Early this year, we launched with a question. A question that had been brewing through the latter half of 2018; a question largely influenced by the combination between personal party experiences, the gradual increase of output from emerging record labels and underground DJs, and an underlying love for a sound that appeared to be showing signs of a return. Is UK Garage going full circle?
Fast forward to what is now the end of a decade and we're comfortable leaving this question unanswered. Why? Because as readers of this article it’s likely you have either followed, been a part of, or are curious about the growth of an underground scene that continues to flourish at a rate incomparable to 12 months a go. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the answer but by the end of this article (if you didn't know already), you'll see that we are arguably in a never-been-before era whereby vinyl record sales are thriving alongside the easy access (digital) mediums; arguably once at fault for the earlier demise of the 12 inch.
To close out the year we have attempted to present an unofficial ‘end of year list’ with no particular structure, orders or favourites. Our goal is to merely introduce, promote, share and shout-out the creatives, curators and contributors involved; many of which have been over-looked and may continue to be over-looked by larger electronic music publications.
In the midst of debate surrounding end of year lists of late, it’s important to note that we are no doubt going to miss, forget and even overlook individual contributors to ’THE year for UKG’. Whilst we will apologise in advance for this, if it’s any consolation, it was only 10 months ago that those witness to the early re-emergence, were barely able to count on their hand anything fresh and club culture related closely connected to the sound (such as record labels and promoters). If we miss something, that’s how far it’s come. Be grateful and proud to be spoilt for choice and in true community fashion join us is bigging up everyone that’s read, liked, shared, followed, downloaded, purchased and played out. As written back early this year, it’s how scenes evolve, communities form, friends are made and in an organic fashion - something seriously underrated in this day and age.
Whilst this year has seen an influx of digital releases, lot’s of them for free and very good (others not so much), nothing quite beats the process of digging for, listening to and investing in a vinyl record. Even when you’re scraping the barrel at the end of the month or lucky enough to be sent promos, the enthusiast within will still endeavour to buy that limited press and support the artist and distributor in the best way possible. This year has seen the launch of some seriously solid Records Labels, here’s our attempt to identify all involved.
Equal People Records: Founded by Jordan Dessar. Launched in February and self-distributed from his London home. Released output from up-coming producers including Jack Michael, FRINJ, Max Casebolt, Pinder and Peaky Beats. The latter’s ‘Sheade’ from 002 was recently played on Radio 1 via Floating Points & Friends.
Peaky Beats: Founded by Tom Myer, Leeds based and another self-made project. Peaky (Myer) is also two records deep and has featured on multiple mix series showcasing his ability behind his hardware with live UKG sets in abundance. Keep an eye out for Core Syndicate in 2020, a collaboration between Myer & Dessar of Equal People Records.
Orbital London: Founded by Jack Ayre and Tam Fallan, Opposite Visions (ORBLDN001) launched at the end of 2018 and emerged as one of the first to press the new wave UKG sound onto vinyl. Having recently released 003 and four Mix series deep, Orbital London has been behind most of the impressive Jack Michael’s output. Remixers include Alex Arnout, Harry Wills and Desert Sound Colony.
Instinct: Launched by Label head Burnski 2 years ago, 2019 saw the reputable London head, release three EPs and an LP under his Instinct alias and Label. Pistol Whip was also named one of the UKG tracks of the year by Resident Advisor. Other contributions come from Jack Michael (again), an incredible EP from 0113 (AKA Kepler) and some forthcoming magic by Holloway.
Hokkaido Dance Club: Having been involved in the early releases of Lo-Fi graduates Mall Grab and Baltra, HDC have since ventured further underground, releasing Garage EPs showcasing Leeds duo Baby J & D Jason's Sound Mass Transit System alias. LDN2LDZ is out now.
Moodswing: Launched in the first half of 2019, pressed and distributed by Dan at DnR Vinyl, MoodSwing the label is the product of DJ Perception and Family. You’ll struggle to find much online coverage of any of the three EPs by Cam, Sky Joose or Stab Mechanics, proving that reputation alone can still outweigh any form of gung-ho social media coverage. There are also rumours of a feature length film to come in 2020, one to watch for sure!
