What more can you say about Hessle Audio? Time and time again, they’ve proved themselves to be one of the most forward thinking, innovative labels out there, producing masterpiece after masterpiece. After releasing their first material all the way back in 2007, they’ve built up a following from all over the world, especially in the UK with records from the sheer broken beat, dubstep flavoured brilliance of Ramadanman and his filthy “Ramadanman EP,” to the more strange yet harmonic sounds of Shelley Parker and her “Red Cotton EP.”
When we refer to Hessle Audio as “they,” we are referring to the three friends that have so carefully constructed this record label whilst forging a career being world class producers and DJ’s themselves. We of course mean, Ben Thomas, David Kennedy and Kevin McAuley, more commonly known by electronic music fans as Ben UFO, Pearson Sound and Pangaea respectively.
These three friends and legends of the UK bass music scene developed the idea to create a record label together whilst at university in Leeds, all the way back in 2006, after spinning records together on the radio station ‘Sub FM.’ An idea was hatched to give the UK a platform in which producers from far and wide could pull together and big up dubstep, a genre that was on the rise. The term ‘pioneers’ spring to mind when thinking about the three mates that have gifted the nation with an array of different music, ranging from their more recognisable dubstep roots, to hard-hitting, floor-filling breakbeat techno that has revolutionised the UK club scene year upon year.
It’s going to be difficult to choose our top 5 favourite tracks that Hessle Audio have released, but we’ll give it our best shot.
5. Objekt - Cactus
This record is a must have for any dubstep fan who loves their sub bass nothing short of filthy. ‘Cactus’ was the A side released by TJ Hertz, more commonly known as ‘Objekt,’ back in 2012 and it was his first, and currently only contribution to the label. The Berlin-based Englishman has established himself as one of techno’s most dynamic DJ’s and has produced a number of ‘Hessle-like’ records, featuring a number of tracks that break the structural boundaries that we are more familiar with amongst other labels. This track centres around a ‘wub’ that makes your face melt, a minefield of hi-hats that have been carefully placed to keep the tracks fluidity and a number of peaks and troughs that will guarantee to get you moving. This track is another weapon to Hessle Audio’s arsenal and we believe it firmly earns its place at number five.
4. Beatrice Dillon & Call Super - Fluo
This mysterious, moody groover wouldn’t sound out of place being played inside a spaceship. It’s numerous ‘bleeps’ and ‘bloops’ and raucous samples really do typify the nature of Hessle Audio and everything it stands for. ‘Fluo’ is different, it’s brilliant. It’s eight minutes of not quite knowing what’s coming next. As the thirty-first instalment of Hessle, it’s refreshing to see new names churning out different sounds. What better names to add into the mix than Beatrice Dillion and Call Super. Dillon has made quite the name for herself in and around the UK, and is now receiving world-wide recognition after marathon back-to-back sets with Ben UFO, her first solo album dropping in 2014 titled ‘Blues Dances,’ collaborations with the likes of Kassem Mosse and other projects with a man that needs no introduction, Call Super. He was recently described by Palms Trax as “the best DJ in the world right now, barring Dixon, but he doesn’t have Dixon’s budget.” Very high praise. The sort of praise that is justified on this record, which is why we think it sits handsomely at number four.
3. TRG - Put You Down
As far as debut releases go, very few spring to mind that are more influential and more ground-breaking than the debut release produced by the Romanian born, Berlin based ‘TRG’ on Hessle Audio. This two-step, UK garage flavoured track really upset the more familiar dubstep trend of half step patterns and reverted to a more original style template. Slick RnB vocals from ‘Ne-yo’ are included around a really deep, gritty bassline that’s bound to get any big room crowd bouncing. You really get the feel that this record stayed true to the roots of the founders of Hessle Audio. Its garage influenced beats and vocals really pays homage to the underground UK music scene, and really re-ignited the demand for more dubstep and garage production. ‘Put You Down’ has withstood the test of time, and still today blesses the sound system of many clubs, and is a permanent fixture in the record bag of any self respecting dubstep DJ.
