Lords Of Midnite, ‘Drown In Ur Love’, Unknown To The Unknown
Unknown To The Unknown has found a really interesting position as a label. Despite releasing a pretty sizeable amount of music and visuals both referencing and drawing inspiration from by-gone eras of the dance music underground, each of its records still manage to maintain a slightly enigmatic sense of progression and forward thinking energy. From their captivating, malformed brand of UK garage and funky, to their explorations into lush, synth driven house and techno from Chicago and Detroit, each release effortlessly pays its dues without feeling like a stale step in the wrong direction.
Perhaps it’s Unknown’s format that gives it this staunchly modern edge. Very much an ‘Internet label’, conceived and, for the most part, run as a channel on YouTube, the uploads generally consist of lo-fi clips and aged footage assembled into enigmatic video collages. In many ways the music itself shares this aesthetic, pieced together from crunchy palettes of old school sounds and formulas into something, despite it’s ‘dated’ characteristics, utterly revitalized.
The label’s latest output by the mysterious Lords Of Midnite (probably Legowelt) is no exception, an emphatic homage to jungle hardcore by “a sect of humanoid aliens lost for generations and almost erased entirely from the history books”; a not too subtle nod to the often romanticised ‘lost generation’ of dancers and ravers throughout the early 90s. The title track ‘Drown In Ur Love’ lifts a particularly emotive sample from an early Steve Gurley/Foul Play production (4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse’s ‘Drowning In Her’), letting it swell underneath punchy kicks, breaks and bright synth flourishes. An anthemic bassline gives the track it’s forward momentum, climaxing into a triumphant and hugely satisfying breakdown before the track shuffles to a close. The distinctly less ecstatic ‘Skyscrapers Of Ypsilion’ opens with a moody Memphis vibe, quickly giving way to sweeping synths and wistful echoes. Again, the track slowly builds in haunting intensity, punctuated by more choppy breaks and a sharp 303 before collapsing back into a Memphis drawl and unnerving strings.The last track on the EP, ‘We Gonna Ride Tonite’, is a markedly less affecting affair, but still a very solid track all the same; warm synth-work with brief moments of dissonance, carried along by a much more restrained 303 bassline and bumpy, rolling percussion.
This certainly isn’t the only record this year that’s heavily drawn upon old school rave sounds in this manner, and it certainly won’t be the last. Unapologetically euphoric breakdowns and choppy breaks percussion have been creeping back into fashion for a while now, Tessela’s ‘Hackney Parrot’ last year probably the loudest example to date. More recently Deadboy’s Numbers EP saw the producer find a place for his more emotive tendencies in an atmospheric, ‘lost’ rave sound in ‘Nova’, and Randomer channelling his perfectly executed gritty aggression into uncompromising breaks on his first white label. Newcomer Etch has also quickly defined himself as a bit of a breaks master, his work for Keysound and his recent EP on Soundman Chronicles both push an incredibly lively and genuine old school sound without sounding the slightest bit old-fashioned.
It’s very tempting to frame a breaks/hardcore revival as a response to the rhythmic staleness and conservative four to the floor efforts that have spread within the UK’s current occupation over house music. There’s certainly something particularly refreshing about the return of total emotional abandon and the barely constrained energy of 90s rave music in that context. However, in the case of Lords Of Midnite I’m reluctant to; DJ Haus and Unknown To The Unknown are certainly no subject to the currents and movements of their peers in the UK. They’ve been pushing this sound for a long time already and are hopefully going to continue to for a long time after.