Youngsta at Dark Crystal, Sheffield, 3-5-2007

I’m not sure I can put into words how good Youngsta and Task were last Thursday. It was a DJ set that simultaneously displayed such awesome power, evil groove and monumental beauty that it was impossible to experience it without an over powering sense of transcendence.

Everything good that Youngsta is famous for was fully present and correct; nothing of the errors Youngsta occasionally displays was in evidence. The technical skill of mixing and transformational EQ was spellbinding, and as ever the selection was not just unique – much of his arsenal of exclusives was deployed – but impeccable: the set unfolded in every sonic dimension to assume ziggurat-like proportions. Dramatic teasers of hits such as Cays Crays, Crunked Up (sadly not present in doubled form) and even Midnight Request Line were seductively dropped into the mix.

Yet at no point did Youngsta descend into faux-techno formalism or blank, funk-less industrial wobble. This is not to say that wobble, industrial tones or techno stylings were not in evidence – they were, and abundantly. What was different was that these were simply elements of the palette with which Youngsta has re-painted garage. For Sheffield is a difficult city for dubstep stars to play in, but an excellent place to see them. Ours is a small city, with a small scene, and few core fans, and therefore it is a punishingly hard city to win over; but as a result dubstep artists have to raise their game to make a night worthwhile. I got the impression Task at least was unimpressed with both the turnout, which I would guess was 200 (though I’d be happy to be proved wrong), and the response; compared with DMZ or FWD the DQ bar must be something of a comedown. What was worse was the system which, due to a visitation by Health and Safety earlier in the evening, was not operating at the peak of its probably fairly limited capacity. Sound was hi-fi-clear and well extended, but there was not a hint of chest rattle. It was a sound to listen to and dance to, but not a sound in which one could take up residence. Bass was boosted heavily ten minutes into Youngsta’s set (as evidenced on the tape by a sudden rush of distortion) which boosted the crowd’s energy nicely.

Even so the people who had made the effort to attend were surprisingly up for it, and the crowd was well mixed too. I had the privilege of going with renowned dubstep promoters the c90 crew, , who are some of the most dedicated dubstep soldiers in the country, but there were plenty of less committed punters who were going for it. Prior to Youngsta, Distinction was really on too early to be able to do anything more than provide background noise for early drinkers, but Rogue State had a fair sized midnight crowd that they managed to utterly make their own. Frankly I didn’t expect much but now I predict great things.

They play a very personal style of dubstep, delivering a set that was maybe 80% their own tunes, creating a delicious variant of 4 x 4 techno-infused dubstep that was very danceable indeed. The crew’s DJing style was confident and had every reason to be; I will definitely be going back for more. They have a record out on R8 records that I need to track down – Alex Deadman, who helped promote the night and is involved in R8, was raving to me about how good it was a couple of weeks ago. I should have paid more attention. I’ve expressed doubts about Peveralist’s work before, but not only did Rogue State manage to turn his The Grind into something spookily funky, but they were easily able to match it with their own productions. Anyone taken with the minimal / techno-influenced side of Bristol dubstep should check out Rogue State immediately. I’d also draw something of a parallel with Cloaks, who seem to be criminally under-appreciated if not almost completely unknown, despite enjoying success on the Werk label, I must write about them actually.

They also dropped TimeBlind’s excellent Copy Copy (to which EP I gave a mixed review a few months back), so if you perceive a certain Hermetic clicky electronicism to their sound, you’d be right, but by god they can bang a party. I notice the redoubtable Foresnics is all over Rogue State like a cheap suit on his (very good) May mixtape – big up the bad man of the monthly mix. Rogue State even managed to rise above the unimpressive MCs, who were I’m afraid nowhere near as good as those usually fielded by Junglist Alliance.

At best they were a bit nondescript and at worst, especially in the climactic final ten minutes of Youngsta’s set, they were actively irritating. Certainly they were a distraction D1 whose set started promisingly with some delicious hazy string driven garage but which was sabotaged by technical problems – it looked like the right hand needle was jumping all over the place. He advanced too rapidly into plodding halfstep for my taste, but by then I was finished anyway.

Youngsta at Black Market

So the night belonged to Youngsta, but then we expected that to be the case.frmthe first primal, open-ended, effortlessly funky cut, which was expertly doubled, Youngsta was utterly in control of the dance.

The over-powering and entirely unexpected product of Youngsta’s expert transformational EQ and overwhelming selection was that he took you to a very similar place as Mala, but by a completely different route. For Mala famously delivers what is effectively roots music – spiritually-founded, humanistic, yet other-worldly sonic medicine that successfully attempts to elevate the soul – even among people who don’t believe they even have a soul. Mala’s sound is, above all else, one of organic warmth – even when delivering his most punishing, hurting, industrial steppers, there is an abiding presence of sentiment that overflows through the speakers. Youngsta’s artistic is quite different. As Task so frequently and effectively warned us, Youngsta’s aim is to “bring the coldness”. His desire is to explore the texture of sound, unencumbered by any attempt to invoke obvious human feeling – yet paradoxically, that sense of reserve, of emotional humility, serves only to magnify the emotional impact of his sets. Never mind the fact that at around the 20 minute mark he dropped the most monstrous Coki wobbler yet made, cut together with some vast, menstrual electro war machine, a combination that was quite simply the most devastating application of bass science conceivable in mid 2007. That technical perfection is irrelevant compared to the overall pattern of his selection, which combines to take you to a place that is simultaneously utterly transcendent of everyday consciousness, and nakedly rooted in human experience. And, of course, a fantastic night out. Listening back to the tape I am reminded of nothing more than prime period On-U sound, but he was in so many ways better. There can be no higher praise. Youngsta slew dem.

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