Celebratory mix marking four years of business for the dubstep-and-more label.
Rory Gibb 2012-11-13
Of all the labels emerging from the shadow of dubstep, Hemlock has remained the hardest to ascribe a specific aesthetic to, thanks largely to boss Untold's catholic tastes.
Since 2008 the label has shape-shifted from purveyor of bone-dry, percussion-driven dancefloor fare to a more widescreen concern. It’s incorporated chaotic acid tracks (Randomer), slurred digital soul (early James Blake material) and cackling minimalist techno (Cosmin TRG).
All of which provokes the question: how best to go about picking a mix's worth of tracks from such a wildly diverse back catalogue? Wisely, for this label retrospective Untold draws largely from the dancefloor-friendly fare, propping up older material with a healthy array of new tracks from friends and associates.
Newer tracks, from the likes of FaltyDL, Nautiluss, Untold himself and Randomer, are all cut from roughly the same cloth: they're driven by a four-to-the-floor kick drum pulse, and display influences from the house and techno currently dominating London dancefloors. They comprise the mix’s backbone, keeping Chapter One focused around the label's present while nodding to its past and potential future.
The mix's trajectory mirrors the label's own mutation over its four years of existence, and in doing so runs counter to usual start-slowly-build-upwards logic. It begins at a brisk 140 BPM shuffle – with tracks like Untold's astonishingly taut Discipline – and gradually slumps in tempo to a thick, groove-driven throb.
In truth, the compilation's early moments contain much of its best material. As UK producers have shifted away from the dubstep forms that dominated dancefloors during Hemlock's first phase, much of that genre's percussive intricacy has been replaced with uniform, techno-leaning rhythms.
Nonetheless, there's plenty of recommended new material. Untold's current takes on techno are smeared with engine grease and coal dust, yet loose-limbed and fluid. Pangaea's pirate radio techno banger Fatalist, which swaggers rudely into the mix's last quarter, is the finest thing Hemlock has ever released and one of the best UK club tracks of the last few years.
When feeling for future directions, Hemlock would do well to keep in mind the finest moments of its history, which intuitively blend experimentalism with a deadly sense of funk.