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V/A - Night Slugs Allstars Volume 1

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Artist: V/A

Album: Night Slugs Allstars Volume 1

Label: Night Slugs

Review date: Nov. 22, 2010

For me, dance music in 2010 has been all about Night Slugs. Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990 come at the hardcore continuum via bassline and funky, but the releases are so dang fresh, energetic, forward-thinking, new, etc., that such genre labels just depress me when I try to apply them to the sound. Along with Oneman, he of the cheeky pastiche, the Slugs have carved out a niche on Rinse: they both make the focused shows (and sounds) of folks like Roska and Benga & Skream seem not just conservative, but irrelevant.

Since the first release in January, Night Slugs have steadily accrued accolades, culminating earlier this month with a Resident Advisor label feature. In the interview, Alex Sushon, a.k.a. Bok Bok, detailed the origin of the Night Slugs party and explained that L-Vis and him decided to start releasing music upon realizing that (a) nothing else really sounded like the tracks the NS DJ’s were producing, and (b) no one was releasing the stuff. That seems like the definition of a non-derivative scene. They certainly know and love the history — a few months back on Rinse, Sushon did a fantastic old-school grime special — but all of the dance music signifiers are completely absorbed within the label’s sleek, luminous sound. As such, the releases are able to veer wildly between grime, funky, dubstep, techno and house while maintaining consistency.

Night Slugs Allstars Volume 1 celebrates the label’s first year by compiling tracks from many of the 12”s and adding some forthcoming tracks. Even for those who have been paying attention, it’s a blast to hear all of this material in one place. My favorite 12” track, DVA’s remix of Girl Unit’s “IRL,” isn’t here, but in its place is a gritty Bok Bok version that trades the original’s hopped-up energy for an eski stutter rhythm. Kingdom’s “Bust Broke,” another favorite, does appear. A more-or-less standard funky beat occupies the first two minutes, but the third minute of the track is given over to a soulful vocal, unaccompanied except for an electronic drone that drills in like a Byetone track. The beat returns, of course, and the DJ can mix out whenever she feels like it. You might prefer other tracks, but that’s fine. It’s all high quality.

The obvious anthem for the label, Girl Unit’s “Wut,” closes out the compilation. It’s great, but if I’m not as on board with it as everyone else seems to be, it’s just because I chafe against anything that seems so unabashedly definitive. The real eye-opener here, and the best track I’ve heard from Night Slugs to date, is Jacques Greene’s forthcoming “(Baby I Don’t Know) What You Want.” Greene weds the neon Night Slugs sound to the relaxed chug of the recent Nebraska releases on Rush Hour, then throws in some classic acid on top. Stunning by itself, but it’s the title refrain (incessantly repeated in a chipmunk voice) that sticks. It sounds silly, and it kind of is, but it’s the most affecting and emotional track I’ve heard from this corner of the dance music world since Burial’s “Archangel,” only it outdoes the hooded mystery man by foregoing his manufactured gloom.

Yup, better than “Archangel.” High praise, and Night Slugs deserve every bit of it.

By Brad LaBonte

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