Bassline house arrives at London's clubs

Time Out discovers that bassline has shaken off its violent northern past and is about to blow through the Big Smoke‘s biggest clubs

  • Bassline house arrives at London's clubs

    The Night Slugs crew do cool, amicable and MCing! (© Kate Moross)

  • Over the past decade, UK garage has almost totally reinvented itself, largely due to the creative drought caused by an over-popularisation of the scene and its much publicised association with ‘trouble’. The result was a very swift mutation into the chaotic clatter and gloomy thud of grime and dubstep.

    However, while Londoners have been smugly congratulating themselves for these new adaptations, our northern friends have been working on bringing the original bounce back into UKG via a darker, more bass heavy, thumping mutation of their own.

    Bassline house has been wobbling out of big clubs and battered Citroën Saxos all over the north for six years now, to very little reaction from us in London. That’s not to mention the bassline house track, ‘Heartbroken’, that reached number two in the chart thanks to Leeds figurehead, T2, last November. But despite this and the genre’s dominance of the club scenes in Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and the like, many nights here in the capital are only just beginning to take on bassline artists. What’s taken London so long to catch on?

    Dexplicit (© James Pearson-Howes)

    'Many Londoners feel that if we didn’t invent it, then it doesn’t matter,’ explains Alex Sushon, one half of DJ duo, Faggatronix, whose Night Slugs event champions the genre fervently. Despite radio support from the likes of Sinden and EZ, and some of the scene’s best production emerging from London courtesy of Dexplicit, the man behind Lethal Bizzle’s ultraviolent masterpiece, ‘Pow!’, bassline hasn’t found it easy to get airplay down south, either. Grime impresario and Kiss FM DJ, Logan Sama dismisses bassline as a pale imitation of ’90s garage, and, according to Hackney promoter Rekless, one London pirate station forbade playing bassline because it ‘didn’t want to take any risks’.

    In addition, there is the concern that the scene breeds violence to contend with. Sheffield club, Niche (the genre’s spiritual home), was closed in 2005 amid fears that it was attracting gang crime, suggesting that bassline might receive the same ‘approach with caution’ stamp that has tarnished the capital’s garage and grime scenes. But London promoters reject the idea that bassline induces trouble. Rekless maintains that ‘problems only arise when MCs are involved, as they become the focus, not the music’, and subsequently books mainly DJs for his London bassline events. Sushon – in his effort to open the genre up to a trendier, Shoreditch crowd – is clear about his detachment from the northern scene: ‘I want to de-stigmatise it so people can see it for what it is – great party music.’

    In its emigration to central London – via events like Night Slugs and Always Frydaze – bassline is finding a different home for itself from grime and dubstep because, well, the genre actually makes you want to dance (not shuffle!). But will this formula take off in London? ‘Nights like FWD>> have become less experimental and, as a result, less entertaining,’ says Sushon. ‘Londoners are hungry for exciting new bass-driven music.’

    We should be content that it’s here; it’s different, and ultimately – as Sinden points out – in a scene that is becoming less and less club-friendly, ‘It’s really good fun'.

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