Blu Mar Ten: one of the most consistent, diligent and long-standing trios drum & bass has known. Not just as artists but, more recently as label owners too, having introduced the world to the likes of Kimyan Law, Conduct and Frederic Robinson and early cuts from Ivy Lab’s Stray.
21 years deep (as producers, 25 years as DJs) they still have something relevant and resonant to say. In fact their seventh album Empire State is one of the strongest statements they’ve made to date.
“It’s an album about London as a place, as a symbol and as a metaphor,” explains Chris BMT. “For the last 12 months a line from T.S Eliot keeps cycling round my head and it won’t go away. I used it as the press release for this album as it’s the only thing I could think of that describes Empire State:
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
“There’s something chaotic and terrible rising in The West at the moment, and I don’t say this as a young person a bit shaken up by Brexitfest or the Orange Clown Man’s surprise win, but as someone middle-aged who’s studied and fought the reactionary right since I was teenager. We’ve seen the ideas and language that originated with the National Front feed through into the BNP, then on to the EDL and from there into Britain First, crystallising in UKIP and finally now being parroted by mainstream politicians and the media to such an extent you hear them repeated by an otherwise rational public. It’s been a slow burn but I can taste something forming again that hasn’t existed for a long time. The grip that doublespeak, euphemism and innuendo has over people’s minds is horrifying and it seems harder than ever to get people to psychologically arm themselves against it. It’s deeply insidious and it’s starting to feel overwhelming.”
There’s no question we’re living in uncertain and divisive times. There is a barbed silver lining: historically some of the most exciting music has come from oppressive times. This is another source of inspiration for Chris and his cohorts Michael and Leo: the persistence of jungle craft and the resistance to both simplification and gentrification. Here’s a taste of how they’ve channelled this…
“Musically it’s the same button we’ve been pressing since day one, trying to find that particular and delicate place between sadness and hope,” he explains. “We rarely find it, exactly, but we come close sometimes. It’s like they say about jazz players, always trying to find the ‘lost chord’. We’ve deliberately made things more lo-fi on this album, and used old sounds and methods, deliberately quoting them, even. Not that we ever really played in that super sci-fi production war that rages on but this is another step further back from that. I re-read an old Burial interview recently and he summed it up nicely when he talks about the pirate radio aesthetic… just rolling breaks and a couple of samples. That’s the era we come from and I suppose in many ways we’re stuck there, for better or for worse.”
Ranging from the smouldering, lingering misty soul of tracks such as Fall From Grace and Last Life In The Universe to rippling, restrained horsepower gulliness such as Rollcage and Titans, it’s Blu Mar Ten at their most stripped back, direct and frank. Fans of all eras and all corners should pay attention.
Empire State is out on Bu Mar Ten Music mid-December on limited edition Triple-Vinyl, CD & digital.