Entity:London: With a highly anticipated compilation forthcoming this January, the Entity:London crew, headed up by Shai Spooner, will be the early front runners for release of 2020. Add to this a solid combination of talented producers and fellow record collectors in the form of Ease-Up-George, Mulshaw and Harry Luda it’s no wonder 2019 saw Shai showcase their sound in both Manchester & Berlin.
Phone Traxxx: Alec Falconer & Harry Wills are names synonymous with the new wave of UKG and 2-Step. Since the launch of Phone Traxxx in October 2018 however, their involvement remained largely anonymous alongside third member Rob Amboule’s, until the three of them performed live for Art of Dark in London 12 months later. They’ve since released number three and with a sound so good, these would bang just as hard on your polyphonic Nokia 7600.
Council Work: Founded by the duo behind one of the best selling EP’s and remixes of 2019 “Trimmers (Instinct Remix)”, Tom Frankel and Dayne Harper put in the graft into UK-G and have been receiving support from some of the biggest touring DJ’s around. CWR003 - Militant EP is the latest forthcoming material from the duo and features remixes from Jack Michael and Fabe.
Shuffle ’N’ Swing: The collective behind the go-to facebook group for underground Garage & 2-Step, track ID’s and self promotion, we largely hold these guys responsible for the movement and community feel that’s synonymous with the scene at present. A Gush Collective re-issue came in spring this year and 002 & 003 are rumoured to be around the corner, another crew to be invited to play around the UK & Europe in 2019.
Swings & Roundabouts: Responsible for two of the most sought after white labels of the year, Dinn Warde aka Highrise, is a serious talent. Listen to any of the London based underground radio DJs and they’ll play you a number of Highrise promos, fingers crossed some of these will see a release in 2020.
Space Tours Records: Mitch Wellings is behind arguably the fastest selling EP of the year. Space Tours 001 came with two choice 2-step cuts from Mitch himself. The A-side featured a remix of UK HUN by one of our previously featured artists Harry Wills. Another exciting producer cooking up a storm in his home town studio and supporting his local scene in Stoke-on-Trent.
GD4YA: With the likes of EL-B, Benny Ill (Horsepower Productions) and Sully on the Roster and DNR Vinyl backing GD4YA, Sam Levo (also of Rumwood Agency and new night South Circular) has created a label with some of the scene’s legendary names behind it. Four releases in and self-dubbed “Sound of the South” the GD4YA crew commit to show casing “Authentic Southside Grooves”.
DimSumRecords: Despite not yet releasing anything on wax, Len of DSR has easily put out some the best digital tracks this year, showcasing a fine selection of up and coming producers from London, Leeds and a far (inc Stockholm). DimSumRecords have also been responsible for a successful mix series, featuring contributions from a whole host of heads in the scene from fresh new producers like Bailey Ibbs and Zero FG to serious diggers Mick James (2 Step Connoisseur) and UKG Vibesey.
Dr Banana: The garage movement of this year was nothing new for Sandy, chief of the leading UKG re-issue label Dr Banana. Having been doing his thing since 2016, this year simply saw him ramp things up a little! No fewer than 7 releases came in 2019, sticking to his tried and trusty method of curating re-issue EPs and providing a platform for the new wave of producers: Enchanted Rhythms, Holloway, K-Lone, ZeroFG and Ease-Up-George to name but a few.
Sneaker Social Club: With an exceedingly strong reputation for releasing forward thinking UK bass music over the years, Sneaker Social Club have helped launch the likes of Soundbwoy Killah and Chavinski (Aka Coco Bryce) in 2019. Whilst SBK’s LP Halcycon Daze will become recognised as the seminal LP from this years’ return to the early 90’s, Chavinski’s white label series and Dream Cycle Part 3 brought with it some of the best 2-step of today. And then there was the return of Horsepower Productions!
