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Electronic Labels in Lockdown: Notts is Still Dancing

27 May 20 words: Eileen Pegg

Clubs are sadly not open but local labels that produce the music you’d dance to there have been smashing it in lockdown, and keeping feet moving at home. Get to know some talented crews and what they’ve been up to over the past few weeks...

We're all spending our time a little differently at the moment - for some people, cooking holds the key while for others, there’s nothing quite like getting stuck into a new DIY project or even just finding a new appreciation for the local area outdoors (have you seen our street art checklist?).

Even though regular weekend trips to crowded dance floors have been put on hold for now, music that’s usually heard in the club is still keeping its special place in many people’s lives. Whether that’s through tuning in to the range of live streams - such as Leftback’s mega three day set - or just using the time at home to indulge in long listening sessions to new and favourite records.

Fans may have seen an ongoing Twitter discussion about the place of club music at a time when those tunes can’t be heard on big speakers. Opinions may vary, but judging by recent releases from local labels Discotech, Pond Life, Tumble Audio and more, regardless of context there still seems to be an appetite for grooves right now, and our city is doing us proud by serving up the stonkers to worldwide audiences.

Discotech’s Debut Release Hits The Top
Back in 2018, Derby crew discotech announced its plans for a more permanent presence in Nottingham. This promise was kept with a series of solid nights, most recently bringing Tristan Da Cunha to the Angel last November. 

Over time it’s gradually made a name for itself by throwing small parties with massive bookings, with an enthusiasm that can’t be matched. Now, after eight years of promoting and later, running a podcast series, the brand has made the natural progression to launch a label. Its first release, Higher, came out this May, with past discotech guest and Notts native Kepler steering the sounds, with a bonus remix from the mighty INSTINCT (Burnski’s garage tip) to boot. 

Mirroring discotech’s dedication to the scene, Kepler is another long-term player who now rightfully enjoys recognition as one of the ‘wheat amongst the chaff’ in the business. Kepler made his name following a string of minimal releases and DJ residencies that consistently delivered, but fans of the ever-growing garage revival may know him for his recent 0113 alias. For the discotech label it’s Kepler in the driving seat, but the 0113 influences are clear in this 2-step / minimal hybrid EP, taking the infectious knee-jerking drums of garage and arranging them with the sophisticated flair and subtle sonic surprises that mnml fans can't get enough of. 

Officially released on 19th May, following a successful pre-sale period the buzz continued by hitting top of the charts for all genres sold via Deejay.de after just four days on the market. Now it still sits firmly in the top 20, holding up No.1 position on the UK Garage subgenre listings at the time of writing.

Pond Life’s First Vinyl Is a Beaut, and Hundreds Agreed 
Another four-day success story comes from Pond Life’s debut vinyl release, The Window Kid and Daseplate EP, which sold out of its pre-sale copies just days after launch. Pond Life kingpin Damon Harasym (who produces as Daseplate) and collaborators on the record, Window Kid and Bru-C, are certainly no newcomers to grime, each earning respect and holding down a steady stream of gigs, airtime minutes and releases between them. But the four-track, mint green vinyl EP of Daseplate remixes is the first time that Pond Life has branched out from throwing events to providing its followers with a physical piece of that party spirit to have, hold and play at home.

There’s no doubt Damon knows how to reach his market - which in this case has seen listeners from Shirebrook to New York cop the vinyl - and by bringing together a trio with such a cult following the noise surrounding this was always going to be loud. There’s a reason why fanbases form though, and those 500 global owners of the limited run are going to have to make peace with their neighbours when playing the bass-heavy hitter Something Society, or the unapologetic ‘instant classic’ 140bpm strings of Time, at the volume it deserves.

While the styles of discotech and Pond Life’s EPs might be different, both are arguably taking leading genres of the moment and offering up a stripped back reimagining, with stellar results.

Tumble, Wob and Robin Dub 
Alongside these two blink-n-you-missed-em releases, there’s more local good news and noteworthy mentions to share. With the energetic Deep Snow from Pharaoh K, Tumble Audio is now on its third release since April (view our review of Sergic’s Notts Badboy here) and we anticipate a busy summer to come from the long-standing label. 

With World Wide Wob’s fresh new dubstep compilation, more local producers including Major Oak and LvndLxrd can be seen in the company of artists from across the pond, offering twelve original tracks, all serving up their own signature take on the wubble ‘n’ wob sound.

Finally, the streets in Notts are set to be rattling with the launch of new dubstep label, Robin Dub Records this month. Instantly proving its claim of offering “The Gulliest cuts of Dubstep straight from the depths of Sherwood forest” is one to take seriously, its debut two track, 300-run release features two names synonymous with the sound, Fearless Dread and Congi and has already earned itself some Rinse FM airplay. Listen to it here.

It’s unclear what exactly the new clubbing landscape will look like once we’re able to get up, close ‘n’ personal with our faves again, but a focus on the smaller, localised crews with cross contaminations of creativity might be set to re-build the scene from a grassroots level. For now, Notts is doing a fantastic job of sewing the seeds for when the culture is ready to blossom once more in the outside world.

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