A journey across the UK electronic music landscape takes you from the badman bass of grime, through various permutations of dubstep, until you eventually end up at UK funky. The sound combines that last major UK movement, garage, with house, broken beat, and notably soca rhythms into something more dance-friendly than its underground cousins.
The don of the UK funky game, Roska, has taken a similar journey. Born Wayne Goodlitt, Roska began his musical career as a grime MC under the name Mentor in the late 90s. His shift from the mic to the producer’s chair was accompanied by a less aggressive sound and a new alias. As Roska, he first made waves in 2008 with “Feeline” and “Boxed In,” two prototypical UK funky tracks that force you to move.
Roska’s rising profile led to a residency on trendsetting Rinse.FM, just as the (then) pirate radio station shifted its focus to funky. Not only did it expose him to an even larger audience, but Rinse also released Roska’s debut album – the first full length LP on its eponymous label. Rinse Presents Roska is pure UK funky, from the shifty rave-whistles of “Squark” to the silky dancefloor-killer “Love 2 Nite” with vocalist Jamie George.
Last year was a hectic one for the producer. He opened the doors of his Kicks and Snares imprint to new artists like DJ Naughty, J:Kenzo and DJ MA1, and he compiled a 14Tracks collection that is as good as any when it comes to essential UK funky. And after remixing Untold‘s massive “Just For You” in 2009, the duo paired up on bass bangers “Myth” and “Long Range.”
This year’s Jackpot EP pushes the producer forward from funky to the difficult to pin down bass scene. Roska can still pump up an audience with something like “4th Blind Mouse,” but he’s also experimenting with elements of rave, tech and club that we haven’t heard from the South Londoner until now. “Blame the Speakers” is a choatic fist-pumper and “Roskallion” is a take on the dub-bashment of someone like Redlight. Roska has already seen a sea change in the UK electronic music world, and he’s definitely poised for the next one.
Since posting the video for Brenmar’s “Taking It Down,” I’ve been playing the track on repeat. Digging deeper into his body of work, I’ve found a unique strand of rhythm and bass. His songs surge on UK funky beats and sultry R&B samples, chopped with more finesse than those of his juke and footwork cousins. As Brenmar describes it, “this is club music for the present.”
Brenmar (government name Bill Salas) was born in Chicago and hones his craft in NYC. Over the last year or so, he’s made a name for himself with his club remixes of tracks by mainstream artists like Rihanna and Jamie Foxx. His flip of Ashanti’s “Only You” into the swaying “Boy U Got Me,” chops “boy you got me doing things that I would never do” across a bass-heavy jam (the song appeared on Top Billing’s excellent Truancy Compilation). Compared to “Boy U Got Me,” his remix of Aaliyah’s seminal “R U That Somebody” is a hypercharged workout, with nods to the juke of his hometown.
[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Brenmar-Boy_U_Got_Me.mp3″ text=”Brenmar – Boy U Got Me” dl=1]
[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Aaliyah-R_U_That_Somebody_(Brenmar_Windy_City_Mix).mp3″ text=”Aaliyah – R U That Somebody (Brenmar’s Windy City Mix)” dl=1]
Brenmar’s tracks are all about the perfect sample, always clipping just the right phrase or lyric to build a song around. On his debut EP, At It Again, it was Ne-Yo (“Make Me Say”) and Marques Houston (the aforementioned “Taking It Down”). He continues that practice on his latest, Let Me Know (Tasting), which was released Tuesday. The title tracks features one of Mya’s more suggestive lines (“If you’re likin’ what you’re tastin’ / Baby let me know“) and single “Want Me” continues the theme with some Brownstone.
As a remixer, Brenmar has ventured out of the pop-R&B sweet spot, with interesting results. On remixes for Blondes and Teengirl Fantasy, he reverse engineers the chilled-out songs into more traditional dance tracks. It’s clearly a form he’s most comfortable with; what he calls club music for the present is more like club music from the future.
Check out his Gold Bricks mix for The Fader (below), and catch him at Baltimore’s Red Maple on June 30.