Article written by Gareth Thomas (Night-Tracks)
Give the mix below a listen while you read. Tracklist is at the end of this article :-)
While the London media tend to focus on the "hardcore continuum", a linear progression from Hardcore, through Jungle, DnB, UK Garage, Grime and Dubstep, to wherever we are today, they very rarely tend to acknowledge that a lot of those scenes didn't die around the UK when the next step arrived.
In the south of England, London and Bristol especially, producers disheartened by the champagne and gun-crime brigade turned away from Garage and through sonic experimentation from the likes of Horsepower Productions, Ruff Sqwad et al, twisted it to fit their own visions. As chart-friendly UKG died, seemingly taking with it up-tempo vibes and girl-next-door vocals, the Midlands and north of England saw its underground cousin, Speed Garage, lumber on at the same pace it always had.
Through clubs in Sheffield, the famous Niche especially, Birmingham, Leicester and Leeds amongst others, an often ignored mutation occurred, and Bassline was born. The story follows a pretty standard arc from thereon; Rise, further rise, police wariness, police involvement, beginning of the end, and inevitable fall. UK Funky held casual club going Londoners' attention well enough to keep Bassline from taking hold down south, and it quietly faded away into musical obscurity.
Cut to 2007. At college in Birmingham, for anyone with even a passing interest in music, Bassline was hard to ignore. There was at least one friend with the latest copy of Joe Hunt's Phunky Basslines, or somebody playing some tune, likely called "Untitled" and produced by "Unknown" on a Sony Ericsson. Despite that ubiquity, nobody ever seemed to speak about it, or even really acknowledge it. At the time, a young Gareth found he gainfully employed at BHS in Solihull, and saw him spend a lot of time on the 72 bus. These journeys were inevitably soundtracked by one of two tunes. Gwen Stefani and Akon's "Sweet Escape" or a tinny tune, with a 4x4 beat and chopped up vocals. A chance look at Channel U taught me that the tune was called "Heartbroken" by a guy called T2.
When 2008 rolled around, and we were old enough to go on nights out in Solihull, we took full advantage. The generation spanning "Rosies" (not its real name) was, aside from the tiny Opal Lounge , the only real club option in the affluent town centre. At that time, "Heartbroken" would be heard AT LEAST 3 times in a given night, nameless DJs taking the opportunity they had to drop a guaranteed floor filler. Slowly and surely, more and more tunes found their way into regular rotation. Amongst the well-worn Artful Dodger pieces, tunes from the likes of Sutton Coldfield's Katie May and Midlands own Joe Hunt and Danny Wynn began to become highlights of the night. Despite Flo Rida's omnipresent "Low" making at least one guaranteed appearance, for all intents and purposes, Rosies was for a while, a Bassline club. The aforementioned Opal Lounge was more direct, with Wynn DJing regularly at full-fat, fully advertised Bassline nights, such as Re:Public, only to a much smaller capacity crowd.
Without knowing it, these fledgling club-goers were part of a burgeoning scene of local DJs playing music by local producers playing out in a wealthy, leafy town parked on the edge of England's second city. Soon, despite packed floors and queues that stretched the length of the high street, sweeping changes occurred in Solihull's night life.
Lloyd's Bar, the premier pre-Rosies destination and purveyor of half decent tunes, decided you needed to be wearing shoes to enter, before bizarrely claiming that only 40 or so people were allowed on the dancefloor at one time. Oh, also, you now had to pay to go on the dancefloor. Starved of a pre-club location, people milled around a handful of pubs for a while, but soon Rosies music policy changed to chart tunes, and its unique selling point was gone. Opal Lounge underwent a long slow death before ending up as the strip club it is today. Now, with no reason left to stay there, people moved their nights out to Birmingham's Broad Street instead, and what was once a place you could go to alone, guaranteed to meet people you knew, became a town full of small clubs that would be dead out, even on Friday and Saturday.
This decline seemed to mirror that of Bassline, which post-"Heartbroken" (kept only from topping the charts by Leona Lewis' world-conquering "Bleeding Love") and "What's It Gonna Be", failed to gain any real commercial traction and new tunes became much harder to find, whilst Bassline nights became once again, niche, and impossible to track down.
Due to the nature of the tunes being passed around, either cut from £3 CDs like "Birmingham Bassline", mixes by Leicester's 1qy & F@z or surreptitiously grabbed from LimeWire, most of the tunes floating around on PCs and MP3 players were at best 128kbps snippets, with very few full, high quality tunes available, and as such, were forgotten about or deleted en masse. Aside from the everlasting vinyl releases (of which there were very few), and at least partly attributable to its unfashionable reputation, tracking down Bassline in 2015 is close to impossible.
Semi-mythical mediafire caches of full, listenable mp3s can be found every now and then by digging VERY deep in the right places on the net, and stumbling across like-minded Bassline fans from Yorkshire who own a frankly baffling amount of full, unmixed tunes can be very rewarding (big up Usman), but, partly due to most of the big-name producers having moved onto Jackin' House or the UKG revival, it seems to be on the shoulders of nostalgic newcomers such as Leicester's Murlo, operating under the alter-ego DJ Sharda, to ensure that Bassline has any sort of future.
Image from Tilllate.com
1. White Pumps (Intro)
2. Kid Cudi - Day N Nite (Crookers Remix)
3. Monsta Boy - I'm Sorry (I Didn't Know) (David Howard Remix)
4. NnG feat. Kallaghan - Right Before My Eyes (The Remix)
5. Artful Dodger - Re-Rewind
6. Nightcrawlers - Push The Feeling On (MK's Dub Of Doom)
7. Robin S - Show Me Love
8. Free Before 11 (Interlude)
9. Artful Dodger feat. Romena Johnson - Movin' Too Fast
10. Hunt Down The Savage - My Boo
11. Danny Wynn & Will Smith - Right Before My Eyes
12. Joe Hunt - Blue Angel
13. B-15 Project feat. Mr. Vegas - Birmingham Crew
14. DJ Q & MC Bonez - You Wot?!
15. Katie May - You're The Only One
16. Kaisha - Show Me Love (Joe Hunt's Range Rover Remix)
17. T2 - Heartbroken
18. DJ Denver - Lovely Thang (When I Laid Eyes On You)
19. Booda feat. Becky Rhodes - Secrets (T2 Remix)
20. Kings (Outro)