Hotflush Recordings, run by Paul Rose (aka Scuba), started life knee deep in the dubstep quagmire, with early releases coming from artists like Shackleton, Distance and Loefah, and a few from Pangaea and Untold way back when Hessle was just beginning. It made its more prominent name with a string of releases that echoed, in a sense, the sound of dubstep rising out of that Shackleton-esque subterranean level that it found itself in in its most natural state. Scuba’s own Triangulation album in 2010 was still deep but of a different, sub-aquatic sort and it defined Scuba, perhaps a little too much, for quite some time as a dubstep artist.
Since then, though, the label has weaved in and out of any genre-related pin-holing and has moved through releases from Mount Kimbie – most notably Crooks and Lovers, the monumental post-whatever milestone that played a key role in splintering the dubstep idiom for good – as well as George Fitzgerald, Joy O, Jimmy Edgar and Sepalcure amongst others. It is now further into the realms of house and techno (see Sigha’s debut album Living with Ghosts) than ever, and Scuba’s own recent output has even shot off into such technicoloured, trance-fuelled heights as the Adrenaline EP. Things, of course, have evolved with a natural forward motion from that Hyph Mngo, doe-eyed dubstep era, but the essence of its plateauing climactic hook, filled with spacey euphoria, remains for me an integral part of the Hotflush modus operandi.
With all its prominence, it’s mind-boggling to think that this event was the first ever in the UK to feature an all-star Hotflush cast. And that wasn’t the only first: it was also the world premiere of Scuba’s live show, something which seems like it’s been bubbling away in the pipeline for quite some time, and certainly, if Scuba’s laboured creative process is anything to go by, it must have been.
The event was holed up in Bethnal Green’s new arts and events venue, Oval Space, which had been the brunt of a serious Facebook beating following their event the previous week. Thankfully, none of the over-zealous security or poor organisation ranted about online was to be seen this time. As I arrived Lando Kal was swinging some bouncy house around and lacing the smoother edges with dashes of 808, something that got the gradually growing crowd bopping their happy heads and shifting their shoulders in time, even if they weren’t paying too much attention. Closing the set with Strings of Lifecaught the attention of most in one of those euphoric moments of crowd solidity when everyone thinks they know what everyone else means.
After Lando Kal’s decks had been cleared away Scuba emerged, elevated with his arms raised up like a poet under divine inspiration, on the brink of crafting his ode to… well, Scuba. In the midst of a sea of chanting and cheering people the atmosphere landed somewhere between cult ceremony, gig and rave.
In what emerged the production was pretty spectacular. The lasers and the lights, far from the traditional VJ audio visual set up that has stuck for so long now, meant that the stage set structure appeared like something from a Shakespearean shipwreck scene on acid. Rather than any 3D effect, the thing was 3D. Delivered in five or six movements, Scuba revisited a lot of old material, mixing candy-coated melodies with more sturdier grooves, like the rigid funk of Feel It mixed with the pop-fuelled sugar-rushes of Talk Torque.The basis of the set seemed to be drawn from Triangulation, vamped up and club-i-fied to create a sound bold in variation and tempo shifts; the highlight was the section devoted to So You Think You’re Special worked up into a jungle rinse-out.
After Scuba closed the set, leaving the crowd basking in a long drawn Adrenaline, George Fitzgerald stepped up to suffer the inevitable crowd migration out to the smoking area. But his set was a triumph of blended bass-house beats, working in tracks like Daphni’s Ye Ye, Joy Orbison’s BRTHDTT! and his own superb Child. The night finished in a techy love-in with Scuba and George Fitzgerald playing back to back, where tracks like Blawan’s Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage signalled a move to more solid techno territory.
The whole thing seemed to showcase Hotflush in all its guises. Scuba’s set looked both backwards and forwards to conjure a sound that seems to sum up Scuba as an artist even in his liquid state of flux. And that state also sums up Hotflush as a label. The live show was the obvious centre-piece but the surrounding sets offered the on-point and confident forward-thinking mentality that Hotflush gives out. The final techno indulgence after was just another side of a label that is always trying to look outwards.
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