Combat – 10 Tracks
For the last ten years Combat Recordings has been operating out of various London locations delivering its own particular brand of ferocious sound system tracks with a keen sense of sound design. It’s kind of telling of the environment that label boss Stormfield found himself in at the time of founding the label back in 2004, fully utilising the elements of the electro and rave influenced scene that was thriving at the time with parties like Haywire in full session at the time and those always inspiring off key happenings at The Foundry (RIP). Sticking vehemently to his hard hitting aesthetic he’s one of the few to be representing this sound to this day and along the way had earned support from Mary Anne Hobbs defining Breezeblock show on Radio One and repeated sessions on Rob Booths Electronic Explorations underground sonics outlet.
To mark this epic landmark Stormfield has just unleashed a monumental 19 track compilation ushering in a wealth of typically hard hitting electronics from the artists who have populated the label over the years which is available to grab now via their Bandcamp page – featuring some special offerings from Milanese, Ontal, Scorn and King Cannibal to name a few. It’s kind of a big deal getting this far and maintaining such a niche and actually underground platform; a journey we’re sure has garnered many experiences and insights into the workings of these left of centre artists and the scene surrounding them. So, to mark the occasion we asked him to look back over this time and share with us ten tracks and ten moments, highlights if you will of the Combat Recordings story;
ScanOne – Every 7th Bullet
This was around the Haywire / Fuel Records time in London. I’d first met Scanone at a Sunday electronic music session called Moonpalace (organised by Philippe Prophane and Dan Con1), to give credit to Dan and Phillippe, their little night ran over 5 years and their clued-up music policy mean pretty much everyone doing decent music at the time ended up playing there, including most of the early Combat roster. Jude’s set was the first ever AV set I’d seen anyone do. The dual-discipline approach especially made sense to me, as Jude has got a unique set of skills coming from hardcore / jungle DJing but trained in film editing, and the vibe of this track combines the two worlds of audio and visuals perfectly. Every 7th Bullet is the track kickstarted Combat. Stripped-down and cinematic, it’s a long electro track narrating the harrowing first-hand experiences of the Vietnam war. ScanOne was on tour with the Light Surgeons in the US, and while near the beach just happened upon this Vietnam war vet who was a proper acid case, who proceeded to deliver a very long stream-of-consciousness talk about his life. Some bits of it got recorded and worked over distorted electro beats.
Cursor Miner – Carnivore
This was one of the demos for Fuel records around 2002, I tried for ages convincing Richie (Fuel boss) to release it (alongside Fungus Gnat Fighting), but it never happened for whatever reasons, so a couple of years later it ended up on Combat as part of the 4 Guardians EP. I was working the front desk of a South London mental health unit at the time and listening to a folder of Cursor tracks in the office. Soon as this one came on, I started grinning like a maniac, which was somewhat amusing given the surroundings. Cursor made it with the mental imagery of entering a dragon's lair to fight it. It's a menacing beast of a tune that builds and builds with heavy halftime drums that make it even more prowling, kicking into apocalyptic amens near the end. According to Rob (Cursor), the sparkly resonating bits during the breakdown are meant to be the dragon’s glittering pile of gold. The tune got cut to 12” and ended up in the hands of Mary Anne Hobbs, who made it her “track of the week” twice on Radio One, quite a rare thing.
Ontal – Discipline
Ontal are a couple of very dedicated music heads from Serbia, Dekode and Boris Noiz, who’ve been in contact with Warlock, NoYeahNo, ScanOne and I for years. They come from a similar background of influences, 90's rave music, hardcore, jungle, dark noisy weird stuff, and do their own very highly evolved take on dark noise/techno which is getting a lot of support on different labels at the moment, some of it straight-up kicks and some of it more broken up. Surgeon especially supports their stuff on Rinse FM. I was really happy when this track landed in the inbox, and within 10 seconds of listening knew it was THE one for the 10 year compilation. Fierce, focused and broken up – it's got that "stampede effect" energy of peaktime techno while totally avoiding a straight 4/4 kick, which pretty much describes what Combat is about. Think I spot an drum’n’bass snare used from the old Metalheadz days, such as Peshay's “Predator”.
Milanese – Return to iacon city
Steve Milanese is one of the absolute top producers / sound designers around IMHO. Some years back I visited him when he was living in Birmingham to see his magic studio, but ended up spending most of the weekend on the sofa watching him play HALO 3! But it makes a lot of sense looking back, you can see exactly how the sounds on his Warp album fit the obsession with apocalyptic first person shooter games. Iacon was originally a drum'n'bass track built on phasing drums, the snares gradually go out of and back into sync, so they appear to drift over time, a slamming track that also messes with people’s heads. "Return to iacon City" is more like it's equally slamming, non-phasing sibling. Here he manages to flawlessly combine 90’s-era drum’n’bass with techno influences on the same tune. (140 bpm, DJs take note). Violent, dirty and futuristic, it flexes the speakers hard and is full of genius programming like the contrast of trudging half-time kickdrums with rapid-fire hi hats that manage to sound super frantic yet slow and considered at the same time. There's tonnes of subtle little tricks/edits that keep the brain occupied while the main broken groove pounds out relentlessly. The sort of techno that a junglist would like. It’s an absolute destroyer and easily one of his best ones. To think it’s about 10 years old now and still pisses over most new tunes out there!
