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Kowton – Des Bisous review

It’s been interesting observing the musical evolution of Joe Cowton. When he first crept onto the radar it was as Narcossist, displaying a fearless attitude that made sense in the dubstep context, but possessed a spirit far removed from it. As he moved closer to his real name (although not completely), he also shifted towards a slower tempo range, emerging on Idle Hands with a gloomy and yet taut take on house music with girth. For a while it seemed like the bass heavy leanings of his productions was reflective of the resurging trend towards house music in Bristol, but in fact the emergent scene is quite removed from the ambiguous space Kowton inhabits with his music.

What’s hard to fathom is that in just twelve months he has logically progressed to the point he is at now, where he releases the first tracks on his new label, Pale Fire. His most notable venture of recent times before this has been his involvement with the Livity Sound label, which has intoned a new kind of continuation of the Bristol sound that fuses techno primitivism with soundsystem ethics. Kowton’s own contributions have been caught somewhere on the road towards classic Detroit electro, expressed with a British kind of reserve.

Now “Des Bisous” goes further into that unique quarter he has made his own. The drums are still brittle in the way that they have been on the Livity releases, but now there’s a dramatic curveball that comes in the shape of a clarion call of grime strings. As it peals out over the menacing sub thuds and mechanical rhythm, it sounds like a carnival anthem for the end of days. It’s an utterly primal track, utilising space to the utmost but never sounding bare.

The “Dub Bisous” on the flip cools off the hysteria of the strings, keeping them in a lower register and maximising on the intensity of the bass elements. It’s a version in the classic sense of the word, retaining the character of the original and simply offering a different angle for the DJ to come at the music from. It’s quite remarkable to listen to these tracks and think that just a year ago we were getting used to the likes of “Basic Music Knowledge”, and yet the music correlates naturally. It’s not easy to evolve as an artist and maintain a consistent sonic identity but Kowton has displayed an affinity for both in a short time.

Oli Warwick


1. Des Bisous
2. Dub Bisous