South London Press: Responsible for launching Y U QT into the UKG soundscape, SLP is the project of all round selecta and dub plate don Riz La Teef. We’re looking forward to seeing what’s to come next from the young and reputable South London sound connoisseur.
Warehouse Rave: Another impressive label to capture the sound of 2019 is Warehouse Rave, the highlight being Holloway’s debut and contender for the EP of the year ‘Late Night Excursions’. Y U QT also earned a release with these guys, showcasing their signature pop-infused garage in back in November.
Plastik People: Arguebally the leading purveyor’s of the garage house sound, Marc Cotteril and co go way back. We’ve particularly enjoyed the darker stuff to come from their sister label Rhythm N Vibe with Soul Mass Transit System the next to release on the label in 2020.
Vex Records: Soundboy Cookie was another sound smith to emerge from 2019, launching alongside his label Vex which came with it remixes from Ghost Records legend EL-B and Moodswing’s Perception.
Enchanted Rhythms: In September, Berlin based Enchanted Rhythms came through full whack with four killer 2-Step riddims from four separate, mysteriously suspect, named producers. ‘Pingers’ from ‘Gary Dinger’ and that Simpsons sample from ‘Flanders’ (who else) flew out the crates in all good record stores.
TIPs for 2020
Hardline Sounds: Another in line for early contender of 2020 is the forthcoming VA from Hardline Sounds that features a pick of the best producers to have emerged through the sound this year. Norwich based and responsible for booking Weapon 97’s DJ Backspin for his first ever DJ set, Tommy Hardline has recruited Holloway, Ollie Rant, Interplanetary Criminal and none other than Sully to form both sides of this eagerly awaited, record bag must-have.
Gather: Southend’s resident UKG night has arguably billed more names on their line-ups than most this year, welcoming the likes of Dr Banana, Jeremy Sylvester, Perception, Riz La Teef, On1, Bailey Ibbs, Soundboy Cookie, UKG Vibesey, Dem 2 and Shuffle N Swing, it was only a matter of time before they showcased their sound on wax. S.T.M is available from 30th Jan and contains some of the best bump, step n swing about. Introducing 9TRANE and Jubley!
TIMEISNOW: Known for their ongoing support of up and coming party house and techno artists, not to mention their impressive back catalogue of blog and lo-fi house, Shall Not Fade have seemingly joined the party and sprung up with a wicked release involving Hokkaido Dance Club affiliates Baby J and D. Jason on new label TIMEISNOW. Original Bad Boy EP comes through with some serious sound system vibes with pre-orders flying since launching two weeks ago.
Art of Dark: Last but by no means least, leading London party Art of Dark launched The Boat EP by Alec Falconer on New Year's eve. It features 'Boaty Banger', the one everyone's been waiting for after having witnessed him play it at any number of parties he's been booked for this year. Either that or the slightly unfortunate amongst you to first experience it above a f*ck load of B's on the Identification of Music Group. Bitter sweet perhaps, either way Alec falconer's stock has risen regardless of whether his tracks are the most unidentified on social media or not.
That's almost 25 record labels slamming out top quality hardware this year, half of which launched during the past 12 moths. UKG vinyl culture is certainly heading into a new decade looking seriously healthy. What happens next all depends on what angle people choose look at it from. It would be easy to assume a bi-product of increased outage means more competition, or that waiting around the corner is another over saturated market. Whilst the latter may be true for the promoters amongst us (when has it ever not been), ultimately it motivates all involved to be more creative, to work harder and to dig deeper. That being said, additional mentions must go out to the likes of Banoffee Pies, Dansu Discs, Holding Hands Records, Piff Records & EC2A, BeeYou Records and Sub:Consious who have all, at some stage, released UKG & 2-Step material from an array of producers and significantly contributed to the scene.
The beauty of the past 12 months has been the community’s reaction to yet another producer, another label, another free download, another DJ. As with the majority of the electronic music and rave scene in today’s climate it’s merely brought more support and contributed to a greater movement. And long may it continue...
Signing out for 2019.