- An essential UK label celebrates ten years.
- In a decade when UK dance music has relentlessly shape-shifted, Don't Be Afraid feels like an old friend. That's not to say that Semtek's label has stood still, but it has evolved in a measured way compared to many of its peers, remaining loyal to stonewashed house, techno and acid as dubstep's various mutations came and went. The prickly and playful sound of Semtek or Mr.Beatnick's early releases would still be right at home on the label today.
This is partly due to DBA's close-knit cast of artists. Around half of those on these ten-year anniversary compilations have been involved since the label's early days. They have grown together and tend to speak highly of Semtek in interviews. A long-running connection with Detroit artists—Tyler Dancer, MGUN, Karen Gwyer, Scott Ferguson, Pablo R. Ruiz and Kamau—is also central to the label's sound, following London and Bristol as a third spiritual home.
These days, DBA is a well-oiled machine and very active in the scene that supports it, running label nights and radio shows, as well as giving props to other artists via its blog. To celebrate ten years, Semtek has put together a stellar, two-part compilation of fierce and nonconformist dance floor gear.
10.1 wastes no time getting started. rRoxymore's "Lost In Synth" skips along with a fat bassline and waxy synths dripping on top. Tyler Dancer continues in a remarkably similar vein, before a recent signing to the label, Kerrie, cranks the intensity to the max. "Attribute" by Kamau (FKA Darling Farah), MGUN's acid onslaught and Karen Gwyer's "Bloc De Salmonniac" also have a lot going on, but stay on the right side of the tipping point. When Lurka takes his foot off the gas, it's a welcome time out.
10.2 is laid-back by comparison, with a couple of exceptions, such as the barrage from Midnight Snacc (AKA iona and Semtek). There is prime warm-up fare in Scott Ferguson's opening saunter and the hand percussion of The Room Below's "Bassika." The ever-on-point Mr. G delivers his well-honed and utilitarian blend of elements in "Birthday Jam." Halvtrak and Wheelman are also on top form, both contributing brisk and unusual late-night rollers.
The deluge of charity compilations this year, while commendable, put my appetite for the format to the test. Semtek's move to split this release into two parts helps make it easily digestible. It also helps that there's barely a throwaway track. After all, when a label like DBA asks for music to celebrate ten years in the business, you bring your A-game.
01. rRoxymore - Lost In Synth
02. Tyler Dancer - Silver Linings
03. Kerrie - At Your Peril
04. Kamau - Attribute
05. General Ludd - Stentor Polymorphus
06. MGUN - Fumigation
07. Jayson Wynters - Moving Targets
08. Brassfoot - Brundlefly
09. Lurka - Clean
10. Karen Gwyer - Bloc De Salmonniac
11. Mr. Beatnick - In Carcosa
01. Scott Ferguson - This Is What I Love To Do
02. Raven Cru - Saffron Bun
03. The Room Below - Bassika
04. Mr. G - Birthday Jam
05. Semtek & Jay L - Drunken Style
06. Pablo R. Ruiz - El Sol Se Acerca
07. Halvtrak - For You
08. Minos - Laminar Flow
09. Wheelman - Nightshift
10. Hollie - In Limbo
11. Midnight Snacc - Snacc Attacc