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Bandshell – Dust March review

It’s a genuinely rare thing for a label to flip everything you thought you knew about it on its head and make you sit bolt upright with the announcement of each release – not through the sheer weight of hype but simply because you know that what you’re getting is likely to be a totally unexpected quantity.

So it’s been with Hessle Audio since the hiatus that followed the release of the 116 & Rising compilation, a period which now increasingly seems like it marked the end of the label’s first chapter. Though we’ve had some especially undefinable music from Objekt’s “Cactus”, a cerebral take on the dubstep ‘wobbler’, and Elgato’s “Zone”, an exercise in patience that distilled the essence of dub into a 118bpm house track, this debut release from unknown quantity Bandshell carries on this run of highly experimental releases, going deeper into uncharted territory.

“Dust March” sets the tone for the EP with its wilfully lo-fi approach – a bassline at the lower end of the audible range that seems to be letting out steam, and brutal, tribalistic drumming that sounds like it’s being played 20bpm slower than it should be. Though the other three tracks might explore different rhythmic moods – the drums on “Rise Em” stray into Blawan territory, “Metzger” rolls along with a shuffle, whilst “Dog Sweater” channels early grime – there’s a heady, stifling atmosphere present throughout which stings your eyes like a cloud of stale weed smoke.

Although the likes of Actress and STL, whose dusty, squashed techno has much in common with the EP are obvious reference points, (the simplistic, compressed melody present on “Metzger” especially reminds of Splazsh era Actress) there is nevertheless something wilfully nihilistic about the producer’s approach that has as much in common with William Bennett’s afro-noise project Cut Hands than any of his immediate peers. Although Bandshell’s music isn’t explicitly tapping into that same fear of racial otherness that Bennett’s live shows so explicitly demonstrate, their music shares that same confrontational zeal and the sinking paranoia it creates – an emotion evoked out of primal rhythms and not much else. Bandshell’s debut EP may essentially be a collection of sketched out loop techno, but very rarely do you feel quite so on edge listening to something so basic.

Scott Wilson


Tracklisting:

1. Dust March
2. Rise Em
3. Metzger
4. Dog Sweater