King Cannibal – Badman Near Dark
Dylan (aka. The House of Black Lanterns) made a lot of excellent ragga-bashment style tracks around 2006-2007, one of which is Aragami Style that got put out on Ninja Tune. The tracks were amazing, with the boom-boom-tschak! juddering riddims, dystopian atmospheres and dirty synth filth of late 90's tech step drum'n'bass. I was living in Brixton at the time, working in a mental health unit and going to University of Dub and this fit the vibe perfectly – physical, in yer face, twisted life thriving among urban decay. It's soundsystem music for a toxic, fucked-up future. Of all his dancehall tracks, this one tune in particular was too good to pass up, its when that filthy square wave riff kicks in before the drop, that “WAAAAAAHP!” and pugilistic beat attacks – It gets your warrior face on. The most memorable moment was dropping this tune at a beach party on the Thames, looking up in the dark to see a few hundred people kicking off to it. Looked like a riot was going on. Amazing. Combat nearly started a side-label called "Smashment" to put out a load of these dancehall-style tracks (along with similar stuff from Stereotyp, another expert in this field), but finances held us back. However in 2015 there will be an EP in this vein, it’s awesome soundsystem music and regardless of audience, it gets the riot dancefloor vibe going and never fails to tear the place up. 105 or 210 BPM in case you're wondering.
Anodyne – Empire of Glass (Subjex remix)
I became aware of Colin's music after Rob Hall dropped "Corrosion" on one of his DJ mixes, and got in touch a year or two later, which resulted in the Empires EP. Anodyne's the master of epic, sombre stringwork and as typical with Combat, there was extensive remixing involved once he got on board. Subjex took an already great track and made it even better, reinforcing the majestic strings with soundsystem-punishing beatwork full of precision edits. It drops into halfstep then doubles up going mental halfway through. Unstoppable. There's been a load of different remixes including Plaid, but the Subjex one is still my favourite.
Point B – Headland – Dead Fader remix
Dead Fader is pretty well known for super over-distorted noise and violent beats, but it’s perhaps less known that he has a subtle melodic side which is equally as strong. Here he took the brooding melodicism of Point B’s original track and twisted them into a darkly majestic piece. The trademark Dead Fader distortion is evident but relatively restrained, with improvised melody added and pushed to the forefront, punctuated by flashes of white noise as the track peaks. It goes really deep, one of Dead Fader's best works IMHO. The stringwork, subs and crackle remind me a lot of Zan Lyons, in a way. Wish I had a whole set of tunes like this.
Cursor Miner – Grimewatch
Another track from the deranged sonic genius that is Rob Tubb. This got made around the time of the Rephlex “Grime” compilation, before the whole dubstep thing kicked off in the UK. Cursor Miner manages to quickly absorb influences, mutating them to put his own unique take on things, which is what happened with this track. A gigantic subby elastic bass note framed by mad drumbreak edits, chopped up and punctuated with detuned bleeps. Again, broken as fuck but totally slamming. I recall Mary-Anne Hobbs dropping it at Bloc, and Rob Hall playing it in one of his legendary DJ mixes. Killer track.
Scorn – Gravel Bed (incl. Bracket remix)
This record is quite a personal one. Sometime in July 2006, the mighty Scorn emailed with some great news, saying he was halfway through a track for the label. Gravel Bed was born, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Right from the start you knew it was a track by Mick. Crushing beats, dissonant atmospherics and expansive, utter desolation. The artwork is by this amazing guy Federico Bebber, macabre but very beautiful images. My girlfriend at the time complained that it looks like the ghost of a drowned girl, which in fairness it does. My flatmate Ben Bracket and I quickly got to work on the remix, Ben on the drum edits and me doing the extra textures and atmospheres. It was a dream to get one of our heroes release on the label, and to remix them on top of it all. In retrospect I boosted the sub bass a bit too much, it overwhelms the dynamics at points. But Matt Colton was able to fix it during mastering, and cut the 12” loud one track per side. The next year Ben passed away, so this record is dedicated to him. There’s another Bracket remix, 2 step style, which will come out at some point.
Ingen & Boris Noiz – Root and Stem (Fausten mix)
This track combines some of my favourite things, breakbeat edits and broken rhythms from Boris Noiz, techno kicks from Ingen, nightmare soundscapes from Fausten, and loads of layered acid lines. The original track is a belter first dropped by Surgeon on Rinse FM. The remix came together remarkably quickly; while Monster X was fine-tuning Scalpel Calligraphy for the compilation, I was on the next machine cutting up parts for Root and Stem for mangling in Ultraloop. The basic structure was ready in a couple of days, the 303 section was extended (of course) and then we refined it over a week or so. It’s got that rushing, air-raid main acid riff punctuated with explosions of white noise and a bubbling ¾ acid line that drifts underneath it all, a lot of movement going on at the same time. 303 riot music. There’s a brilliant fan video of it here by Discordance, 3 D structures exploding and collapsing, chunks of it suspended in the air:
Find out more about Combat on their official website.