It would be easy to dismiss Joey Butler aka Kid Smpl as derivative of one song/album, but when that song/album is Burial’s “Night Bus” and Untrue, that dismissal quickly becomes moot. Over the past few years, Butler has traipsed between ambient sounds, borrowing equally from early dubstep and J Dilla-esque sample culture. He has released several EP’s and countless bootlegs and remixes, all touching on aspects of the night bus sound with varied success.
Butler’s music relies on a sort of imprecise perfection, heavily reliant on a rich textural element, but without the static propulsion of most electronic music. Some of Butler’s past releases (like the Collapse EP) have attempted to walk the line between hip hop beat work and dubstep atmospherics, falling into a motionless gray area. Collapse is far from a bad release, but it lacks the intimacy implied in a night bus release.
Now aligned with Alex Ruder’s Hush Hush Records, Butler has released his best music to date in 2012. Skylight is both Smpl’s full-length debut and the clearest incarnation of his vision, a 13 song ride that ripples with closeted emotion. In our Purveyors feature on Hush Hush, Ruder described the night bus sound as “the type of music you wanna put on your headphones while riding alone on a bus at night.” The connection between Skylight and the urban environment cannot be understated.
The scattered R&B vocals throughout Skylight are the clearest human element of the album, but also its most disassociate. Butler’s vocals exist below the surface and are completely unintelligible, giving them a slightly disorienting edge. On “Static”, the warmest track on the album, the vocals take on a singsong quality, driving the listener to fruitlessly crane his/her neck to hear. The paradox between intimacy and distance is palpable throughout the album
Neither emotionally endearing nor dissociative, Skylight’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Like the blurred urban landscape it is built out of, Skylight is a visceral juxtaposition between human closeness and emotional distance. Butler has crafted an album that is not only perfect to listen to on late night bus rides, but encapsulates the very essence of the nocturnal urban landscape.
In this day and age, just about anyone can run a record label. WordPress and Blogger allow for the creation of a snazzy website in minutes, while Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Mixcloud, etc. allow for the free (or reasonably cheap) proliferation of music. Digital music distribution is as easy as ever. This also means that the market is completely flooded with underdeveloped concepts, both in the music itself and in the pseudo-labels that distribute it. When a label does succeed at bridging the gap between functionality, aesthetic and sonic quality, it makes it that much more impressive. Heavy hitters like Warp, XL and 4AD have the established distribution networks and fan backing to take chances on artists, allowing them the freedom to pick and choose an eclectic roster of both old and new talent. Newer labels like Body High, Friends of Friends and Night Slugs appeal to more niche audiences and often prefer to release music digitally. To celebrate the labels we love, we bring you Purveyors. With every feature, you will find a behind-the-scenes look into the inner-workings of the most innovative, eclectic labels from across the globe. You will get to know the people pulling the strings and delivering exciting new sounds straight to your cerebral cortex. Without further ado…
There’s a certain sound that just seems tailored for late nights on public transportation. Watching the city lights flash by on the bus, or the awkward eye contact made with the one other soul on the subway. The sound encapsulates the empty spaces within the urban environment as much as it does the intimate nature of late night encounters. It’s designed to be listened to in headphones and usually in solitude. Alex Ruder, the man behind Hush Hush Records, calls it Night Bus. Ruder has been cultivating the Night Bus sound via his radio show at Seattle’s KEXP and a monthly club night, also called Hush Hush. Now, the sound has an official platform. At only one release old, Hush Hush is wise beyond its years, already cultivating and pushing the Night Bus sound into exciting new territory. Hush Hush’s first release comes from recent Red Bull Music Academy inductee Kid Smpl. The Escape Pod EP couldn’t evoke the fleeting urban environment any better and functions as an apt first release to introduce new listeners to the Night Bus vibe. Nowadays, Ruder is looking to the future with an Escape Pod remix package coming soon and an EP from Anthony Ellect coming late 2012/early 2013. With Ruder at the helm, Hush Hush is well on its way to defining the ephemeral sound and taking it into unfound territory. Hit the jump for the full interview…