2. Ramadanman - Don’t Change For Me
The aforementioned debut EP from Pearson Sound’s handy alias Ramadanman is a work of art. The self titled ‘Ramadanman EP’ features six tracks that focus on the stop-start, irregular, broken-beat sound that Hessle Audio have brought to the surface. ‘Don’t Change For Me’ is a record that moves away from any normal melodic, structural sound and it leans towards a more glitchy, experimentalist tone. The moody, chopped vocals are utilised to amazing effect, the ultra-jacked breakbeat sound works an absolute treat. We believe this record to showcase Kennedy’s production skills in a way they’ve never been showcased previously. It’s a combination of the really gritty, abrasive IDM sound which gives this record a cerebral vibe that has become so typical of Ramadanman, mixed with the harder-hitting jacked up broken-beat structure that makes you want to grab one of your mates and tell them you love them. When you put those two different sounds together, you produce a record of this magnitude. It’s one of them tracks that you could stick on in your earphones late at night, or hear in a dingy club on a huge sound system and you’d be equally in awe. As a co-founder of Hessle Audio and world class DJ and producer, it’d be rude not too have David Kennedy involved on this list of our favourite Hessle tracks, so he takes the penultimate spot with Ramadanman’s timeless ‘Don’t Change For Me.’
Before we get to our favourite Hessle Audio track, let’s take a trip back to 2007 and look into the birth of Hessle and why it went on to change the UK underground music scene for future generations.
The label was a project that was explored due to the trio’s love and passion for radio. It’s something that they’ve done nearly week in, week out for the last 13 years and still continue to do so with the Hessle Audio show every Monday on Rinse FM. Pearson Sound and Pangaea were producing music of their own at the time and radio gave them that media outlet in which they could play their own sounds to a following of listeners every week. These productions mixed in with the underground UK dubstep and grime that was hot at the time and an arsenal of records plucked from the trio’s record bag gave the show an identity that quickly turned into a huge army of listeners.
Exclusive tracks and demo’s were sent into the lads and an idea was formed to create a record label to use as a platform to share not only their own productions and ideas, but the sounds of an underground scene that was growing at a rate of knots. It’s always been typical of UK music culture to share and promote the work of others, and this label gave numerous producers who wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to showcase their work, the chance to make their mark in a growing community.
“Post-dubstep, minimal dubstep, genre-less” are all words that some critics have used over the years when trying to categorise Hessle’s sounds into genres. Accurate in a way, however some of
the releases have been so creative and so abstract that you begin to wonder just how far you can push the process of music production. Take a look at the track by Shelley Parker, ‘Red Cotton.’ The latest release on Hessle, described by Resident Advisor as the labels “most thought-provoking release yet” really outlines the lengths in which the producers are allowed to express themselves. Deep, gritty breaks feature throughout, coupled with her own field recordings of Carnival and her own choreography work give the listener a daunting insight into the dark, dingy soundtrack of her hometown. It’s these releases that keep us, as listeners, on our toes.
1. Joy O & Ben Vince - Transition 2
It’s hard to understand why the musical paths of Joy Orbison and the Hessle founders had never intertwined until this release. Both being hugely influential on the progression of the dubstep sound, both releasing very similar yet such original sounds from similar backgrounds. It’s a collaboration that’s always been on the cards, and we’re so glad it finally came in the shape of ‘Transition 2.’ Since his debut release on ‘Hotflush’ over 10 years ago, Orbison’s discography is synonymous with Hessle’s. He’s become a flag bearer for UK bass production and a household name amongst the UK’s most gritty, iconic clubs. His progression as a DJ is an interesting one, from his UK garage roots and his early releases of ‘Hyph Mngo’ and ‘BRKLN CLLN’ to his heavier, techno flavoured projects with the likes of Boddika and Kassem Mosse. ‘Transition 2’ however, is an elusive mixture of both. Orbison takes techno inspired compositions and crispy percussions, sandwiched together by the harmonic sounds of Ben Vince’s saxophone to create a stunning piece of music that ebbs and flows all the way through. As so many other Hessle releases do, this track retains that punch that will fill a dance-floor rapidly, but is also delicate enough that it sounds equally impressive outside a club environment. It may have been well over 10 years in the making for that debut release from Orbison on Hessle Audio, but we’d happily wait another 10 years if the next one is to be anywhere near the quality of this.
Words & Selection by Alex Pyne
That concludes our top 5 tracks from Hessle Audio, tell us your favourite in the comment section below.