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Sonic Router

Sonic Router 011: A Dubstep Column For April - Land Of The Skweee And Boss Kite
Oli Marlow , March 30th, 2010 07:33

In this month's Sonic Router column, Oli Marlow explores the emerging form of Skwee with Brighton producer Boss Kite. Snag a free Skweee mix while you're at it

Whether you consider its melodies to sound cheap or not, there's something about the primitive blend of slowed up beats and fluorescent shards of skweee music that just positively shimmers. Born out of a Scandinavian microcosm, besotted with the 8bit computer game melodies and seemingly the archaic DAW programs of the early home computer age, the rise of the horribly judged and drably titled 'wonky' scene has drawn more attention to a group of core producers, content to sit in bedrooms pitch bending the shit out of their MIDI notes for what must be hours on end.

Personally I came at the skweee scene – a name coined by one of the sound's pioneers Daniel Savio as he tried to 'squeeze' every single element of a track out of a single Juno synthesizer - from precisely that angle. Tracing a little of the scene's lineage thanks to producers like Zomby, Joker, Gemmy, Slugabed and Rustie (whose respective styles share more than a little common ground in terms of audio manipulation and sheer computerized funk with producers like Rigas Den Andre and the awesomely monikered Randy Baracuda) and the erratic releases of Metaphi and Taylor on the Nottingham based Wigflex imprint. Similarly Hyperdub artist Ikonika - whose complex and bold synth arrangements lie somewhat parallel to a lot of the hypercolour dementia released on leading labels Harmoenia and Flogsta Danshall - refixed Eero Johannes' 'We Could Be Skweeroes' for the Planet Mu label last year, sucking my interest only further into the Nordic fjords of the sound's heritage.

Brighton club night, Donky Pitch, are flying the flag for this brand of music high in Southern England. Inviting numerous producers from inside and outside of the wider 'beats' scene – artists like dEbruit, Alex Nut, TOKiMONSTA, Rekordah and Metske (the skweee pseudonym of the afore mentioned Metaphi) – they play host to those who share a kinship to the unfathomably bright synthesizers and slow jam mentality that comes as standard with a lot of skweee.

One of Donky Pitch's discoveries has in turn become one of my obsessions of late. Brighton producer Boss Kite, known also as Ross Flight, popped up anonymously on a flyer for the collective's February jam, having quietly given away a 4 track EP a month previously through his bandcamp profile. Titled 'Clef Basset' the EP was instantly vibrant, opening up with 'CMYK' and its bubble harmonics - which incidentally tortures its bass line in much the same LFO happy way Skream did his lead riff on 'Midnight Request Line' – and closing on the funkafied sexathon of 'Dotch Clogs'.

"For me it's the sense of humour, playfulness and groove that grabbed me with skweee," Flight informs me after the initial genre probe is shot across his bow. "These are all elements I found lacking in the electronic music I was listening to at the time. My style is definitely somewhat removed from the original skweee sound, but it's the stripped down simplicity of it that I find so inspiring. I love the pace of it; I've always loved very slow music… I just wanted to create a something of my own that took these ideas as a new basis to work from."

"I was listening to a lot of ambient/drone/noise stuff at the time… all quite serious and technical," he admits. "Then a year ago I heard 'Skandinavian Skweee' Volumes 1 and 2 and it changed everything for me. My house mate got passed it and asked me what I thought... It was SO fresh. It was love on first listen."

The immediacy of the groove constantly plays a big part in a lot of the output and for me, it's that rhythmic sleekness that can really make or break a production. You might find skweee referenced online as analogue funk, computer soul or (to coin a just as daft phrase) binary G-funk, but it is simply the lead synthesized groove that makes this music stand legions above the rest of the current electronic squalls. And it's this instant bond that Boss Kite manages to deliver impeccably well across his EP; it's also damn finely produced, EQed to a tee, with the harmonies sitting precariously, a little higher in the mix than the drums.

"I work in the music department of a college just outside Brighton, fixing stuff and re-wiring studios, only to have enthusiastic little tykes, breaking and unplugging everything again…" he chuckles. "I grew up playing the flute from a young age and then learnt guitar at school; I always wanted to create my own music rather than play other people's. I 'borrowed' this old four track tape machine that no one was using when I was at school, and started recording on my own. I've been making music of all sorts since then really… mainly guitar based soundscape/drone music but I got a bit fed up with that, so I've recently been taking music in a totally different direction for me."

"I keep it pretty minimal [in the studio] and am mainly working inside the computer right now - though I run a few bits through a delay pedal too sometimes. I use a lot of controllers and have been using a launch pad recently to really get my teeth in Ableton. It's totally my application of choice, though I am buying my first synth next month as a birthday present to myself," he beams.

As a producer intent on making "electronic music fun again," Flight's enthusiasm is obvious. Even over a handful of email exchanges he exudes a happy demeanor; totally flattered and effaced by my growing interest in his work. He's keen to help my research excitedly recommending albums by Daniel Savio and further listening on the Harmoenia, Flogsta Danshall and dodpop labels, and he seems just as enthusiastic to share the details of his debut live set with the world.

"It was awesome and the reception I got was totally unexpected for me!" he confesses. "I was really unsure of how it would go down… just 'cause it's generally pretty slow, and I hadn't heard my music played on a big system before. I'm so lucky I've had a night like Donky Pitch in town as a platform to put it out on. Pete and Dave (DP founders) have given me a lot of time, reassurance and faith that I'm doing something that other people might like too; those guys are bringing some really exciting music to Brighton at the moment."

And as sweetly ironic as it might be given the overtly digital nature of the music, the main force behind the continued prevalence of this kind of music is contained in a few isolated pockets of the internet.

"Nation of Skweee' and a healthy community on Soundcloud has helped us all keep in touch and discuss our music," Flight agrees. "The scene is still very small and we all kind of know about what each other is doing. It's great when hear from some strange corner of the world, with someone poking their head up and saying 'Hey, hear my take on skweee…' Everyone's really welcoming and it's exciting when you hear about other people who are inspired and dig it too."

::

DOWNLOAD: Boss Kite – SQR011 Mix

Tracklist:

  1. Boss Kite – 'Dotch Clogs'
  2. Joxaren – 'Fel I Facit'
  3. Mangrove – 'Perfect Disaster'
  4. Boss Kite – 'Moody Blues'
  5. Boss Kite – 'Clef Bassett'
  6. Beem – 'Manka' (:Kinema: vocal edit)
  7. Beatbully – 'Skweeed'
  8. Rigas Den Andre – 'Guilty' feet, No Rhythm
  9. Mrs Qaeda – 'Liikutuksia'
  10. Daniel Savio – 'Monkey Pee Monkey Poo'
  11. Wankers United – 'Superfonky'
  12. Master of Ribongia – 'Sweetbeat' (Boss Kite Remix)
  13. Pixelord – 'Quartz Boy' (Coco Bryce Fake Skweee Mix)
  14. Markis Sage – 'Two City Clash'

Words: Oli Marlow for http://sonicrouter.blogspot.com

Boss Kite's 'Clef Basset' EP is available now for FREE download at: http://bosskite.bandcamp.com

Londoners can catch his live show on 9th April when he plays THEM at Corsica Studios alongside Kuedo and Boxcutter or make the pilgrimage to Donky Pitch's first Birthday on the 20th May where he’s on the bill with Fulgeance & Randy Baracuda.

Most of the releases mentioned will be available physically as well as digitally. Check your local record shops or online stores for more details. We buy all of our records and suggest you do too.

Information on all these artists and more can be found at dubstepforum.com.

Photo: Focus

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