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FWD@PlasticPeople – Sunday 08/09

It shames me to admit that this was but my second visit to London’s legendary (yes, legendary) Sunday Dubstep session FWD. Not making it in the past due to ignorance and various other excuses only strengthened my resolve.

And resolve was certainly needed. Faced on an utterly rancid evening by an extensive queue – before it even opened – one’s first reaction is to turn tail and run. Fuck that though, the line-up was as exciting and intriguing as any I’ve seen. Part-promoted as launch night for Dutch ex-junglist Martyn’s forthcoming debut LP it also featured scene heavyweight and Hyperdub head honcho Kode9 and a surprising guest – D Bridge.

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Darren D Bridge and appreciative companion

Known initially to everyone everywhere as 1/4 of D&B nosebleed kings Bad Company, D Bridge has emerged as the defunct group’s creative hero. When fellow ex-member Fresh aka Dan Stein (NOT seafood chef Rick Stein’s son as many – hilariously – claimed) left to join forces with Adam ‘Alvin Stardust’ F in the early 00s they both had huge commercial success with their Breakbeat Kaos label, the high point arguably being the whole Pendulum phenomenon. Fresh initially seemed to be Bad Company’s star. I’d say virtually all dance music groups have one central powerhouse and Dan Fresh appeared to be it.

Although embraced en masse by the ravers, Fresh’s populist output made little lasting musical impact. Banger after banger but the dancefloor jump-up fodder felt stale and quickly dated. D Bridge has spent a little longer energing as an individual voice (his debut LP, ‘The Gemini Principle’ dropped last year although 2004’s ‘True Romance’ on Metalheadz is a bona fide classic) but his work is making more interesting ripples and beginning to shake D&B’s very foundations. If there’s ever been a scene more in need of a fresh take I’m certainly not aware of it and that’s coming from a lifetime fan.

Some of his past work:

‘True Romance’ – classic

Blush Response’ ft. Instra:mental from ‘The Gemini Principle’ LP (ignore the picture pliz)

It’s easy to forget just how good the Plastic People soundsystem really is and walking face first into D Bridge’s set was an absolute revelation. I’d been trying to guess whether he’d play D&B or dubstep but the real answer was neither – or both (ok, neither). The tempo was D&B (or half-time, depending on your opinion on snare placement) but that’s where the similarity ended. The spirit was dubstep, albeit with a sci-fi Bladerunner sheen leaving it smooth and precise like chrome.

I got pretty excited and I guess I still am. This is what I wanted. Taking D&B forward, away from crippling nostalgic snobbery and more-is-more directionless extremity. He’d added so much by removing the unnecessary, dated chaff. Each track was a flowing river of bass graced with delectable percussive clicks and gorgeous atmospherics. It felt slower, taking its time to create a vibe and always hinting at something more. This was the antithesis of the everything-as-loud-as-everything-else approach to production that blights most D&B. Subtlety and suggestion abound, a treat for the ears that bordered on the erotic.

Where next? Martyn followed with an expertly blended set of uptempo rhythms with influences from African Kwaito and the burgeoning Funky scene (more on these later) that had the whole place moving, despite the extreme lack of room. Kode9 ended with of all things a classic jungle set – ‘6 Million Ways’ even got an airing.

Mujava’s Kwaito banger

Hard House Banton – ‘Sirens’. Massive Funky tune.

…and ‘6 Million Ways’. Ya gotta love it.

Some of the best and most inspirational dance music I’ve heard for a very long time and a shocking prospect – is D&B going to be relevant again? With D Bridge looking to the future and Kode9 channeling the past, maybe it’s time to revive the spirit of jungle. I bloody hope so.

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One Comment

    • Younger sibling
    • Posted February 22, 2009 at 11:06 am
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Shounds as if you had a well good night! Good to see your optimistic about the future of d&b too!! Shame I couldn’t make it :-/ xxx


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