A new generation of producers are slowly annexing Britain's dance underground. Eschewing the boy-racer bludgeon that chart dubstep has become, and the lumpen thud of commercial house, these are avowedly artistic kids sprucing up the house template with shards of melody, shuffling rhythmic swagger and bottomless pools of bass.
The ideal location to witness this sound in its constantly evolving state is at a Night Slugs party. Made up of a collection of DJs and producers, Night Slugs is at the forefront of London club culture, restlessly seeking new forms, eschewing dusty paradigms.
James Connolly - or L-Vis 1990 - and Alex "Bok Bok" Sushon are the creative force behind Night Slugs. Connolly's elastic, bass-heavy house has been causing a ruckus recently, and in 2011 he condensed his vision into a full-length album, Neon Dreams. Recorded entirely with synths, it sent house into the future, combining low-slung nocturnal instrumentals and space-age R'n'B, as well as a streak of melancholic euphoria. It didn't please the Night Slugs purists, though, the referencing of soulful Detroit techno a million miles from the usual bass sound. Connolly, however, remains defiant."The London scene is dead right now," he declares.
"It's so easy to put out new music now that people are just bringing out crap. It's flooded. A few years ago, we started Night Slugs because there was nowhere to hear our music, now everyone's trying to do it. When I'm DJing, I'm hardly playing new music at all, because the stuff that's coming out is just terrible. There were about ten good tunes released last year."
Oddly, the dubstep and bass scene is supposedly healthier than it's been in years. American producers are queuing up to rehash ideas that Night Slugs were toying with five years ago, prompting the duo to set up a label.
"People ask us why we haven't bought out more stuff on the label, but we don't want to just put crap out there for the sake of it," says Connolly. "Everyone is copying the same sounds. The thing about Night Slugs is we all come from art school backgrounds, we're serious about creating new forms, and we don't want to sound the same as everyone else. Most producers out there just don't get it."
Refusing to be pigeonholed, Connolly is pursuing two distinct paths. For his solo work, he has a live band and will soon be promoting the forthcoming single, "Tonight" - a gleaming slice of chrome-plated disco that is both nostalgic and modern, inhabiting a space between Daft Punk and Giorgio Moroder.
"I've added a new drummer, and we've been jamming the songs... they're almost turning into jazz, which was totally unexpected, really good. Ultimately, I'm going to keep doing the live stuff - I love playing with the band - but I'm probably gonna use a different name. It's so different from what I'm writing and DJing now."
Connolly is as passionate about the band as he is the four-hour DJ sets he is taking round the world with Bok Bok in 2012. Sets that are increasingly harder, sparser and dirtier. Starved of Night Slugs' characteristic low end.
"I've been listening to loads of Chicago hard house from the mid-'90s. Just pure kick-drums with no bass. There's so much amazing house and techno from the last 20 years that kids just don't know. There's so much more out there and I'm just trying to recontextualise it."
While the rest of London tries to replicate the sub-bass mutations Connolly and his cohorts were producing in the noughties, they are looking further, stealing from the past, from music that others don't go near, carving out strange and intricate new forms.
"I want to make something that can't be easily placed in time," he says. "If I just tried to make music that sounded like everyone else in London it would date really quickly. I always want to move forward, always do something new." §
L-Vis 1990's new single, "Tonight" is out on 19th March through PMR Records.
Location courtesy of Daniel Poole, The Old Hardware Store.