Christmas came early at Dispatch towers this year as Ant TC1 launched a brand-new label.
Dispatch Blueprints is a space dedicated to the deeper, more classically informed rudiments of drum & bass. A celebration of the technical experimentation, dynamics, space and sense of unknown that captured the genre’s most formative, fertile era (without getting overtly nostalgic) Dispatch Blueprints is about taking some of most alluring and imagination-grabbing motifs and elements of the genre’s earliest post-jungle forms from the mid to late 90s and making them relevant to today’s production standards.
Ant couldn’t have picked a better artist to do it; Exit maverick and serial beat innovator Kid Drama. Not only that, but they launched with two singles, the second one features a collaboration with the equally impeccable Skeptical.
“If I’m being totally honest Damon was as big a part of this all as me,” says Ant. “While we’d been working together on his Headz EP we started talking a bit more about the stuff we were into back then. I’d always been a big fan of his music anyway and really enjoyed listening to his recent run of mixes on his CNVX Soundcloud and he mentioned being keen to do something for Dispatch as he’d been feeling a good number of recent releases, he just wanted to make sure it ‘fit’.”
“Dispatch has always showcased or, I dare say, been influenced, by that old school funk tech side of things,” Ant continues. “And for me it was as much listening to those studio mixes of Damon’s that made me think “wow he must be even as bloomin’ old as me, he’s into pretty much the exact same tunes I was from the 97 / 98 period”, a good few of these featured in his mixes along with some newer stuff on that tip too and I just thought that sound was something really missing from today. And all collectively inspired the idea for Blueprints. Damon was just as big a part of me coming to have the idea for the new imprint, I really wanted the music on there to make sense from the off and long term in relation to the sound it’s trying to represent. Damon felt it was all a good idea too, I even involved him in the artwork process with ideas coming in from him on that front from the off.”
The diligence and attention to detail goes both ways. Ant explains how Damon unearthed his old E-MU synth (the mighty machine that many of the great classics were carved on) in order to capture the essence of the era and fuse it with his modern production techniques.
“I think anyone who has a major willingness to go backwards to then go forwards just to capture that ‘sound’ and display it in a modern way shows a mass of integrity on his part,” says Ant. “Not only a risky move that might not ‘pay off’ but also not the easiest task workload wise. Our old Akai sampler used to be a nightmare to use, took me all day just to sample up a break. I reckon a good number of producers in 2017 wouldn’t have the energy for it in comparison to the process of writing music today in something like Ableton for example. It’s a world apart in capability so props to Damon for going all-in and producing the results he has across these two releases.”
Blueprints will develop further in the new year. Ant explains how he’s in talks with another artist who’s a big part of Dispatch to work on something specific for Blueprints and Damon will undoubtedly appear on the label in the future, too. But all in good time… Timeless music never needs to be hurried.
“It kinda feels like that old Scalextric up in the loft you could never let go of but in a more musical kind of vein. I really wanna make sure the label pays tribute to that era we loved when we were far younger than we are now. It was a very treasured time for many of us still involved in this music in some way or another today. I hope people out there maybe only just identifying with this kind of sound today, perhaps even for the first time, are feeling what they are hearing via the label’s output so far. There’s heaps more of this kind of stuff out there if you lift the lid up a bit more too.”
The lid’s already been prised open by Kid Drama and Ant TC1 themselves right here. We asked them to pick five blueprints each. Whether you were there at the time, been playing catch up ever since or brand new to the original sound of archetypal drum & bass, these are the designs that inspired any producer or label owner over 30 in action today and brought us all to where we are now.
DJ Krust – The Last Day (Full Cycle, 1996)
Kid Drama: Everything round the Genetic Manipulation era works for me. Long tracks that aren’t rushed or forced. Effortless and untouchable style from Krust.
Decoder – Fuse (Elementz, 1997)
Kid Drama: Decoder’s production stands the test of time. I was originally going to pick PGM 5 which sounds like a hybrid of Krust and Optical but couldn’t find it on YouTube. Fuse was my next choice with its intricate production and killer arrangement.
Optical – Void (Virus, 1997)
Kid Drama: Obviously there’s a whole bunch of Optical tracks I could have listed here but I thought I’d pick Void this time. Everything about this tune is on point and classic Optical, it reminds me of a mad professor’s science lab with bubbling test tubes.
Matrix – Crossfire (Ad Hoc, 1998)
Kid Drama: Again with Matrix, there are too many to choose from. This has a special place for me, the hazy saturated strings and subtle bass progressions sitting on that old Matrix beat. Too good.
Boymerang – Still VIP (Regal, 1997)
Kid Drama: Vulgar original and even more vulgar remix. Darkness at its best. Straight apocalyptic and menacing, insane attention to the beat edits. Horrible.
Baraka – I’ll Be There (Boogie Down, 1995)
Ant TC1: I always wondered who actually produced this. Apparently it’s Andreas Lysandrou from Boogie Beat Records. It has a big Photek inspired feel for me and it’s one of those tracks that has a full body to it, one of those you’ll never ever find yourself skipping through either. A masterpiece in soulful vibes with lashing amens, gelled together just perfectly.
J Majik – Sunray (Rufige Kru Rmx) (Infrared, 1994)
Ant TC1: I tend to often feel that Goldie’s remix work is often overlooked, quite possibly due to the sheer magnitude in impact his original material has had since say dot. For me this is Rufige Kru at its best; haunting build up, no ‘fitting into a box’ style of arrangement, it just flows from the off, one of those where it’s hard to work out where it even drops, I love those kinda tunes, this one is up there. A real dark but euphoric masterpiece.
Fierce & Nico – Crystal (No U-Turn, 1996)
Ant TC1: This tune (for me personally) is so under-rated. I think a lot of what Nico was actually involved in back then didn’t really give him the props he deserved. Anything Fierce was involved in was always golden too, so these two together was a dream match-up. Another where the intro just rolls and build anticipation. No-U-Turn had a unique sound, hearing something like this in a club for the first time was just mind-blowing.
Matrix vs Dilemma – Spring Box (Dub mix) (Genetic Stress, 1998)
Ant TC1: I could have easily picked from countless Matrix tracks, for me him and his brother Optical were the leaders of changing the shape of D&B and it’s progression from 97 and onward. When I heard this played out on dub I instantly thought ‘that’s gotta be Krust’ but there was something in there that made me suspect otherwise at the same time. The progression on this track is something else. Another one that sometimes you don’t need heaps in there to pull off something special, this is a kind of under-rated classic for a good few of us, we talk about this one in particular frequently.
Boymerang – Mind Control (Regal, 1997)
Ant TC1: For me Boymerang was an incredibly unique producer. he had his own sound, and an unpredictable one at that, I still think to this day no ones come close to incorporating a style and feel in the vein of this one today, it’s haunting, deceptive use of space is a work of art. This one takes me back to that era perfectly. If I close my eyes I’m back in Cafe Mex in Leeds with Grooverider opening up with this one back in 98. Me being all gurned up, head nodding with dyed blonde hair and shit trainers on.