Something I’ve noticed a lot with Rinse shows lately, and more with the younger producers/DJs: the station’s format (dubstep, grime and UK Funky) has become a lot more flexible and elastic, which may be more a sign of where bass music is at right now than producers taking advantage of the wiggle room. On Tuesday, Numbers spent the first hour of their show playing essentially non-dubstep/bass-related tunes, and it was honestly a bit daunting to get through.
Is this a complaint? Not really. Though, Rinse FM has built its entire brand and image as ambassadors of forward-thinking, ballsy, on-the-cusp bass music. Stuff that sounds like it’d have been made, not in 2011, but in 2013. Numbers was playing stuff that sounded like it came from 1982.
And Numbers is a record label with sounds that sprawl all over the damn place. Their releases have more in common with Ed Banger, if Ed Banger had more guts. And they have essentially no claim to any specific dubstep sound– if anything, Numbers represents the pinnacle of non-dubstep “Dubstep”, leaning more towards the 4-by-4 side of the spectrum than it does with bass. Even Night Slugs and Swamp 81, which both explore the different satellites surrounding dubstep like electro 808 vibes and crunk rap, their base still remains dubstep and/or grime-oriented.
So it really shouldn’t come as no surprise that DJs Spencer and Deadboy both spend the bulk of their timeslot playing stuff more suited for a Grand Theft Auto Vice City club scene than a primetime London pirate house/bass show. Some of these tracks old and some new. I even heard a The Dream tune somewhere around 21:00 that sounds like a promising single. The first hour is just bland to me, though. This may have something to do with my bias towards disco, where my tastes for it get narrower and narrower with each listen.
I watched a video from 2008 the other day where this website met with Joe Nice for an interview and he talked about how dubplates really solidified DJs’ individuality. If a DJ carries an arsenal of one-of-a-kind dubs on deck for the crowd to hear, they have created an identity for themselves as the only people listeners can go to to jam out to these specific tunes. Joe Nice says, to paraphrase, when I go to the club I don’t wanna hear something I’ve already heard before– I wanna hear something new. That’s sorta my frustration w/ Numbers’ first hour. Yes, some of the tunes getting airplay were dubs, but the sounds were boring, and not nothing I hadn’t heard before.
But hey, this is the Numbers radio show– this is what they wanna play and I can’t really complain. Geeneus has given them a slot because they are an important imprint in the UK scene, and if they wanna play disco because it acts as their sonic exoskeleton, I gotta respect that. I’ll just wait for the second hour, which I feel gets a lot more interesting.
Second hour gets stared on more bassy waters with a tune on 1:02:00 that is essentially UK Funky but without the bongos, and a nice bassline to lead it. 1:07:00 they play the badboy “Clockworks” tune by Canblaster, which to me can do no wrong. At 1:09:00, we get a pretty huge tune by Pangaea called “Hex”, forthcoming on Hemlock. This tune, without a doubt, is a standout on this week’s show. More in common with early to mid-00s grime than some of the stuff that’s come out on Hemlock– this song is the shit. Really sick sample patterns that solidify the dubstep-context Hemlock adheres to.
At 1:12:00 we get one of my favorite tunes ever: Sticky’s “Dollar Sign” w/ Stush. I’ve been jamming out to this tune so much lately. A brilliant garage tune with Stush’s bratty-as-fuck vocals that compliment the song’s 2-step backbone– it’s a sure-fire way to get people moving. And at 1:13:50 we get this tune by someone I’m not familiar with. I can’t really decipher who the DJ IDs them as, but this song is walking alongside the Pangaea tune as the standout for this week’s NMBRS Rinse episode. Perfect blend of that “Claptrap“-like house pattern that I can easily hear at an echo-y rave, with such a simple wobble bassline– I wish I came up with this song. It sounds as if Joe, Geeneus and Fis-T crossed each other at a soundclash and came up with this huge club tune. I can see it doing some serious damage in a club context.
They wheel up “All Your Love” by Hudson Mohawke from his new EP Satin Panthers. I’m not really sure why they chose to rewind this tune. This tune is pretty mediocre, and a bit too loud– carries more of a synth lead, while the percussion sits behind the wall-of-noise. Why they didn’t pull up the Pangaea tune or the FisT/Joe tune is beyond me! I guess that’s what maybe distinguishes Numbers from neighboring labels and their radio shows– they put more emphasis on the really disco-sounding tunes.
They spin this “Motivation” remix at 1:29:00 that I have to comment on. First off, it sounds like Electronic Dream-era Araabmuzik, which is kinda cool except it’s not like “Underground Stream” but more like “Streetz Tonight”. I feel like Kelly Rowland’s vocals could’ve benefited more from a punchy Bok Bok-sounding tune than like a Trance-souding vibe. Another thing I have a problem with is the idea of remixing “Motivation” to begin with– the song already sounds like a dubstep tune. It has the 135 bpm tempo, along with the really sparse, ghost synths that sound like Zomby. And if you’re gonna treat it like regular dubstep tune, which would get its fair share of remixing regardless– the whole idea of remixing this top-40 gem is to highlight how much of it sounds like a rotating London club tune. So why not just play the original then?
I’d honestly just play the original since it goes so well with the current dubstep sound. That’s just my quip with the tune. Other than that, the remix is okay.
The remainder of the show hits hard with huge club bangers, especially that really massive Sean Paul remix.
All-in-all, Numbers produces a show that acts as a straight carbon-copy of their label’s respective sonic footprint. That’s really the point of giving small record labels their own radio shows, acting more as a showcase of where the label is headed towards and not just what they’re carrying in their roster (I look at Elijah and Skilliam’s show for that). Though, I’d recommend they devote their whole time slot to the stuff they were playing in their second hour, which they usually do anyway. I say stick to the challenging, badman club tunes than the retroactive disco tunes that inspired it.
Listen to the episode here