Words: Matthew Pollock
His first records scooped melody from the swampy, wobble-soaked beginnings of dubstep and UK garage, and by the time of his second album ‘Outside the Box’ in 2010, Skream could be heard tugging at the reins of these genres, dragging them into unfamiliar territory with dazzling results. Never had the mould of dubstep seemed so versatile.
Recent years have seen Skream shake off his earlier influences to craft a sound that draws heavily upon techno and house, retaining an appetite for dark melodies with an ear for the dancefloor. It’s with all this in mind that I take myself down to see him conclude his ‘Open to Close’ tour in what he’s called his “spiritual home” – Glasgow’s Sub Club. With Jackmaster and Jasper James jumping on board as the 6-hour set approached, we knew we were in for a treat.
Things are in full flow when we arrive. No warm-up act, no fiddling around with an ambient intro: early selections are a panoply of techno and house, with the odd disco track thrown in for good measure. Rather than scuppering the momentum of the harder tracks, the injections of disco really seem to work – they add contrast and colour to the set, and each time we’re plunged back into something more insistent, it feels like things have gone up a notch.
Creeping towards midnight, Floorplan’s ‘Baby Baby’ heralds one of those moments where the bass drops away for a second, the lights come up and you’re suddenly aware of how sweaty you are. All these people – real people, not just conspicuous silhouettes obscured by mist – are beside you dancing, soaking up every bit of the experience with you.
It’s not unlike remembering midway through a film that you’re not in fact watching it alone, but as part of a shared experience. With its defiantly simple hook, ‘Baby, Baby’ is the gift that keeps on giving – fidgety and infectious, it chimes beautifully with the energy of the crowd.
As we cross over into the wee small hours our hosts dart brazenly to and fro across a kaleidoscope of sounds and influences, all the while switching around behind the decks with an easy nonchalance. You don’t often hear so much variety in a set of this kind, and it keeps things fresh – the filthy swagger of Kid Enigma’s ‘Dangerous’ no longer seems so incompatible with the ice-cold techno vibes of Marc Romboy’s ‘The Voyager’, nor the soulful funk of Al Kent’s ‘Come Back Home’. Yet in the final hour or so, the focus starts to descend from the busy, heady climes of techno into the balmy waters of disco and funk.
The parting gift is The Reflex Revision of Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘September’ – a stripped back and somewhat less cluttered version of the classic disco track that could almost put a lump in your throat, especially at the end of such a raucous, feel-good and decidedly playful set. Haste ye back, Skream.
Skream's 'You Know, Right?' EP is out now on Crosstown Rebels.