Hotline Recordings have steadily built their reputation as another Bristol-based bastion of quality music over the last 12 or so months, dropping a series of rock-solid club tracks across their first three releases from the likes of Kahn & Neek, Lurka, Rachael and DJ Sotofett. The clandestine outfit’s inventive approach to putting out music has also turned a few heads. Both piquing intrigue and keeping the promotional excess that can sometimes mire releases to a minimum, they catalyse their pre-release activity anonymously around a telephone number, ‘the Hotline’. Rather than a barrage of Soundcloud links, you bell the answerphone for snippets of forthcoming music played over the grainy audio of phone transmissions. Throwback sensibilities run throughout their activity, harking back to days gone by from the chatline-styled flyer inserts to the dedication to cutting dubplates and releasing their music physically.
On their unorthodox methods, they explained, “You know those old jungle whitelabels you used to get at your local record shop? The ones with nothing but a basic sticker stating slim details and mobile number for contact? Or them phonelines you used to call to find a rave in some locked off warehouse? Back in the days when not everything was instant or easy access…in some ways a more fulfilling time”. Even when hitting up a Hotline affiliate via email for comment, that concept of limited accessibility was apparent. No response was received back for days until, confusingly, a text message was received directly from the Hotline number advising, “You have reached the Hotline..any press related questions should be sent here…”. More than anything, they inject a bit of the thrill back into the hunt for new music with this kind of awkward, but charming, nostalgia.
Stream: Kahn & Neek – Backchat/ Dubchat
Obviously, all of the above is secondary to whether they cut it musically, but they haven’t disappointed with the selection of tracks they have brought in so far, glancing the dub, jungle, and dancehall touchstones of Bristol soundsystem culture. The release policy and where they see direction of the label is reassuringly uncomplicated and blunt; “If the trax sound hard on a system and get waists moving, we sign it. If it don’t, we send it back. Screw face riddims that can challenge the dancefloor”. Their inaugural release featured the notoriously rude sounds of Kahn & Neek, notable for a string of lethal classic grime-revivalist smashers and the enveloping bass pressure of their dub outings as Gorgon Sound. Hotline snared one of the pair’s most danceable records yet, ‘Backchat’, with the dancehall flecked grooves, billowing basslines and that “Badman nah tek backchat” vocal loop instilling raucous St Paul’s carnival vibes within.
Stream: Lurka – Full Clip/ BR Greaze
They also dropped one of last year’s genuinely unique releases, Lurka’s ‘Full Clip/ BR Greaze’; two tracks of very bewildering slow/fast, almost reggaeton leaning rhythms and raging reese synth aggression that was probably best described by themselves; “think Dillinja making dancehall and you’re on the right track”. It marked a drastic change of pace and style for Lurka, who up until then had been building heavyweight dubstep for labels like Black Box. The release projected the label’s quality further afield still, as it made its way into the record boxes of an eclectic sets of DJs, including the likes of Mark Pritchard, Om Unit and Loxy.
Stream: Rachael – Okada/ DJ Sotofett – SO-PHAT Riddimix Is Junglized
One of our favourite instances of last year’s rekindled love-affair with hardcore and jungle came from Sex Tags Mania’s chief, DJ Sotofett. Hotline’s most recent effort featured the Norwegian flipping ‘Okada’ on its head, building off Rachael’s basslines, threading together fizzing breakbeats and rolling them out at a saunter. The release’s original, built by the mysterious Rachael who debuted on Idle Hands in ’12, also wielded massive dancefloor damaging potential with its crunching analogue armaments and driven broken beats. As for plans this year, Hotline will operate relatively spontaneously, with the only plans to “cut plates, road test trax, wait for the next ting that bangs. Got the mastering house on speed dial for when it’s time.” Having proven themselves with such a heavy collection of beats so far, we’ll be listening out keenly for their next move.
Hotline Recordings 003 is out now and available to buy here