Rudimental First Birthday
Fez Club, March 13th
In a short year, Rudimental has achieved its goal of bringing progressive Bass music to Cambridge and on its birthday event, everything came together for a heady 8 hours. The sound engineering was especially on point; midrange frequencies are too often drowned by ‘pickaxe-on-eardrums’ treble and a muffled rather than chest-vibrating bass. Not on this night however: resident selecta Napper made the specially hired subwoofers sing towards the end of his set as he harked back to the primal era of Bass music, playing the classic 8-bar grime track “Rhythm ‘n’ Gash” and adeptly mixing into Kode9’s remix of “Skeng”.
DJ EZ delivered the closest thing you’ll get to turntablism from a dance music DJ, an art form sadly lost to the ravages of excessively technical and insufficiently musical button-pushers and knob-twisters over the past decade. Opening with what might be called a bluff, EZ let the acapella of DJ Pied Piper’s “Do you really like it?” run without a beat for what felt like much too long, an amateur’s mistake, only to masterfully lay Redlight’s “Source 16” instrumental underneath it with cue-point drumming the likes of which I’ve never seen. As if to affirm his expert status, this was followed by an exclusive dubplate of Mosca’s “Bax” and some creative pitchshifting of “Au Seve” before venturing into lesser frequented annals of garage and UK funky. Amusingly, the crowd knew every word to the “Smells like Teen Spirit” garage remix but not a single one to Skepta’s underground anthem “Duppy (Doin’ it Again)”. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Cambridge remains a town of club-goers more familiar with the Cindies’ oeuvre than the ciphers of East London estates.
I continued to be at odds with the congregation as they thoroughly enjoyed Applebottom’s set, which amounted to an unambitious slog through identikit 4-to-the-floor house tracks with melodramatic female vocals. Perhaps it had something to do with the 18-year-old’s cherubic looks and endearing enthusiasm. In any case, it was a relief to see My Nu Leng arrive and present their own flavour of darker UK Bass. A particular highlight was hearing Joy Orbison’s new release from earlier this week, “BRTHDTT”, on such a competent sound system.
As the night drew to a close, Sam KDC took up the decks for the graveyard shift and the spectre of Burial’s soundscapes fell over the dance floor. KDC’s brand of minimal, melancholy techno and drum & bass lulled a thinning but still energetic/intoxicated audience. Haunting vocals gave way to feverish drum patterns, music that urged one to imagine a Burial who had reached his peak in the midst of 90’s rave culture instead of reminiscing about it mournfully. The spectre became corporeal in the very last song of the night as Sam KDC dropped Burial’s “Raver” and the stragglers were ushered out into the dawn.
Rudimental once again triumphantly offered the entire gamut of UK Bass, catering to the tastes of any audience with a preference for weighty riddims over Right Said Fred and the Titanic soundtrack. Long may it continue.