Following Sharp Veins’ spectacular ambient instalment, we’re excited to bring you the latest edition of Functions Of The Now from an artist we’ve had in our sights for a mix since before the series even began. Hot on the heels of his Hydraulics EP – perhaps his most well realised release to date – Bloom has provided us with a companion piece that contextualises his future-facing, mechanical take on grime. The mix is comprised of almost industrial re-imaginings of classic grime tropes and barely offers a moment’s respite as it barrels through FOTN alumni Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf, Miss Modular, Sharp Veins and Gage – in particular watch out for the latter’s highly sought-out dubplate with Kevin Jz Prodigy – as well as rising stars like Janus’ club agitator Lotic and recent Truancy Volume mixers Victoria Kim. Needless to say, it’s one of our favourites in the series to date and we’re sure you’ll see why.
Bloom’s story began back in 2012, a time at which the now-established scene that has risen up around present-day mainstays like Boxed and Local Action was in its nascent stages. Figures like Butterz had heroically re-established grime as club music and it was only going to take a couple of well placed charges for the dam to burst and the breadth of classic grime experimentation to flood on to dancefloors again. One such charge came in the form of Logos‘ Kowloon EP, a spacious meditation on Wiley’s infamous devil mixes, but the other was much more explosive: Bloom’s Quartz EP for Mr Mitch’s Gobstopper Records.
The key ingredients are undoubtedly familiar to anybody with their ear to the ground in 2014 – slinky square waves, grime pulses, smashing glass, negative space – but even surrounded by today’s competitors (and in some cases imitators) “Quartz” still stands out for its pitch-perfect precision. Between then and Hydraulics Bloom resurfaced only twice, first fine-tuning the aesthetic of his debut for Visionist’s always excellent Lost Codes label and then once again on his new-found home Crazylegs, where he reconfigured the shuffling UK house of Toyc’s “Keyframe” into an utterly deadly, doom-laden grime banger. A lot has changed in those two years, with eski tropes so ubiquitous it’s hard to move for square waves: ever canny though, Bloom appears to have used his year-long absence to move light years ahead of the pack again.
Peel back Hydraulics and you’ll find something resembling the skeleton of grime: agitated, asymmetric rhythms; pregnant pauses; hefty, gabber-esque kicks. It’s what augments these elements that is so radically different though. Pulling out the loping, almost mechanical aspects of conventional instrumentals, Bloom constructs something more akin to the sonics of some infernal, futuristic machine. It’s no coincidence that the excellent video for “Dark Light” finds its closest cousin in Conrad Shawcross’ recent exhibition The ADA Project, in which artists including Beatrice Dillon and Holly Herndon composed music to match the choreography of a mechanical arm. That’s not to say Hydraulics is not club ready, however. The real beauty of the EP is the tightrope it successfully walks between disorienting sound design on one hand and soundsystem heft on the other.
Since our last instalment there’s been an avalanche of solid releases, and it’s to our shame that we can’t include them all here. Some highlights though: first up the essential debut mixtape from West London MC K9, Mad In The Cut. Worth grabbing for his amazing vocal of classic Youngstar beat “The Shotta Riddim” alone, the tape also features production from FOTN favourites Dark0, Visionist and Mssingno, all of which K9 rides in his inimitable, gnarled style. If you’re quick you might still be able to grab copies of two essential experimental transmissions. The first comes courtesy of Mumdance and Logos, the inaugural release on their new Different Circles label: you can read our review here. The second only tangentially touches on the aesthetic we’ve been tracing in this series, but is one of our favourites of the year nonetheless: Yamaneko’s Pixel Wave Embrace tape, an album that takes grime’s melodic sensibilities and masterfully weaves Hiroshi Yoshimura-style 80s ambient out of them. We’ll have extended thoughts on that on Truants tomorrow. Next up Rabit preps for his Tri Angle Records debut with the extremely potent Sun Dragon EP on Parris’ Soundman Chronicles label. The club-ready tracks are powerful but we’re particularly enamoured with the ethereal interlude “Send“. Elsewhere the dazzling debut from Leif producer Taskforce is well worth investigating – you can hear Nguzunguzu’s remix of “Domain System Awareness” opening Bloom’s mix, a quasi-industrial take on DJ Mondie’s classic “Pull Up Dat” riddim. Finally, newcomer DJ New Jersey Drone does the business for one of our favourite crews Track Meet on his Energy EP, splicing grime DNA with hi-NRG, hi-bpm clattering drum traxx complete with Rabit and Murlo remixes.
