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“People take themselves too seriously”

How boring are these debates about wobble in dubstep?

Right, really boring. Anyway, one of the things that always crops up in those discussions is the idea that a lot of wobble tracks are psychedelic, which I don’t really buy in to. Coki’s good stuff is psychedelic; tunes like ‘Haunted’ and this new bad Jackson, not shit like ‘Spongebob’ and ‘Road Rage’, but that’s it for me – no matter how innovative someone like Jakes’ frequencies are, they’re not evocative of imagery. Meanwhile Blunted Robots – the collective of Brackles, his brother Martin Kemp, Shortstuff [above] and Mickey Pearce – are making dubstep that’s disorientating, psychedelic and dripping in colour and imagination.

Most people’s first taste of Blunted Robots was ‘Glazed’, Brackles‘ debut 12″ on Berkane Sol, but although that record was a great reflection of their fun-comes-first approach to a genre that’s always catered to really dull people, it bears little resemblance to the collective’s current sound. Brackles’ recent 12″ for Apple Pips, ‘Get A Job’/’Lizards’, is full of squiggly lines that seem to criss-cross in every direction at once, constantly shifting key and changing direction. It’s like playing Wipeout or something. ‘LHC’, his 12″ for Planet Mu is on a similar tip, while his and Shortstuff’s collaboration on the B-side, ‘Sutorîtâ Faitâ’ (Street Fighter in Japanese), is like watching a robot with a limp try to sprint, or trying to replicate 2step while overheating: odd kicks hang back, synths fizz in the background when you least expect them, pitched-down vocals die in front of you.

“I met Rob [Brackles] on the first day of uni at Nottingham; he came really late”, Shortstuff recently told me. “You know Rob, he’s always latest out of everyone. I didn’t have a lot in common with most people on the first day, then he noticed I had the Dizzee album [Boy In Da Corner] so we got talking. He had a copy of Fruity Loops that he’d never used, so I installed it on my computer. We went on to live together, put on some ill-fated nights together, and made tunes together. That was how Blunted Robots all started.”

“We didn’t do the music seriously ’til 2007, ‘Broken Harp’ [later released on Bristol imprint Pollen] was the first thing we finished. We gave it to Appleblim, he started playing it and gave it to Kamal [Geiom], it all escalated from there. We were really into the dark, atmospheric side of dubstep then; we were thinking too much about it, trying to make ‘deep’ music. We’ve moved away from that since. My girlfriend’s a litmus test really – she hates all the stuff I used to make.”

My girlfriend’s a litmus test really – she hates all the stuff I used to make.”

As for the label aesthetic, which includes a Blunted Robots comic strip, designed by Wigflex boss and Nottingham bass lynchpin Spamchop, that will gradually develop over the course of the 12″s (“we’re not gonna make money at first, so we’re keen on building an identity and making something collectable”), “it boils down to…Well, I guess we always make our stuff a little bit silly. People take themselves too seriously. There’s echoes of Todd Edwards; that slightly silly vibe. We came up with the name when driving down to meet ST Holdings: we heard ‘No Charisma’ being played on one of the Ruffage Sessions, and MC Asbo said it ‘sounded like some sort of tribal robot.’ We combined that with the whole Madlib/Quasimoto thing – stay blunted and that – and we had Blunted Robots. It sounds a bit like tribal robots, it sounds a bit like broken robots…”

When he brings up Todd Edwards, I ask Shortstuff whether nostalgia’s a big part of Brackles and his music: it’s peppered with undisguised samples of 90s/early 00s pop culture, from Street Fighter, to ‘Hide U’, to Missy Elliot. “Maybe people read too much into that”, he responds. “It’s just a sub-conscious thing for us if it’s there. We like using obvious samples; we’re not bothered about if someone knows where it’s from – it’s the icing on the cake for us. All the music that we make comes from somewhere, so why hide it?”

