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A Potted History Of Tectonic

Reputation is an incredibly hard thing to even start to try and define but it’s fair to say that Pinch’s Tectonic label has an unbelievable amount of clout in certain circles. It’s widely noted that when the dubstep sound started blowing up in London, Pinch was the guy who brought that style to his native Bristol - and the wider south west of England - with his Subloaded events. As a record label, Tectonic undoubtedly blossomed as an extension of that personal commitment to sub bass driven music but it’s been in the years since the concept of dubstep exploded on such a massive and global scale that Tectonic’s managed to nudge its way even further outside of the envelope with full length projects from people like 2562, Guido, Mumdance & Logos, Acre and Distal.

To an avid follower, its long felt like Tectonic held a core set of principles that it adhered to both sonically and texturally. Tectonic’s music has always been sub heavy and designed for total immersion on the dancefloor and you can still draw a lot of parallels between that original dread heavy spirit that was captured on early album releases from 2562 and Pinch himself and the music he’s choosing to release now. The overall goal posts of dance music might have shifted in the time since but that pioneering ethic is still very much alive and important to what Tectonic do as a label. So ahead of their return to Room Two on 12th February we took a peek at their discography to pick out some key moments…

Pinch – Brighter Day (Instrumental)

Whilst it's certainly not one of the earliest records released on the label, ‘Brighter Day’ is probably the perfect track for us to start with. Yes, the track was later released as ‘Qawwali’ on Planet Mu and pressed onto 12” with a VIP version on the flip but it illustrates my timeline far better to refer to it here as ‘Brighter Day’ and talk about how it was taken from Pinch’s debut album Underwater Dancehall and how it was an early high water mark for dubstep as a genre. Bulbous, lithe and impeccably reverbed, regardless of title you know it as, it’s a bit of a minimal masterpiece. Like the rest of the album it was originally taken fromm 'Brighter Day' was built at a time when dubstep was more about the ascension that the sub low meditative bass pressure offered audiences than the high impact of colliding chainsaw saw waves that came to exemplify and stereotype the genre later on.

Frankly, 'Brighter Day' is the perfect example of that geographically tied, deep set Bristolian dread colliding with tribal drum programming and Pinch’s deft touch in the low end. So much so that looking at it now, I feel like it’s a bit of a insult to just pick one track from Underwater Dancehall considering is it's emotional resonance with me so I’m just going to leave this embed of ‘One Blood, One Source’ sitting pretty... just… here:

2562 - Basin Dub/Dinosaur

Hailing from The Hague in The Netherlands, Dave Huismans work as 2562 offered up a more techno influenced take on the dubstep form. Drawing as much from broken beat as he did Basic Channel, Huismans plotted a course on his Aerial album that would prove both indicative of the trajectory of the general curve and incredibly far ahead of its time. Blending fractured pointillist rhythms with oodles of sub bass he created classics like ‘Moog Dub’, ‘Kameleon’ and ‘Basin Dub’ providing dances like FWD>> with additional swing – something he and fellow Dutchman Martyn would come to epitomize with Martyn's album Great Lengths dropping sometime after.

I’ve written at length before about my fondness for ‘Love In Outer Space’, the first single taken from Huismans’ second album Unbalance so I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about another one of those album tracks; one that built on the swung drums of the Aerial material and added whole new dimensions of colour to the producer’s palette. ‘Dinosaur’ is still a touch, even now, some 6/7 years later. A delightfully careering blend of chord mutilation, ride cymbals and heavy handed kicks and snares it gave 2562 a new bounce and put Tectonic even further ahead of the pack.

Scientist vs. Guido - Korg Back Dub

In 2010 Pinch piloted a project which brought the dub aspect of his music taste full circle. Working closely with the legendary dub engineer Scientist, Tectonic housed Scientist Launches Dubstep Into Outer Space, a compilation that saw the dub icon version twelve tracks from a veritable who’s who of dubstep talent. The Skull Disco boss Shackleton, Mala from DMZ and Hyperdub's captain Kode9 all joined regular Tectonic associates like Guido, Distance, RSD, Cyrus and Jack Sparrow in submitting tracks to the project which Scientist then stemmed and ‘dubbed’ in his bass heavy, reverb soaked style. Not only did the album show off Tectonic’s talent pulling power but it also displayed Pinch’s ability to follow an idea through to its eventual conclusion and pay homage to the very evolution of soundsystem culture as he did it.

In case you were wondering, I plumped here for the Guido track because by doing so I’d also be able to draw a piece of your attention to that producer’s further contribution to Tectonic, 2013’s Moods Of Future Joy album.

Beneath - Duty

Pinch’s subsequent support of artists like Beneath in late 2012 made a perfect and absolute kind of sense when you plot his own course as a producer - from the release of 2010’s ‘Croydon House’ on Loefah’s SWAMP81 label - but Beneath in particular seemed to be the perfect fit because his music is driven by the same [for lack of a better word] bombast that early dubstep was. Beneath himself takes a very stark and direct route with his brand of four four, especially on a track like ‘Duty’. Run it through a spectral EQ analyser and it’ll most likely look like an early DMZ song just with more pronounce and regulated drum peaks. The sub on it is super serious.

Mumdance & Logos - Hall of Mirrors

Over the past couple of years Pinch has been hard at it, exploring the possibilities of working with Mumdance; the London based producer whose enthusiasm, work rate and passion for hardcore, grime and drone music had led him down some pretty curve ball type cul-de-sacs lately. But in 2015 Tectonic housed Proto, a collaborative album between Mumdance and Logos, another Londoner seriously interested in a sense of foreboding, space and early Metalheadz. And Proto has proved itself to be a pretty hard and unforgiving statement in the time since it's release – and I say that as someone who still fully enjoys it. What’s apparent in the music (and especially in a track like ‘Hall Of Mirrors’) though is the pair’s combined command of machines and processing techniques. Even if you’re not sitting there and looking at the record in a thematic sense - because hey, why would you? – there’s a deep rotted sense of un-compromise that is essential to Proto's voice and it’s resulting tenacity. It’s not a stretch to say that’s probably what Pinch loved about it, because I do recall reading him say something along those lines when Proto was on promo.

Acre – Always Crashing

Released late last year Acre’s Better Strangers album is being used here more to illustrate the support and incubation Pinch provides for artists. Full disclosure: I love Acre’s work, so I’m fully biased, but as fan of both Tectonic and of Acre their continuing partnership again makes perfect sense. The Manchester based producer’s work has long be trickling through the right hands and making fans of the right types of people but the platform Tectonic gives him has seemingly sucked some of his best work yet out of his hard drive and into the world. ‘Always Crashing’ is the perfect example: loveably awkward it’s got this bizarre and blown out refrain of heavily boosted, distorted drums sitting on top of the pristine sub and kick drum combo with that lullaby-like melody weaving itself in and out and above and around and all the way through the skeleton of the track. If that’s not a ‘lose yourself in the busy melee of dancefloor’ type whirly bird cluster jam then I really don’t know what life is anymore…

Friday 12th February

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