It’s always exciting to get caught in the sweep of a big musical movement. To have been there in the golden days of rave, the creative explosion of early dubstep – the thrilling appearance of new possibilities, everyone looking to the future. The UK hasn’t seen a trend this widespread in about ten years, and it’s easy to miss the community spirit, where everyone seems to rally behind a bold new sound.
What constitutes the future of UK dance music in 2016? Is it the grime 2.0 of Slackk and the Boxed crew? The techno / bass hybrids of Livity Sound and their Bristol associates? The ‘dark 130’ championed by Blackdown and his Keysound label? It’s all of these, and much more besides. We consume and create differently now that music is mostly discovered online, and as a result scenes splinter. But there’s something exciting about these periods, too – music appears that seems to slip between the cracks, exploiting undreamt possibilities. The latest EP by Parris, head of London’s Soundman Chronicles label, is just such a record.
The tracks on Skeletal are clearly indebted to UK tradition, but that’s not the limit of their reach. Dubstep and bass music are clear influences, but so are techno, minimal and tribal rhythms – a distant cousin to the ever-searching work of Shackleton. The result is a trio of stark hybrids as elegant as they are muscular. All three are ruled by fierce sub-bass frequencies that hark back to the pure pleasure of early DMZ material, but each approaches from a different angle.
Bloom is the most delicate, its synths shimmer and ripple across a field of fizzing effects and swooping bass hits. The stripped soundfield draws attention to every tiny detail, allowing the listener to marvel at the subtle interplay of texture and brightness. Skeletal is even more spare, its percussion little more than the twitches of shakers and hi hats over intense washes of sub-bass. The devil’s still in the details – a woodblock pattern emerges that might be a minor effect in another track, here placed centre-stage, coiling into bewitching figures as Parris ekes every drop of nuance from the sound.
Finally on South East of the Mountain he looses the tribal influences that the first two tracks hinted at over a field of rich hand percussion and a seasick vocal loop. There’s a rare kind of alchemy at play here – beautifully crafted, ultra subtle, yet with the heft to kill on a proper soundsystem. This is proper modern dance, regardless of its genre tag.