Instra:mental - Watching You
Whilst no, this isn't actually on the debut release on the label (it's the A-side of #002), 'Watching You' so perfectly outlines the label's early genesis. Originally begun by Boddika and Jon Convex back when they were producing together as Instra:mental, their slower experiments and spacious, skeletal productions would come to define the first phase of Nonplus+.
Together with Exit Records boss dBridge, the trio were gone deep, exploring music and ideas that existed far away from the world of conventional drum & bass in a place that was possibly influenced by the ideas and motions of the genre but spoke determinedly and distinctly in its own tongue; as Autonomic. A podcast series, and a club night that thought a little differently followed their union and then their FABRICLIVE 50 mix cemented their idea in artefact.
‘Watching You’ was an anthem for that early Autonomic movement, a slow broiling, fantastically edited, simple idea that made feature out of dBridge’s sumptuous falsetto and created the kind of introspective melancholy that could enable you to feel completely alone in a room full of energetic people.
Actress - Machine And Voice
Before he had the world eating out of his conceptual palms, Actress was busy creating the kinds of tracks that would lay the incredibly brittle sounding foundations for the masterful work he would later go on to release. A combusting, stumbling track like ‘Machine And Voice’ not only displayed the kind of forward thinking, borderline crazy production methods (just skip to the synth drop) of the South London based producer but it also spoke volumes about Nonplus+ and the label’s outlook. Around this time the label outwardly united more producers operating in the same kind of outsider spheres releasing work from people like ASC, Skream and Jimmy Edgar – material that perhaps confounded a lot of dancefloor people but translated the same steadfast language Instra:mental were speaking.
Boddika - You Tell Me/Instra:mental - When I Dip
Thinking about it, maybe ‘You Tell Me’ sticks out of the Nonplus+ catalogue simply because of that pitch bent synth but what Boddika was doing, delving deep into a weird stock of striking low end, driving hi hats and attention grabbing, atrophy riddled bastardized lead lines, pre-dated what I’d like to call ‘the Swamp wave’ that followed it by a measure. Instra:mental's 'When I Dip' also smacked you in the face and made no bones about it's influences: a hard update of re-tooled electro with a distinctly techno bent and drum & bass' omnipresent sense of apocalyptic foreboding.
Various Artists - Think And Change
In 2013 it emerged publically in an interview with Resident Advisor that Boddika was now strictly running the label on his own after parting ways with Convex and ending Instra:mental. To mark the change he set about enlisting a spate of a bit more 'techno artists' to the roster, working with people like Kassem Mosse, Lowtec, Basic Soul Unit and Skudge and releasing a compilation called Think And Change which perfectly encapsulated and signalled the new dawn and his re-focus.
Pearson Sound - Quivver
Hessle Audio driver Pearson Sound was busy working on his own array of weird, jungle leaning dancefloor music at that time and a track like 'Quivver' encapsulates that era of his work perfectly: all supple percussion, big blown out bass stabs and an overall excess of woodblocks. In the context of the compilation, in a way it allowed Nonplus+ to once again become a home for outwardly drum & bass influenced music whilst it was reshaping the boundaries of what was happening out there on the dancefloors.
Source Direct - Black Rose/Black Rose (Blawan Remix)
But it's the latest project that Nonplus+ is working on that really manages to bring the label's early ethos full circle. Re-releasing a series of tracks from the legendary drum & bass production partnership, Source Direct (though now Jim Baker operates as a single person under the same name), Boddika's also commissioned remixes from the sorts of people Baker's music might have influenced. Blawan and Demdike Stare are the first names to be announced and, like I say, it's an approach to releasing music that manages to do two very important things: it shows a deep love and respect for drum & bass and the bold forms of music that reformatted the clubbing experience and it harnesses and re-purposes it's influence.
Nonplus+ remains a bastion in it's field - a label that is simply concerned with doing what it does. Undoubtedly it's influenced by the jungle way of doing things - of believing in a sound and an ideal so much that it simply wouldn't really work if it did anything else. Whilst the tone and range of the music might have switched lanes a little bit the steadfast commitment to it's A&R and playing to the strength of it's music is a trait that a lot of labels should probably take detailed note of.