The town of Bristol on the UK’s south-west coast has always had an influence on the electronic scene that belies its size. Following its reggae roots and the birth of trip hop, recent years have seen the establishment of some of the UK’s most essential imprints in Bristol such as Livity Sound and Idle Hands, founded on the fertile tectonic boundary of soundsystem culture and 4/4 dance. A result of this unique intersection of ideas is the central concern with bass found in a lot of the city’s dance music. Bristol’s producers seek to exploit the low frequencies so that they provide more than just added muscle.
It’s not just the old guard who keeps Bristol’s music scene so vibrant. A slew of new labels such as Hotline and BRSTL have been keeping the city’s output fresh and the quality control very high, and local producer Shanti Celeste has had a big part to play in this. While grounded in Bristol’s house sound, her productions have always set their sights beyond, taking in a range of influences and styles from beyond the coastal city.
It is somewhat fitting then that what is probably Celeste’s best record to date has come out on a US imprint, Max D’s reliable stable for new age house experimentations, Future Times. Having contributed one of the highlights on last year’s Vibes 3 compilation, now Celeste brings out her first solo record for the label, Being.
The title track could be a religious rave anthem, its sharp church organ stabs and punchy rhythm all wrapped in an elastic bassline that keeps up a constant pressure and highlights the glittering synthwork. The quality of these melodies comes to the fore on the Ambient Mix as they shimmer through thick reverb, standing strong even without a rhythmic backbone. B-side Good Spirits taps into Celeste’s growing interest in electro, all staccato claps and subtle clicks, where a dramatic intro gives way to a taut snap and searing scifi melodies.
Celeste’s output becomes more assured and impressive with each successive release, as she alights on a personal sound born of, but not limited to, the rich musical history of her surroundings.