Label: Special Stage AudioRelease: TBA
The latest label to have been spawned within spitting distance of the River Trent is esteemed mastering engineer Joe Caithness’s (the man behind the mastering at most notably, rising grime label Glacial Sound and Visionist’s Lost Codes ) Special Stage Audio, a new urban centric label exploring the lighter, more melodic side of grime, bassline, 4×4 and garage.
Having previously been incarnated as the Well Rounded signed Littlefoot, Caithness is positioned nicely to capitalise on the new nu-wave of grime that favours almost beatless soundscapes, bright arpeggios, rough squarewave basslines and diva vocals over war-riddims, ‘Pulse X’ bass stabs and the now ubiquitous “eski” sound palette.
The first release for this new label comes in the form of fellow Nottingham local and Littlefoot collaborator Erra, who like his “boss”, is probably best known for his garagy flavours and releases on Well Rounded, Frijsfo Beats, LS25 and Berkane Sol. Entitled “Lemon Drizzle” Erra’s new EP comes across as one of the most singular and well-rounded grime debuts in quite a while.
‘Noogshot’ kicks of proceedings with an atmospheric pitch bent synth line that is quickly joined by an extremely musical – in a warm 90s reese type of way – square wave bassline that immediately places you within a desolate, dystopian urban landscape. The bass, which sits almost weightlessly in a fog of dense layers of reverb is joined by a dank, disjointed, underground half-step rhythm that just about hints at some forward motion, weird, pitched vocal snippets that jump from speaker to speaker and swooshy sound effects that rise up from the depths like a phoenix from the flames. The suspense is otherworldly and the tension built up throughout is a lovely way to start the EP.
Somewhat releasing the tension of the oppressive ‘Noogshot’ is the immediately more lively ‘Hilary Heart’. Built from a rag tag assortment of strange drum one-shots and punctuated by a healing, rave ready organ stab melody, an envelope modulated bass line and classic dancefloor garage vox, like the EPs opening number, the track stubbornly refuses to let loose, subtly restraining the energy that the spacious production has built up, restraining itself from dropping into a sexy chopped banger like a man practicing tantric sex in the process allowing the heady, spaceman grime soundscape to float over you in a rather lovely way.
Finally releasing the tension is the more banging ‘Ventura’ a tune that reminds me of some of the stuff that producers such as Logos, Mumdance, Murlo, Dark0 and co have been making in 2014. Rapid fire kick drums, phased woodblocks and shakers provide the danceable backdrop to the tune, with alien, eski-esq melodies residing deep with the tunes bowels adding a strange mushroom trip kinda vibe (especially as they wavily lurch from speaker to speaker adding to the sense of nauseous sea-sickness that the whole disorientating EP slaps in your face like a wet fish.
All in all this EP is absolutely amazing. Restrained, tense full of suspense, spacious and patient enough to wait till the last track for the final payoff and interesting enough for you to want to listen to it all again straight after you have finished. Sick way to start a label bigups all round.