Tag Archives: Keysound


Photo by Lerz Moore

Considering how quickly the electronic music world’s gaze tends to enhance and fade certain artists, scenes and genres, Jack Stevens aka Sully’s career feels like something of an anomaly, an artist who has remained productive and at or near the top of his sphere for the past decade without relying on a volatile breakthrough moment or the hype train of a “new genre.” In short, Stevens has been making some of the best dubstep, garage, grime and jungle that the UK has to offer, first as part of the Innasekt duo and, since 2007’s Destroyah EP (on Creative Space Records), as Sully. Personally, it was Sully’s jungle tunes, efforts like his remix of Ballistiq Beats and Riko Dan’s “Rise The Machine (Yardman Riddim)” and “Flock”, that made me a believer, an admitted latecomer who only has come around to necessary early cuts like “Give Me Up” (as Sully Shanks) and “Jackman’s Rec” in a roundabout fashion in the years since. More recently, Sully’s work on the Body Count show on Radar Radio, which also features Sim Hutchins and Klaar, has been an obsession, seeing his variegated approach to ‘nuum sounds matched up with an array of American club sounds and abstracted soundtrack music, drone, ambient and industrial. A few times a show, a renegade breakbeat with cut through the haze and Sully’s presence will become known, often providing the forward momentum for a show with no clear stylistic parameters.

Which is actually a pretty accurate way to look at Sully’s career. A clear devotee of soundsystem culture, Sully’s work over the past decade has come often and it has come correctly, functioning in both 12″ and album form and retaining a sound that is almost immediately recognizable as Stevens’ own. 2016 has seen the release on the Vamp EP on Black Acre, a slight step away from Stevens’ more peak time forms that nonetheless has that slightly foreboding edge, tumbling percussion and attention to textural detail that has made his work an automatic buy for so many listeners and DJs for years. Listeners of Body Count will find certain songs in Sully’s Astral Plane mix familiar with artists like Sami Baha and The Haxan Cloak popping up in the track list, mixed in with curve balls like Philip Glass’ hypnotic “Koyaanisqatsi” from the film/soundtrack of the same name and two R&B cuts released a decade apart from Ashanti and Tinashe. Far from a club mix in the traditional sense, Sully’s work places the angular sounds of artists like Lokane, WWWINGS and Forever in conjunction with recent jungle revivalism from Special Request and classics by Portishead and Squarepusher, breaking down ostensible genre and temporal boundaries with remarkable ease. Which is a talent that Sully manages to retain in all of his work, the ability to wear his influences on his sleeve without succumbing to nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake; the ability to produce music that is uniquely his own that has and will continue to be integral to the canon.

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parrisBack in April 2013, Keysound Recordings released the This Is How We Roll compilation, a technicolor ride through the Keysound roster and beyond. The tape created a rumble at the time, largely due to its hybrid approach to what is now, by-and-large, being considered instrumental grime, and looks even larger in hindsight, both due to its collection of producers (Visionist, Wen, Moleskin, etc.) and wot u call it aesthetic coherence. To define the This Is How We Roll aesthetic would be near impossible, but various offshoots, sprung in the past several years, can be identified, There’s the sorrowful, choral take on grime championed by Visionist, Dark0 and Mssingno, a deeply melodic sound that could also encompass the new age tendencies of Deadboy, Strict Face and Loom. There’s the hybrid techno / dubstep sound pushed by Acre, Facta and Beneath, a tumbling, sound system-specific brand of dance music that’s pushing sonic barriers. And then there’s Wen, conflating pirate radio, dubstep and grime into his unique melange.

Few deejays master a single sound over their career, let alone several, but London’s Parris, founder of Soundman Chronicles, has managed to corral the This Is How We Roll aesthetic better than just about any other selector. Part of a close-knit collection of Keysound artists and affiliates, Wen, Etch and Facta included, Parris has functioned as one of London’s best keep secrets for several year now, taking dubstep’s roll into bizarre, slower territory, performing regularly on Rinse, first as a guest on Youngsta’s Minimal Mondays and now with his own show, and curating several must-have releases as the man behind Soundman Chronicles. With a rare attention to detail and a proverbial bag full of dubs, Parris has produced a joint single on Tempa with Wen, released music from Rabit, Etch, Epoch, Facta and J.Robinson on Soundman Chronicles and become everyone and no one’s envy: a touring DJ.

And while Parris has his own productions played out on Rinse and other stations regularly, his mix work is still the best place to understand his personal aesthetic, as well as the Keysound aesthetic if we’re being honest. In hindsight, it’s easy to view the development of young producers like Gage, Neana and Sudanim in a vacuum, or firmly ensconced in the Night Slugs lineage, but the role of Parris, This Is How We Roll and Soundman Chronicles cannot be undersold. Parris’ Astral Plane mix sees the Londoner boiling his polyglot sound down its richest essence, a bass weight-heavy blend of discordant dubstep and fundamentally sound, blippy techno. Parris’ fam aren’t just prevalent in the track list, they are the track list and while some crew mixes might seem indulgent, Parris’ enviable reach makes this mix anything but.

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On March 17, Owen Darby aka Wen will release the Signals LP on Dusk & Blackdown’s Keysound Recordings. As Wen’s debut full length, the album will offer up a kaleidoscopic view of UK pirate radio culture, London’s urban, grey-scale aesthetic and other signifiers we’ve come to expect in his productions. “Intro (Family)” is a swirling combination of eski/8 bar/wot u call it stabs and cinematic synth pads. The perpetual MC chants below the track’s surface, but acts more as a foil to the beatific pads and whirling spin backs. In the end, it’s a self-described intro, but the track shines more than enough light into Wen’s thought process to get us chuffed for the album.


If you haven’t noticed, break beats are becoming quite a trend these days. 2013 is quite a far toss from the jungle heyday of approximately ’94-6, but if producers like Tessela, Om Unit, Special Request (Paul Woolford) and the legions of Bmore/Jersey/Philly clubbers have anything to say about it, the sound is about to see a creative resurgence. And after listening to Mumdance and Logos‘ “Wut It Do”, it’s not that difficult to imagine massive crowds going mental (once again) to this sort of junglist hybrid tune. The sound is angry, snarling and immediate, but as Tessela showed us with “Hackney Parrot”, can also be utilized to mobilize populist dancefloors. “Wut It Do” is off of Mumdance & Logos’ upcoming Genesis EP, which will be released in early November on Dusk & Blackdown’s Keysound Recordings. Expect more junglist madness, but also a good deal of the spacey, eski-derived grime that we heard on the Kowloon EP.