Highly acclaimed Keysound Recordings is a label anyone interested in any form of electronic music should know about.
Launched by London producers Dusk & Blackdown, the label takes its name from the presence of a sonic keystone within their productions, a sound which suggests an environment, space or culture within a city. The label has continued to push the boundaries of UK electronic music from its inception in 2005 to its most recent release in December 2013. Dusk & Blackdown however are not solely producers, but hold a monthly radio show on the infamous once-pirate radio station; Rinse FM along with Blackdown writing for online music outlet Pitchfork and his own blog, where he has interviewed artists such as Burial and Mala.
Blackdown describes Keysound as having undergone three stages, the first of which was a means to release their own material. Initial releases include ‘Drenched,’ a track which centers around a journey beginning in South London, heading to locations synonymous with dubstep; Streatham, Norbury, Norwood and of course ending in Croydon, along with, in my opinion, perhaps Burial’s best non-Hyperdrub release; a fantastic remix of the Dusk & Blackdown track ‘Crackle Blues.’ Another particular noteworthy track from this era is ‘The Bits,’ featuring East London grime MC Trim over a beat that uses Chinese music samples.
The second era of Keysound was the result of Dusk & Blackdown working on their second album Margins Music, and deciding to release music from the producers around them. The first release of this era, ‘Knife and Gun’ is a beat produced by Rinse FM founder Geeneus, and features big names in the grime scene; Wiley, Riko and Breeze. It is a track which will make any grime or dubstep fan feel nostalgic for better times. The release also has a frantic 2-step remix by Dusk & Blackdown on the B-side. This era also produced one of Skream’s finest productions, ‘Sweetz,’ a fantastically simple, spacy dark piece of music reminiscent of the work on Big Apple Records and 2005 dubstep sounds, along with the classic ‘Angry World’ on the B-side, which had been played for a long period of time by DJs before finally seeing a release on Keysound. EPs falling somewhere between dubstep and jungle released in this era from London collective LHF showcase some of the most interesting drum programming on the imprint.
At present the label is in its third era and is the result of dubstep expanding into new genres and the majority of grime MCs switching to road rap. Feeling isolated, Dusk & Blackdown began seeking out new producers for their label. Norwich producer Sully’s album ‘Carrier’ was perhaps the first release in this era, and features tracks with a range of influences, from the grimey ‘Let You Know’ to the UK funky style ‘Enconda,’ to even juke inspired tracks. 2012 saw the release of Dusk & Blackdown’s most recent album ‘Dasaflex’ which featured a collaboration with Burial on ‘High Road,’ which was a return by Burial to sounds more reminiscent of tracks such as ‘Pirates’ and ‘Southern Comfort’ on his self-titled album. Another of my favorites from ‘Dasaflex’ is ‘Lonely Moon,’ a beautiful tranquil track with grime-esque drum sounds and interesting vocals.
Leading onto the most recent releases, 2013 produced some of the label’s finest work. Wen’s ‘Commotion’ EP is perhaps the label’s darkest most eerie release, and shows the young producer’s love for grime and dubstep, with eski style synths and halftime rhythms, this EP is, in my opinion, perhaps the best release of Keysound to date, and features the incredible ‘Nightcrawler’ production. Keysound’s most recent release is Logos’ ‘Cold Mission,’ an album critically well received by websites such as Resident Advisor and Fact, websites that fans of electronic music will be well aware of. ‘Cold Mission’ placed 7th on Resident Advisor’s list of albums of the year and 13th on Fact’s. The album features sparse drum programming reminiscent of grime devil mixes. Sounds such as guns cocking, rewinds and strings are used throughout. Fans of classic grime will be pleased to hear such sounds used in Logos’ unplaceable-within-a-genre style, comparable to the work of Jam City. Track 7, ‘Menace’ will leave you feeling both stunned and amazed. Releases to look forward to from Keysound include the brilliant Wen remix of the 2004 ‘Strings Hoe’ instrumental produced by Dizzee Rascal.
For those now interested in Keysound Recordings but unsure where to begin I advise you to do any of the following: search for Keysound Recordings within iTunes (where many of the tracks mentioned are available), listen to Dusk & Blackdown’s Rinse FM radio show, find the ‘Roots of Keysound’ mix hosted on Soundcloud or check Blackdown’s blog at www.blackdownsoundboy.blogspot.co.uk. Perhaps the best option is to see one of the Keysound artists play in a club.