HOUSE AND TECHNO 4 LIFE
How does it come to be that a DJ duo whose first album got taken on for release by progressive trance and house record label Anjunadeep appears featured in a magazine like Trap? In what world does it make sense that Jamie Jones is championing the very same tracks in his global DJ sets that Loefah is slipping in to his weekly Rinse FM shows?
Why would an electronic music duo “hoping to becoming regulars in years to come” within the Ibiza clubbing network give a damn about chatting to a magazine with Mala on its front cover? For fear of spiraling into rhetoric question chaos, please meet Dusky, and please read on to find out why all of this strangely makes so much sense.
Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman of Dusky are self proclaimed enthusiasts of music eclecticism. The disconnect between the London-based duo releasing ‘Stick By This’ on international trance powerhouse Above & Beyond’s Anjunadeep imprint, and the fact those tracks are now getting remixed by the likes of Midland, Tevo Howard and Synkro, is almost unfathomable.
However, when you consider that the duo is influenced so strongly by R&S’s back catalogue, whose output famously connects UK bass and straight-up experimental electronica, it’s clear to see that cross-pollination between genres comes easily to Dusky. A brief mention of the duo’s current listening libraries and it’s clear to see just how deep their interest in music goes.
“I’ve been listening to some pretty weird experimental music lately,” explains Alfie. “Some sound art and some contemporary classical stuff. Although the end product is totally different, taking this approach to construction is quite useful as an inspirational tool when it comes to our productions.”
“I’ve been listening to lots of jazz recently,” contrasts Nick. “Specifically, Pat Metheney. That’s been coming through, as we’ve been using more varied harmony in the tracks we’ve been making.”
It’s clear that the confines of musical genre go undetected with Dusky, which is arguably why their output can hold the concentration of electronic music fans of all ages and various tastes. The duo’s artistic backgrounds and unique approach to music consumption mean they take inspiration from the fundamentals, rather than the ever-changing facades of industry-celebrated electronic music.
“We’ve worked with each other for a long time on various projects, so it’s a very fluid, organic process,” explains Alfie. “Nick comes from more of a music production background, as opposed to the composition one that I have, so he tends to spend a bit more time on the overall mix and on the sonic details of the track, while I tend to spend a bit more time on the melodic aspects.”
One level of a track that proves irresistible to any bass music fan is the vocal, and the intense skill behind the way Dusky approach this very human aspect of electronic music is what has their output straddling the worlds of UK bass, house and techno so naturally. While the skipping percussion and affirmative fist-pump-friendly bassline of the recently released ‘Flo Jam’ on Dogmatik may appeal to old 4/4 house sensibilities, it’s the sexy, syncopated and beautifully warped Aaliyah sample that roots the track in the sounds of early garage and dubstep.
“Yeah,” agrees Alfie, “vocals are so instantly recognizable and can carry so much emotion or convey something so primeval that we always try to use them. We spend a huge amount of time digging, sampling, warping and chopping up to get the vocals we use.”
This hark-back approach to sourcing, reworking and allowing vocals to lead the electronic score is no doubt due to Dusky’s long-term love affair with 2step and UK garage. Growing up in London at the turn of the Millennium, Dusky are entrenched in the most UK-centric era of dance music. However deep, minimal or techy their tracks become, you can’t help but latch on to that turbulent, rugged inner-city groove within them that makes all music coming out of the capital so instinctively bass driven. But how did UK underground electronic music manage to create such an impression on the duo as teenagers?
“Radio had a huge effect,” reminisces Nick. “You had a choice of a hundred different pirate stations to listen to at that time, and it was a big part of our lives; hearing adverts for the raves, getting hyped for the weekend, phoning shout outs to your mates who you knew would be locked in…”
Fast forward over a decade and it’s partly down to national mainstream radio that Dusky find themselves in the situation they’re in now – making a living in the underground dance music industry. From earning Pete Tong’s Essential New Tune accolade for aforementioned Anjunadeep released ‘Someone Like You’, to interview introductions on Toddla T’s BBC Radio 1 show and continued support from the likes of Rob Da Bank and Zane Lowe, support has been unprecedented considering how little was known of the duo this time last year. Would Dusky say that radio is as important to them now as artists and music fans, as it was ten years ago?
“We love radio,” proclaims Alfie. “There are some really great stations out there that have introduced us to music we would otherwise never have heard. The shows on Rinse and some of the Radio 1 shows, for example, are a great way of hearing exclusive stuff before it’s played anywhere else. So yeah, it’s really important to us. It’s been a lot of fun guesting on people’s shows recently, too.”
With UK radio stations lapping up whatever Dusky throw at them, Ibiza boat parties and DC10 dates this summer, an upcoming release on new label School, as well as the star-studded remix EP of 2011’s ‘Stick By This’, the second half of 2012 is looking promising for the duo.
“We’d love to be able to summarise 2012 by saying it was the year Dusky emerged from its cocoon and became a beautiful garden butterfly with the words ‘HOUSE & TECHNO 4 LIFE’ tattooed on its wings.” Alfie concludes.
House and techno it may be, but that subtle bass touch is what makes Dusky’s output so fresh and keeps us coming back for more.
Words: Sophie Thomas