Over the last ten years, genre divides have appeared and dissolved in quick succession, and few labels have adapted to the changing conditions as seamlessly as Hessle Audio. The label Ben UFO, Pearson Sound and Pangaea launched in 2007 with a laser focus on odd strains of dubstep transitioned around 2010 or 2011 into “bass music” and then gradually eased into dubstep-indebted techno with recent releases from newer recruits Bruce and Ploy. Now a decade old, Hessle has developed into one of the most influential record labels in UK dance music. The founders’ clear creative vision has heavily influenced a new generation of producers, DJs and label owners from around the world who will shape the next decade. We spoke to artists with close ties to Hessle, from Midland to Beatrice Dillon, to find out which cuts have become long-lasting favorites.
Call Super: Pearson Sound, “Blanked” (2010)
“Some labels are platforms for the people they release, and that is obviously all well and good, but very occasionally a label will cumulatively go beyond that and become an influential vision in itself. I believe we can say that about Hessle Audio. This is primarily why the question of a favorite piece of work on the label is perhaps a question for a rainy day. We could be here a while. There are obviously tracks that are important to the label and that in turn have had an impact on our scene that I appreciate hugely—’Claptrap’, ‘Anaconda’, ‘Don’t Change For Me’, ‘Cactus’, ‘Fram’ and ‘Blue’ would fall in this category for me.
However, those are different to the ones which have just given me the purest pleasure over the years. In this category I could happily write about ‘Why’, ‘Raw Code’ (probably the track I have played the most in my own sets), ‘Slope’, or ‘Zone’. My choice, though, is ‘Blanked’. I first heard it on a sound system at Horst Kreuzberg in Berlin in maybe early 2010. It was a time of optimistic horizons in club music. The track corners in sequence the components that comprise the simple architecture of most dance music with absolute efficiency: rhythm, bass, emotion and release. It begets a very stark beauty. It balances simplicity against complexity. It is produced with a clarity of vision that remains totally striking.
The thing is, I could repeat those sentences in reference to the majority of Hessle’s catalog. That is why the label should not just be seen as a benchmark in the context of the scenes it grew from and beyond, and it is why over ten years Hessle has become a benchmark in a much broader history of club music.”
Machine Woman: Bruce, “Petal Pluck” (2016)
“Bruce is someone who has been on my musical radar for a while. He has that Bristol flavor I really admire. The track really plays with your sense of space; it gives and takes layers. I think if this track were a film it would be Moon by Duncan Jones; it’s a British science-fiction drama. Now you have to watch the film to see the connection.”
Batu: Pangaea, “Inna Daze” (2011)
“After changing my mind about 15 times I’ve settled on this one. For me ‘Inna Daze’ is definitely an underrated track from the Hessle discography, maybe because of the time it came out: sandwiched in between ‘Blanked’ and ‘Dance Til The Police Come’. As with a lot of Pange’s tracks it treads a fine line between a lot of things with the drums. There’s a 2-step swing to it, but it also feels very techno. It could fit into so many sets and situations—I love tracks like that. Leif recently played it at a Timedance party. It sounded crazy and it tore the roof off. It was amazing to see that reaction from such a heads down, meditative tune.”
Shanti Celeste: Joe, “Claptrap” (2010)
“I really like this track because it’s super energetic with all the claps and how sparse it is…. this makes it a super fun track to mix!”
Midland: Ramadanman, “Blimey” (2008)
“I first met David, Ben and Kev before they started Hessle and have avidly followed the label’s progress ever since. After listening back through the label’s back catalog a few times, have chosen ‘Blimey’ by Ramadanman. I could easily have written a top ten—another day perhaps. What I have always loved about David’s music is how singular it is; it exists completely its own universe. With this record I feel like he really boiled everything down to the very bare minimum. It’s ruthlessly efficient. A kick, a sub, a woodblock, a shaker, fragments of field recordings and those pads that are never quite there. That he made this when he was 20 still amazes me. I feel like you could play this record to someone who had never heard it before and they would be unable to tell you when it was made. For me, that’s why I love the label so much: it’s timeless.”
Beatrice Dillon: Joe, “Claptrap”/”Level Crossing” (2010)
“Supreme percussion palette… a desert island disc for sure!”
Resom: Joe, “Claptrap” (2010)
“This is one of those tracks which is perfect to connect all different styles and makes you move with its rhythm. It is insanely well-made and unpredictable when you hear it the first time. I also like the fact that there is no straight bass drum or defined genre, which suits the acoustic philosophy of the label pretty well imho—which seems to me to definitely be about sound aesthetics and everlasting tracks. But tbh: it’s more than difficult to choose one track from a whole label catalog when you have such an amount of high-quality releases like Hessle Audio has.”
rRoxymore: Joe, “Level Crossing” (2010)
“I really like every production released by Joe, and ‘Level Crossing’ has everything I like. It’s funky and has a kind of humor.”