For a label that's only been around for a year, Night Slugs already feels like a proud institution of London-centric dance music. Not content with being London's rave kingpins, the collective headed up by Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990 made its own entire scene. Taking the splintered ends of dubstep, bassline, and UK funky, they soldered the frayed wires together for a powerful charge that revived the corpse of early grime. Mated with the spirit of classic '80s and '90s house, Night Slugs was born. The label's sound is ineffable but remarkably consistent, its releases bolstered with the low-end of dubstep, spoken in gruff, dry grime tones, and touched with a hint of friendly and rambunctious exuberance. Its roster spans two continents and each member of the stable has his own unique sound, yet each remains loosely tied together by a joint commitment to springy textures and exaggerated neon melodies.
Allstars Volume 1 is the label's first CD release and it's appropriately monumental, featuring a smattering of past tracks, remixes, and new originals. It's a breathlessly exciting listen as ingenious rhythms whiz by each other in smooth and fluid motions. The previously unreleased Bok Bok remix of Girl Unit's hyper-dramatic banger "I.R.L." lurches with a muscular eski screwface that drains the quirky track of its color, while the label's nascent classics are also out in full force. There's the fussy, grime-streaked funky of Lil Silva's "Golds to Get"; Kingdom's throbbing jock jam, "Bust Broke"; the sleazy, sexed-up boogie of Velour's "Booty Slammer"; and some smug decadence with Girl Unit's Southern hip-hop dubstep anthem, "Wut," which closes the album.
The new originals paint a future as bright as the past: L-Vis 1990 teams up with Deep Teknologi's T. Williams for a piece of cartoon dread with pistons for kicks on "Stand Up," while Bok Bok & Cubic Zirconia unleash an unhealthy amount of handclaps for the storming fidget house of "Reclash (Dub)." Night Slugs rookies provide exciting new directions for the label, as Optimum's "Broken Embrace" glides with liquid tech-house grace and Jacques Greene's "(Baby I Don't Know) What You Want" takes inspiration from classic house and smoulders with an intense, midnight-blue R&B flame. But it's Toronto native Egyptrixx who provides the compilation's most assured and idiosyncratic moment with "Liberation Front." Synths roll up and down like marbles in a halfpipe, leaving behind trails of dissolute low frequencies that lend it an oddly bottom-heavy quality. The song serves as a convenient manifesto for one of Night Slugs' most unique producers, whose quirky beats perfectly embody the label's ethos.