Ambient dancehall and sensual trip-hop from Kevin Martin and Dis Fig.
In Blue, Kevin Martin's sixth album as The Bug, has its roots in a Solid Steel Radio Show from nearly three years ago. As Martin tried to reverse-engineer the dancehall he fell in love with the '90s, new material bled into classics from Steely & Clevie, Goldfinga and Dave Kelly, alongside new-school mutations from Equiknoxx and Mr. Mitch. The new Bug tunes that held it together were both ethereal and tonnes-heavy, a sublimation of what Martin calls "cyber-reggae." In Martin's head, these tracks—somewhere between the apocalyptic thrum of The Bug and the hollowed-out reggae of King Midas Sound—constituted a new sound that needed a new voice. Berlin artist Dis Fig got in touch around the same time, and a new album was born.
You might think that with Dis Fig's abrasive style of club music and Martin's penchant for titanic bangers, In Blue would be an unholy racket. But much like Martin's recent, spine-tingling King Midas Sound album, this LP looks inward, turning The Bug inside out. This music is subzero and cloaked in a thick fog, with each track lashed to a shuddering bassline or lurching rhythm. Dis Fig hovers overhead, her voice adding a human warmth to the frigid instrumentals. You could imagine seeing her breath as she intones each word.
Though In Blue has obvious parallels with the dancehall-inspired stomp of The Bug's previous albums, In Blue recalls '90s trip-hop more than anything else. It's in the alternately staggered and sultry dub beats, the laconic lyrics and Dis Fig's apathetic tones. Her songs touch on longing, romantic obsession and sex, not with the harrowing detail of Martin's last King Midas Sound album, but with the detached coolness of singers like Martina Topley-Bird or Kelli Dayton. On "In 2 U," the way her voice curls around Martin's instrumentals like wisps of smoke is goosebump-inducing. She recites her lyrics like incantations, as her melodies bleed into each other, creating a haze of echoed words and syllables.
As In Blue progresses, it repeats certain ideas and sounds, as if the record were constantly versioning itself. There are tracks that will shake your speakers ("Levitating") and tunes that lean on the mid-range crunch of old Bug records ("Blood"). But most are swaddled in so much delay they become a vapour trail of sound ("Destroy Me"). It's a record of crumbling soundscapes, dusty and precarious, a feat of sound engineering mirrored in Martin's recent drone work. What had roots in a faithful reproduction of dancehall becomes, in typically Kevin Martin fashion, something dissolute and foreboding.
Dis Fig's presence here is transformative. Martin has made a career of collaborating with brilliant artists, whether it's long-time partnerships like his work with Justin Broadrick or his curious one-off with the doom metal band Earth. Dis Fig is the latest collaborator who brings out the best in him, revealing a new facet of her own artistry, first revealed in songs like "Why" (the track that first got Martin's attention), and unlocking a new dimension to The Bug's sound. Dis Fig transcends In Blue's origins in genre exercise into an otherworldly fever dream, an album of tectonic bass and thundering drums that somehow feels intimate and sensual. It's as much her triumph as it is his.
Tracklist01. Around Me
03. Destroy Me
05. In 2 U
08. Blue To Black
10. No Return
12. End In Blue