We caught up with Bloom over email for a quick chat about the route to Hydraulics and his plans for the future.
TT: Hey Bloom, how’re things? “Yeah, good thanks.”
Although you’ve been around for a few years now, information about you is a bit thin on the ground. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for the initiated? “Well I’m from Belfast and still live here. Been making music for a few years now.”
Coming from a place so far removed from the OG scenes that influenced this new sound, what was your route into grime? “It’s hard to say, the early influence would have come from being introduced to Rinse a few years back i think. If it wasn’t for the Internet I wouldn’t be making this music – I liked what I heard on Rinse, it was a welcome change from mainly listening to house and techno here in Belfast. Me and a few friends began running a night which did pretty well – we had people like Terror Danjah, Brackles, Gemmy etc. over.”
Now that this kind of music is coming to the fore slightly more is there more representation in Ireland? I know there’s Shriekin’ and Glacial Sound over there, have you managed to get together any kind of scene on the ground there? “There isn’t much more to be honest, there’s Major Grave from Dublin who should be mentioned more. We just started a new night recently in Belfast to support this stuff and we did a couple of Crazylegs parties last month in Belfast and Dublin. I’d be up for making more things happen in the future and building on something.”
Hydraulics is probably your most out there release yet, what was the thought process behind it? In many ways it eschews a lot of the grime tropes that defined your first releases, was this a conscious decision? Andy Crazylegs described it to me as “pure sound design”, would you consider what you’re doing now “grime” or has it transformed into something else entirely? “I’d still call it grime – I get what you’re saying though, it’s a bit weirder and less accessible than my older tracks. It may not sound the same as older grime but to me it’s definitely built on that foundation – I just didn’t want to regurgitate older sounds and samples. I set out to create a mechanical coldness throughout the EP and I think that does transform it into something different. That just happens when you try to put your own twist on something.”
It’s funny because even in the two years since “Quartz” the landscape has changed so considerably: back then weird grime instrumentals were a total oddity while today they seem to be the defining feature of underground UK dance music. Is there ever the urge to throw yourself more completely into the scene that’s grown or are you more comfortable checking in once a year with another curveball? “I don’t feel the need to release more, its just a natural thing really. I’m always working away, trying new things out – when it feels right I’ll put out more.”
How did hooking up with Crazylegs come about? They’ve been on fire this year, I think in many ways Gage’s “Telo” was a “Quartz” for 2014. “Yeah the last few releases have been big – the next few are mad too. Just wait and see. I did a remix for Andy last year, we’d been chatting since I first came over to play one of the parties and it led naturally from there really. I see what you mean about Telo – it has that immediate shock value. I love that.”
Similarly to Telo you’ve had some strong reactions – most notably Alex Macpherson’s “I never want to hear this undanceable bollocks in a club”. Do you relish this divisiveness? “Haha yeah that was funny – it’s his own opinion, he’s allowed it. Not everyone is gonna like my music. I don’t particularly relish it when it creates that reaction, I just make what I enjoy making. I have no control over anything else.”
What can you tell us about the mix you put together for us? “The mix is a selection of dubs and releases from some of my favourite producers – a couple of tracks off the new EP also. I just wanted to represent what I’m playing in the club at the moment. No frills.”
Going forward, what can we expect from you? Will we have to wait until 2015 for the next Bloom drop? “I’m not sure, we’ll see how things pan out. I’m not in a rush to put out anything else just yet. I’m looking forward to making more stuff, maybe get into some collabs and remixes.”
Before we leave things, any shout outs you’d like to make? “Yeah big shout out to Andy for putting the record out, alot of effort and attention to detail was put in. Also a massive shout to Hayden Martin for the Dark Light video – it’s pretty special.”
Taskforce – Domain System Awareness (Nguzunguzu remix)
Dreams – Deadzone
Logos – Glass (test tone mix)
Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf – Public Love
Gang Fatale x Charly Black – Parched (MM rmx)
Victoria Kim – Apgu Freeway
Bloom – The Menagerie
Gage & Kevin Jz Prodigy – Bad Bitch
Dreams – Skanner
Loom – Grade
_______V – MilaJ edit
Sharp Veins – Bald Eagle Swimming
Gage – Shoot Em Up
Lotic – Trade
Too Much v3
Bloom – Cold Grip
Celestial Trax x Chemist – Shallow
Celestial Trax – Illuminate
K9 – Krudstar
Artwork: Joe Jackson