels most successful moment is also recorded here with the inclusion of Joy Orbison’s ‘Hyph Mngo’ which still sounds as fresh and lush as it did two years ago. The track was a bit of a watershed moment for the scene as it coincided with the acceptance of 4/4 beats into the mix and producers made the move, en masse, to lower tempos. Elsewhere on this disc Pangaea shows up on the chilled-out dubby ‘Bear Witness” and Scuba reappears with the rolling ‘Tense and Twitch’ which is turned inside out by Jamie Vex’d.
One possible benefit from the decline of profits to record labels is that the temptation to put something out just to make money is removed. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle being the head of an underground label that’s run from your apartment in Berlin and presumably you are exposed to a lot more bad music than good as you wade through all the demos. But labels like Hotflush exist because people like Paul Rose hear music that they feel compelled to share. More often than not it’s a labour of love, but listening to where the label has been and where it’s going the work has definitely paid off.