Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Risk Taker, Skydiver: Tom Lea

Hailing from London, Tom Lea is quite an influential figure, and it rings true whether or not you've actually heard of him (in the latter case: shame on you). Contributing reviews editor of FACT Magazine -- a London-based publication that arguably stands at the forefront of experimental UK dance music and beyond -- he has an extremely idiosyncratic taste that often feels eminently fashionable without descending into fashion, a taste that drives FACT's unique editorial outlook. There's no denying the website's influence nor its far-reaching content, playing host to features from all sorts of brilliant writers (full disclosure: they are also host to some maybe-not-so-brilliant writing by yours truly) and covering everything from Drexciya to Olde English Spelling Bee to Ke$ha to Horsepower Productions to Drake.

You don't become the editor of an influential dance music publication without making some friends and connections. I'm not highlighting this to portray Tom Lea as some sort of networking magnate, but merely because he has his fingers deep into the most exciting reaches of UK dance music, and as such is a wonderful guide to the changing sound of the London underground. As fickle trends turn from dubstep to more house-oriented flavours, Lea is one step ahead of the curve with a burgeoning DJ career and an impeccable sense for selection and mixing as well as a clever understanding for linking UK sounds with the rest of the world, which is why he's the next very special curator for Futureproofing: and boy, does he deliver.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Year in Autonomy

It's a little hard to believe that the Autonomic podcast only launched last year, in 2009, because the incredible effect it has had on bass music -- and even electronic dance music as a whole -- has been so wide-ranging and more importantly, indelible.  It seems almost unreal that two drum-n-bass dark horses (dBridge, coming out of the defunct Bad Company, and Instra:mental, returning after a long hiatus) could start a movement that has come as close as uniting the dance music world as anything possibly could in 2010: drum & bass, the genre that a few years ago seemed destined to forever thrive (or fester) in the darkest corners of aggressive, testosterone-dominated dancefloors.  2009 was the year that Autonomic emerged as an impressively accomplished brand, through the hard work and smart publicity of Mr. dBridge and duo Instra:mental, but 2010 was the year it was cemented as perhaps the most exciting movement, scene, or happening pretty much anywhere.  Who else managed to unite Zomby, Kassem Mosse, Jimmy Edgar, and Skream in 2010?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Peverelist: Bringing Machines to Life

Peverelist is quite possibly my favourite producer. Forget producer, let’s use the more rockist-friendly term ‘artist.’ Peverelist is quite possibly my favourite artist. It's an honour to initiate my own little venture, Futureproofing, with help from him: there are few artists who inhabit the very space of what I would like to lay out with this website better than Peverelist, whose music effortlessly reconciles respectful traditionalism with uncanny futurism.

As humble and reserved as his careful and precise music is, he doesn’t seem like a prime candidate for someone’s favourite artist: until you discover the totality of his small body of music, or more importantly the paradigm-changing dialogue he has brought to dubstep and the larger world of UK dance music. The man from Bristol known to the outside world as Tom Ford makes a brand of dubstep that is almost insufferably purist, yet it's as experimental, risky and visionary as any of the most boundary-destroying music at dubstep's many peripheries. He's also a bit of a city kingpin, perhaps best known for managing Bristol's most beloved record shop, the legendary Rooted Records: to Bristol bass music what Big Apple was to dark garage and early dubstep in Croydon.

His only solo release this past year, the "Better Ways Of Living" / "Fighting Without Fighting" twelve on Punch Drunk, is also my favourite record of the year, and it's not a bad emblem for his sound in more general terms. Spare and minimal, it quakes with a formidable intensity that's implied rather than expressed, reflecting his considerable mastery over subtlety. The best Peverelist tracks are those that assume the least: the most unsuspecting, the most innocent. Perhaps best of all is 2009's "Clunk Click Every Trip," -- which for me is an easy contender for tune of the decade -- where Peverelist's obfuscated techno leanings are brought out in full force for an 8-minute journey that's cosmic without being kosmiche or anything else similarly trendy. Best of all, the b-side harboured one of Peverelist's most outright dub tunes, the lanky clank of "Gather" which couldn't be farther removed from the spatial abstraction of CCET.

Peverelist's music sounds like it's carved from stone, lithe bits of rock that reverberate and shake in place when struck, but never, ever moving out of line. He's at once a pioneering force in dubstep, moving farther and farther away from traditionalist views of the genre while carrying its hotly-burning flame with a passion: while so many in recent years are quick to distance themselves from 'dubstep,' Peverelist is committed to the genre even as his music spills outward in several fantastic configurations. The (vinyl-only, as ever) exclusive mix he's provided here to initiate Futureproofing in fine style is an excellent overview of his sound in 2010 and beyond: containing a number of new Peverelist dubplates mixed in with some like-minded favourites. The incredible vocal-driven contribution from lesser-known producer Kähn rubs elbows with the greyscale house of Dave Huismanns (A Made Up Sound, 2562) and Kowton, while Peverelist's own productions show him furthering the rhythmic abstraction and exploring the extremes of dubstep/techno/house while staying firmly embedded in the nourishing environment of dub music. It sounds old, like this mix could have been recorded in the early nineties, found on a half-dead cassette in an abandoned box. But the beats are unrelentingly inventive, satisfying, and exciting: it perfectly embodies Futureproofing's nascent ethos of having a hand stuck in the past while grasping at the unknown future. You can download this exclusive mix from Peverelist as well as read a brand new interview with Futureproofing's favourite artist after the jump.