It's hard to dispute that Night Slugs was the breakout UK label of 2010. Beginning with Mosca's landscape-altering Square One EP and continuing with an impeccable series of releases from Egyptrixx, Kingdom, Girl Unit, Jam City, Lil Silva, and others, the imprint and crew headed up by L-Vis 1990 and Bok Bok quickly solidified its position at the head of the current class of bass-centric, post-everything producers and DJs. Oddly enough, all of this happened without an official release from Bok Bok (a.k.a. Alex Sushon), making his ascent all the more impressive in an era where most DJs' stature is defined foremost by the tunes they've produced.
Now, nearly 18 months after Night Slugs' first salvo—and even longer since L-Vis 1990's and Bok Bok's joint Night Slugs EP on Dress 2 Sweat—Sushon has unveiled the Southside EP to an incredible amount of anticipation, not to mention some pretty lofty expectations. Thankfully, the pressure hasn't stopped Bok Bok from taking some real chances on the five-song release, and the end results are quite good.
That said, some listeners might initially be a little puzzled, as the Southside EP is a bit of a curveball. As much of the bass-music world gravitates toward classic house and Detroit techno, Sushon has gone in another direction, looking inward and indulging his well-documented love of grime. Lead track "Charisma Theme" begins on a lighter note, pairing a catchy, chime-like melody with the familiar inventive percussion and bent neon synths that so define the Night Slugs sound. But two minutes in, Bok Bok takes a radical left turn, dropping out the melodic elements and introducing a taut, brawny riddim. It's this aesthetic and sound palette that ultimately defines the Southside EP, although in all fairness, the tactic shouldn't be considered a major shock. The groundwork was already laid on last year's Night Slugs Allstars Vol. 1 compilation, specifically Bok Bok's remix of Girl Unit's "I.R.L.," the main riddim of which has actually been reprised on "Look (Dub)," the new EP's final track.
"Silo Pass" is the obvious star here, and not only because it's the tune that influential DJs have been rinsing over the past few months. The song pairs a muscular grime foundation with thick bass, bright synths, and a touch of crunk braggadocio, and is easily the most realized effort on the EP. "Hyperpass" and "Reminder" aren't far behind, the former employing a relentless sci-fi menace while the latter lays pointed, pulsating tones and, cheekily enough, some hints of sinogrime over thundering beats with just enough swing to keep your head nodding.
Perhaps the EP's only weakness is that as stand-alone songs, the five tracks may seem a little long—the first four songs all exceed five minutes—and even a tad repetitive. But it's important to remember that at this stage in his career, Sushon is most accurately classified as a DJ first, producer second. As such, it's not surprising that he's put together a collection of supercharged DJ tools, tracks whose true magic is only revealed in the context of a DJ set. In that setting, it's easy to envision them all being employed to absolutely smash up the dance.
Go here to stream tracks from the 'Southside' EP.