New Focus and Opportunity

Words by Alexander

Covid-19 has shook the dance music industry to its foundations. The outlook for the immediate future of nightlife is bleak, but could this be a great adaptive moment and ascendance for the more ambient, experimental and less dance floor orientated tier of Drum & Bass? Is this an opportunity for new focus and direction? Speaking to label owners and artists within the music, there is an optimism and willingness to keep busy even if the focal point of events is almost non-existent.

Recently One.Seventy hosted an in-store event at South London record shop and cutting house Disc World. While it definitely was not a club event, it showed us that there are different ways to present the music in alternative settings and still achieve a sense of community. Its opened up our minds to possibilities, what can be done safely, and what the new normal we hear so much about could be. Collectively we are going to have to explore new avenues and ways to experience the music. We know that events are profoundly handicapped by the current crisis, but how have labels and artists been affected so far?

Vega heads up the Bristol based UVB-76 label, the stable of artists like Pessimist, Overlook, Clarity and Karim Maas. A busy label with artists regularly taking their club heavy sound to events at home and abroad. Covid-19 has profoundly affected their activity, formally drawing for inspiration from gigs.

“I suppose in terms of new music being written things have slowed down a bit. That’s due to lack of inspiration, being at clubs etc. You hear music when you’re out, it inspires you in the studio.

I was talking to Pessimist yesterday and we both laughed as we don’t really know what sort of music we’re into at the moment. Obviously, we’re listening to music but not like “oh I’m loving this vibe at the moment”, so again it comes down to the inspiration I think of being in the club. I know winter time is the most productive for us lot, so I’m hoping the dark nights of not being able to go out much triggers more music being written.” UVB-76 will also be hosting an in-store event at Disc World on the 5th September.

Adam O’Hara who releases as Projekt 22, The Vision Reels and one half of Marked Red predominantly writes music which isn’t aimed at the club environment and lives in the South of England far from the epicentre of the Drum & Bass scene. Adam has arguably had his best year so far in 2020 with the release of his ‘Eyes Open’ album as The Vision Reels on Kizen Records.

“Inspiration has been up and down along with my mood, saying that though I’ve never looked to raves and other live music as inspiration although I do miss some social aspects of life.”

Adam does however still identify with the opportunity for musical intake beyond the dance. The shift in the way that people are now consuming music naturally allows for non-dance-floor orientated forms to come to the fore.

“I would hope people would be trying out different types of music that are not meant for the dancefloor, if it were me I’d be getting bored. I get bored of that sort of music anyway after a short while.”

Where as a lot of the club orientated labels have become completely static, more experimental labels are flourishing. Switzerland’s re:st imprint has released 2 singles and their first artist album, all since March. The album in question ‘Ecou’ by Dyl & DB1 is one of the labels most successful releases to date. Label boss Lcp sheds some light on the success of the album during Covid-19.

“As far as I can tell people can’t really go to clubs at the moment or at least only under rather unconventional circumstances. I guess having more time to hang out or do something different gives them the chance to get involved with more non-club music – it automatically gives them another context for the music.”

A shift towards a more dynamic range of performance and listening mediums could be the future proofing which sees Drum & Bass further diversify. As with many art forms it could be necessity that facilitates this shift. An uncomfortable challenge, but certainly an opportunity to see where the new boundary lines lay.

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