The following words were initially intended to settle the score for Bristol as Britain's second most important dance music metropole. Outside of Britain, Bristol remains a city of modest if not unknown fame. This is because it lacks football clubs of stature. One of Bristol’s most notable DJ producers, Roni Size once released a single under the name of Scoprio which was a supposed drum and bass anthem from the stands called 'Division One'. Either Bristol City or Rovers, or perhaps both, were, however, relegated that season. The city is moreover often mistaken for being Brighton. To further taint, or taunt, its reputation, 'Bristol' is a brand name in the Netherlands for a goods chain store that makes Lidl appear fancy. Roni Size was once interviewed by a Dutch dopehead and he replied by saying “I'm from a very, very small city which you've never heard of called Bristol.”
Few will know this, but Bristol was also the name of a posh type of automobile, which was albeit manufactured from an illegally obtained BMW design. It is held in common perception these days though as the place which gave birth to Massive Attack and to Tricky and back in the last century to Rip, Rig and Panic, the band which introduced the talents of Neneh Cherry.
Bristol, however, continues to lag far behind Manchester, no matter how strongly I concur. It is la cítta numéro duo engliese (-hope that's in grammatically correct Italian). The 'Dark Matter' album, a double CD compilation of music recorded at its Multiverse studio between 2004 and 2009, serves as a reminder of what makes dance music from Bristol so special.
After the slave trade was abolished, Bristol became a magnet to people from the Windies. Bristol University and the local art school were a volatile combination. White kids, and local acts such as the Blue Aeroplanes and Beatnik Filmstars, produced excellent pop racket noise, but went largely unnoticed.
Innovative dance music continues to come from both London and Bristol, with the latter city hardly getting any credit at all. The chances though are that when an expensive car whizzes by on the M4 it will driven by one of the latest darlings of dubstep, UK garage or drum and bass. It is also as likely to be heading home into Bristol as well out of it.
Multiverse, as well as being a recording studio in Bristol, is also a corporate music industry which embraces record labels such as Tectonic (dubstep), Lot49 (breaks), Caravan (electronic), Pinch's Earwax and Joker's Kapsize dubstep labels and also inactive labels such as Subtext (Vex'd's label) and Vertical Sound (nu-skool breaks). Foreign artists, such as the Hague's 2562 (on Tectonic), have reached a much wider audience via way of Bristol.
Multiverse’s history, however, makes little sense on this concise two CD set. In chronological order, 'Dark Matter' sums up the sequence of releases made available from Multiverse’s various offshoots. From dark-ish electronic onwards to rattling dub breaks, this set offers an excellent reminder of how whacky downbeats came to end up sounding like the dubstep music we now treasure so dearly.
'Dark Matter' picks up from the moment when UK garage evolved via 2step into grime and dubstep. Things have become increasingly abstract ever since then. This is where Vex'd comes to notice. Jamie Vex'd gave directions. His music was being picked up by John Peel and Planet µ. Soon after though, Mary Anne Hobbs stepped into the gap, as she plugged the bright new sounds from the shadowy and echoing chambers of British, M4 region, dance music. She took listeners from 1xtra and radio junglist juggling to the next level.
Vex'd isn’t the only DJ to be found on ‘Dark Matter’. Skream, Loefah, Cyrus, ID and Emptyset all bare the magic sounds that Multiverse have disclosed on exciting twelve inch singles. To some extent this reveals how its jazzy vibes have become increasingly complex .
It is much wiser to listen to this anthology, which portrays the wealth of ingenious bass music that has come out of Bristol, at random in CD shuffle mode. Alongside John E. Cash and Kode9, Vex'd kickstarted dubstep. 'Dark Matter' builds on the sinister and repetitive blueprint material that he created. His 'Lion' marks a beginning out of which many twists and offshoots were to follow. The brooding and atmospheric tracks of Loefah took off from there. Commercial success finally mainly came through the Tectonic offshoot label. The Tectonic label's sales paved the way for a string of gently pounding dubstep exotica singles. The south Asian excursions from Cyrus and Pinch provided the icing on the cake.
‘Dark Matter’ is a two CD set for now, but the chances are that many individual releases will get a repressing. It is a superb way to start for the aspiring dubstepper.