The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


One Bok
Zodiac Beats Volume 1 & 2 Nick Roseblade , July 2nd, 2021 08:34

One Bok (aka Night Slugs' Bok Bok) returns with a psychogeographic foray that truly brings it, finds Nick Roseblade

Alex Sushon is a safe pair of hands. Not only has he been running the Night Slugs label since 2011 with L-Vis 1990 and releasing music under the Bok Bok name since 2009. These releases combine grime, trap, bass music and dubstep to create stark soundscapes that mirror the struggles and jubilation of inner-city living. Despite the dank vibes, the music is permeated with moments of sheer joyful bliss.

After a four-year break from releasing since the Salvage 2017 EP, Sushon has returned with the Zodiac Beats Volume 1 and 2. On the surface it’s business as usual for Sushon. The music is filled with the sounds of city living. There are enough desolate urban spaces and opulent open areas that make it feel like a musical version of the topographical derives in Laura Grace Ford’s Savage Messiah zines.

The EP opens with a brief spoken word sample saying: “Everything happens when it happens, and when it happens it, it happens, at the scheduled time in the universe”. After this, ‘Pisces’ opens the EP proper. Woozy synths drift over skittering beats and horn stabs. Then the star of the show appears. A hulking bassline with a repeating synth melody. There is pure menace going here, but the melody is slightly playful, taking some of the edge off it. As ‘Pisces’ progresses, so does the tension. It reminds me of being out in London during a particularly hot day. Moods are frayed as the oppressive weather takes its toll in a city without a breeze. You feel it could kick off at any moment. You finally reach your final destination (whether home, a pub, work, club, etc.) and you experience a feeling of relief knowing that you don’t have to brave that hostility for a while. It’s all there in ‘Pisces’ and it’s a wonderful way to start the EP.

‘Capricorn’ and ‘Nine Saturn’ follow this blueprint, delivering glorious slabs of skewed grime with heavy basslines. The standout moment on the album is ‘How Can I Forget’. Here Sushon just ramps everything up and utterly brings it. There are moments when it feels like the song will collapse under the weight of the basslines and its own swagger. What really makes the song work is the simple melody and vocal sample, but there is some monumental filth going on just below the surface. It makes me long for a time when clubs can reopen so they can play this at an obscene volume, creating a juddering sweaty mass on the dancefloor.

Instead of releasing Zodiac Beats Volume 1 and 2 under his Bok Bok moniker, Sushon instead used the One Bok name. This might not seem like a big deal. The music is still filled with the vigour and bounce of his Bok Bok releases, but there are subtle differences. Zodiac Beats Volume 1 and 2 is a slightly terser affair. It feels more like a mixtape than an EP. This taps into Sushon’s roots but also hints at his ability to incorporate the changes in dance culture to create skewed soundscapes. The music features grime motifs that have been reconfigured through drill sensibilities and focuses on ideas of solitude, pain, frustration, and catharsis. This is an EP to play frequently, as with each listen you home in one something new. ‎