Slikback, Burial, Brodinski, The Bug

The Bug burns the system with the unrelenting new album, ‘Fire’


Image: Ninja Tune

The thing about Kevin Martin is that he’s as much an extremist as he is a producer. Over the years, his various projects from the post-reggae group King Midas Touch to the dark and dubby Techno Animal have always pushed things extremely far. This doesn’t always mean in the direction of auditory assault, however. King Midas Touch’s 2019 album Solitude was the sonic manifestation of a black hole; vast, foreboding and at times gorgeously abysmal. His solo work under his own name explored ambience in a similar fashion, with his Frequencies For Leaving The Earth series exploring the impossible vastness of existential dread in response to the state of the world in 2020. Then of course, there is The Bug. Possibly his most recognizable solo persona, The Bug is Martin’s exploration into the evolution of reggaeton sounds in the scope of contemporary Britain, producing hard-edged and raging formulations of dub and grime. 2008’s London Zoo proved to be an instant modern classic, and its full-throttle, abrasive approach to the sounds of dub and dancehall in the age of dubstep would prove massively influential for the ultimate future of that genre. Fire, released by Ninja Tune, arrives as The Bug’s fourth studio album and dials up the extreme more than ever before. Taking its cue from its namesake, the album practically rages with the energy and ferocity of an uncontrollable blaze, consuming the space around it in its seething chaos. 

Download ‘Fire’ here

Born from the frustrations of the past year in the face of the pandemic and, perhaps more so, the British government’s mishandling of the crisis, Fire is foremost about anger. Throughout Fire, there is a definite sense of how this particular emotion is tantamount to the process of reconciliation, necessary to burn at its full force in order to move beyond it. On Hammer, Flowdan commands, “respect my manner,” against machine-gun, rapid fire beats. In many ways, Fire is The Bug’s rationalisation of these acrid emotions as essential proponents for change. There’s an anarchistic, punk spirit that grounds these explorations into the facets of rage here. It’s a commentary on a volatile moment in history, one which embraces the chaos and vomits it back out in buckets of lava. In this sense, this album goes harder than anything Martin has made before, an seismic outpouring of rage. It’s unmistakably The Bug, just significantly more extreme. Vexxed, which features an excellently deranged performance from Moor Mother, dials the bass up to shattering levels and twists Moor Mother’s voice into infernal snarls. Pressure is equally manic, with Flowdan spitting bars at a million miles per hour while Martin creates a maelstrom of hammering bass and industrial noise behind him. Bomb is borderline doomcore, recalling the demented noise art of Slikback. Fire closes with its most scorching statement, The Missing. An elegy spoken by poet Roger Robinson, The Missing is less a track than it is a memorium in sound, honoring the 72 victims of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire. That particular incident sparked essential discussions on the systemic inequality of British society, the burned down block of council flats becoming a symbol for the inequality of contemporary Britain. “A hundred people start floating from the windows of a tower block; from far enough away they could be black smoke from spreading flames,” says Robinson, deliberate in his delivery as a swarm of buzzing synths and industrial clutter rises behind him, engulfing his voice and filling the space with clouds of foreboding noise.

For these explorations into the multifaceted shades of aggression and the flavours of anger, The Bug finds his medium in distortion and earth shatteringly heavy bass. Considering the thematic concern of Fire and the space from whence it came, it makes an interesting case for itself as a companion piece of sorts to Frequencies For Leaving The Earth. Fire is the opposite of that extreme, both born from the same vexations and contemplations but resulting in two polar opposite responses. Considering these works together also speaks toward Martin’s almost performance art like approach to music making. He assumes these various names and personas to exorcise and reconcile the different parts of him by way of the different parts of his sound. On Fire, it’s the fear of humanity’s capability to destroy itself; contemplations on war, violence and disaster made tangible by way of jagged frequencies and seething motifs.

Listen to The Missing from Fire below.

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