Coleco – Focus 10
Label: Runtime RecordsRelease: Out Now
I hadn’t heard of Coleco – who latest release, the moody ‘Focus 10’ combines elements of drum and bass, dubstep and trap into a murderous mix of militant, 160bpm-ish, bass music of epically potent proportions – until last week, when a good friend of mine posted the Elemental remix of the title track up to Facebook, simply captioned “… hard”. I tentatively clicked on it expecting the kind of grimey, funky music that said friend generally peddles – funky it was, but not in the way I first envisioned. Grimey it was, but once again, not in the way I first envisioned.
Coleco is a stalwart of the Bristol scene, and co-run’s a blog and club night called ‘Infect’ – a brand whose mission is to explore and shout about the burgeoning revival of plus 160bpm music. A statement that is ably supported by the fact he has managed to enlist scene leader and figurehead, Om Unit to provide a remix for this here EP. Some of you may well remember the talented producer from the halcyon days of dubstep where his early 12”’s on ‘Soul Motive’ saw support from people as diverse as Skream and Nihal as well as seeing him release the first record on Thelem’s Orientis Records. If you do remember those releases, then you know you are in for a treat here.
With footwork and juke shining the spotlight on the faster genres of music, and with an increasing admiration for what trap producers were doing with their anthemic synth lines and rattling drum rolls and snare rushes, Coleco, regrouping and consolidating his production assets, set about exploring these new sounds and ideas for ‘Focus 10’, combining said new elements with cultural signifiers from his home town’s own glorious musical past and heritage – the city’s heavy sub lines and dubwise sensibilities that birthed the great sound-systems of old and the dubstep labels of new; the morose ambience that allowed Portishead and Massive Attack take the world by storm; and the experimental drum and bass tendencies that won Roni Size the Mercury Prize way back in 1997.
Title track ‘Focus 10’ kicks things off with an isolated The Bug/dancehall style midi horn stab, ushering in crisp, clipped, trap style, half-time, ‘drumstep’ meets footwork drum track, replete with pitched snare and kick rolls aplenty, peppering the evil reese bass tones that seem to emerge from the tune’s 808 heart beat like a three-headed hydra emerging from the depths of some historical Greek lake, somewhere in the historical past. A romantic, warm, middle-eastern, oud-esq sample gives the brutally precise, somewhat cold instrumentation an organic feel that juxtaposes with the clinical beats to great effect, in the process creating a number for the mind and soul as well as the body.
Om Unit’s remix of ‘Focus 10’ steps up to the plate next, mellowing out the original somewhat giving it a more melodious bass line that plays of the tunes eastern samples and ambient backdrop to create almost an 80s sounding homage to horror movie sound-tracking. The reese basslines have had their low-end sucked out and seem to have been dipped into an acidic pool of reverb, deforming them, and redeploying them as snippets of sound that meld into the dark heart of the tunes ambient bed.. The booming kicks have been tempered and the snappy snare track replaced with a more subdued, classic-era drum machine sound – in a way reminding me of some of the cyber/steampunk music Kuedo or Boxcutter (as The Host) have done with their releases for Planet Mu.
Runtime label boss, Adam Elemental’s remix of ‘Ambivalence’ is probably my favourite track on the EP, fully embracing the half step framework of footwork but perverting its kick heavy style in favour of trap meets techstep DNB style drum programming. Seriously, the drums hit so hard it is unfunny at points. They are pin point precise and brutal and hard in execution, powering the tune forward in a magnificently modern yet truly jungalist fashion. The rest of the instrumentation serves as seasoning to the drum’s prime rib, supplementing and helping the groove to do it thing, with smatterings of ambient bliss, and soft synth stabs serving as emotional reminders that root the track in reality.
Last up is the original version of ‘Ambivalence’ a track that explores a truly British style of footwork. The kicks serve as the main driver for this tune (unlike the snare/hat interplay of the remix), complimented by a techy, heavily delayed melody line that plays of against the harmonic backdrop of the tune, ably provided by the very musical sub line, in fine style, showing that Coleco is not only a master of studio technique but also has a good ear for melodic and emotional design as well!
All in the all, the EP is a banger from start to finish, meshing overground, underground styles together to create something fresh and entirely British despite at points heavily referencing styles made popular across the pond. Props have to be given to Bristol once again for providing a cultural hotspot of talent that, when taking in population densities, is once more punching way above its weight. I am really looking forward to what Coleco has to put out next. Highly recommended.