“We’ll only ever release something if it makes sense in our heads”

Blunted Robots’ second 12″ is a solo effort from Martin Kemp. “We’ve really ummed and ahhed about this one”, Shortstuff explains. “The tracks for the first 12″ were our inspiration for starting the label, so there was never an issue with what we were putting on it. Now it’s like we’ve got second album syndrome; it’s something we really don’t want to force. It’s really cool to be able to break through Martin a bit though; we want to hold on to him as much as we can.”

“We’ll only ever release something if it makes sense in our heads”, the producer continues. “We have a policy where we can only suggest each other’s tracks for the label; we can’t put forward our own stuff. There’s definitely some common ground between what we’re making though: Rob and Martin will hear each others’ tunes before they’re finished, hyping off ideas the other one’s had, and me and Rob are generally into the same things at the same time. We both moved away from half-step at a similar pace…”

But next in the pipeline for Blunted Robots is a live label showcase on September 4 at Focus, sister night to Bristol’s Crazylegs – a clubnight and mix CD series that’s a constant source of inspiration for this column (their next night is this Friday with MJ Cole, Ben UFO, Grievous Angel and Joy Orbison). Brackles, Shortstuff, Kemp and Pearce will – for the first time – all be performing. That takes place at The Tube.

Shortstuff’s helmed the latest Crazylegs mix, and the first place you’ll be able to download it is right here. Untold, Greena, Pearson Sound, 2 Bad Mice, Zomby and more feature, plus there’s an opportunity to hear new Brackles’ next single for Planet Mu, ‘Air Pie’, and new material from the rest of the Blunted Robots gang. If you’ve even half-skimmed this column and don’t download it then I’m not doing my job properly – this mix is amazing.

Download: Crazylegs 003 – Shortstuff

Cortney Tidwell – Watusii (Daphni remix)
Mosca – Square One
D-Malice – Untitled
Roska -Without It
Fuzzy Logik – In the Morning
Smith & Mighty – U Dub
2 Bad Mice – Hold It Down
Zomby – Mescaline Cola
Agent-X – Turbulence
Shortstuff – A Rustling
Brackles – Air Pie
Pearson Sound – Wad
Untold – Gonna Work Out Fine
Roska – Boxed
Underground Solution – Get Happy
Hot City –  Head Work
Shortstuff & Hyetal – Don’t Sleep
Martin Kemp – After the Night
Greena – Tenzado
Shortstuff – See Ya
Stuff & Brax – Pipey D

Blunted Robots 001 is out now. Shortstuff has 12″s forthcoming on Formant, Ramp and Wigflex, plus collaborations with Mickey Pearce and Hyetal on unconfirmed labels. Brackles ‘Get A Job’/’Lizards’ is out now on Apple Pips, and ‘LHC’/’Sutorîtâ Faitâ’ is out now on Planet Mu. As for Mickey Pearce, you’ll have to ask his nan.

All four Blunted Robots will be playing at Focus, Bristol on September 4.

Tom Lea

Current Top Ten:
01. Zomby – One Foot Ahead of the Other (Ramp EP)
02. Shortstuff – ‘Stuff’ / ‘A Rustling’ (forthcoming Ramp 12″)
03. Fuzzy Logik ft. Egypt – ‘In The Morning’ (White 12″)
04. Brackles / Brackles & Shortstuff – ‘LHC’ / ‘Sutorîtâ Faitâ’ (Planet Mu 12″)
05. DVA – ‘Jelly Roll’ (forthcoming 12″)
06: Cooly G & DVA – ‘Oi Dirty’ (Dubplate)
07: Neil Landstrumm – Bambaataa Eats His Breakfast (forthcoming Planet Mu LP)
08: Royal T – ‘1 Up’ (forthcoming No Hats No Hoods 12″)
09: Stush – ‘We Nuh Run’ (free download)
10: Tempa T vs DJ Oddz – ‘Strung Up Hype’ (Oneman Blend) (free download)

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