Considering Kowton’s TFB is only the third release from Glasgow-based All Caps in 18 months, it seems remarkable that the label’s releases should inspire the kind of fevered online excitement usually reserved for their more well known peers in the crossover world of techno and bass. Retro 70s sci-fi typeface aside, the label’s hand-stamped aesthetic isn’t anything particularly unique, but more so than most low-key operations of its type, All Caps’ steadily increasing reputation lies in the high level of quality control that goes into the music selection process overseen by Ryan Martin, Matthew Muir and Bake – no doubt informed by their show on Glasgow’s Subcity Radio.
Given that previous releases have covered the deep, swung techno of Alex Coulton’s Representations EP and the threadbare grime reductions of Helix’s “Stacks Riddim”, Kowton makes a logical addition to the label; his recent solo productions for Livity Sound and his own Pale Fire label have combined the overdriven basslines, creaky strings and jackhammer rhythms of early grime with a techno sensibility to great effect.
While it would be easy to dismiss “TFB” (supposedly an “Ode to Ruff Sqwad”) as just another variation on the same theme, it’s testament to Kowton’s ear for a good hook that the gimmick hasn’t even remotely begun to wear thin. All the familiar elements are in play but arranged in a pleasingly different way; the savage swirl of rusted metal claps are present and correct, but the bassline sounds even more likely to blow a Funktion One than that of “More Games”, and the strings have a significantly more tense dynamic than the more triumphant strains of “Des Bisous”.
The hardware-only Karenn project of Blawan and Pariah are a logical choice to provide a remix, especially given that their bleakly functional sound has much in common with Kowton’s stripped back approach. Although the duo’s attempts to grapple with all-analogue processes are admirable, it hasn’t quite felt the project has lived up to its full potential as yet; no such criticisms can be laid at their take on “TFB” however. Although markedly straighter than Kowton’s original, the pair play up the track’s scuffed qualities and transform it into an industrial juggernaut filled with viscous analogue squeals, creating something experimentally charged that should have no problem demolishing a club like Kowton’s original.
B. TFB (Karenn remix)