The Skull Disco came to town…

… and killed it. The turnout wasn’t huge, but really quite good for a rainy Sunday night in a government town. More importantly though, the vibe was fantastic – people bang into the music, some properly shocking out up at the front. These were new sounds for a lot of people in the room they were really getting into it. Tsunami started things off with a bumping mix of UKG, skanked-out halfstep and I think some breaky bits. Jas Nasty came out in full on dub mode, took a few mashed up turns, and finished off with High Plains Drifter. Both sets were excellent. These really are my two favourite DJs in Ottawa, and I just happen to be lucky enough to work with them.


Sam’s set was absolutely brilliant. The depth of these Skull Disco tunes really comes through when they all get a chance to mix together – all of those characteristic textures and intricate evolutions of rhythmic relationships. Mixing them on decks myself, I notice that, like the DMZ releases, they seem to have an internal logic about them that lets them link together in ways that other releases couldn’t. He played strictly his own productions, most of which I knew (including never-to-released classics ‘The Stopper’ and ‘Limb By Limb’), but there were some major surprises thrown in early on. I’m really taken by his new material, a lot of which runs at a more languid 120 BPM. His 140+ rhythmscapes are usually quite dense – full of timbral shifting as the individual elements carry on prolonged dialogues with one another. But these new tracks, with their slower pace and slightly more sedate programming, are much more spacious. They give Sam’s affection for dub more room to play. And they open up new spaces for vocals, now being provided by the MC formerly called Great Emancipator (he’s got a new name now but I’m afraid it’s slipped my mind).


What’s more (and this goes way back to my desire for more Agitronics), Emancipator’s lyrics tend towards overt and specific political commentary. This is an absolute breath of fresh air in a period when virtually everyone making music seems allergic to political conviction, as if somehow, politics and agitation have become too quaint after 2001. Shackleton’s music is heading in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, only a couple of these tracks got an airing at the show, as Sam was concerned about testing dancers’ patience too much. I heard a few back at the house, though – including a freshly cut dub of his Pole remix (don’t even get me started on how great this Pole thing is going to be), and I’m hoping to get properly punished by them when he plays in Montreal this week.

Finally, I just want to thank Sam for coming and being such pleasure to have around. We had some major wrenches thrown into the planning of this thing, but he made it here (with his sense of humour intact) and pulled off a fantastic set that everyone there will remember for a long time to come. It was really encouraging to hear from so many people how thankful they were that Ottawa got to have a show like this. I think Skull Disco found a whole new batch of fans on Sunday. Thanks to everyone who came out.


My set list:

Ricardo Villalobos ‘Fizheur Zieheuer Pt. 1’ (Playhouse)
Phylps ‘Track II – Untitled’ (Basic Channel)
Rhythm & Sound w/ Tikiman ‘Music A Fe Rule’ (Rhythm & Sound)
Massive Music / kode9 – ‘Find My Way’ kode9 Remix (Hyperdub)
RSD ‘Corner Dub’ (Punch Drunk)
Mala ‘Bury the Bwoy’ (DMZ)
Marc Ashken – ‘Roots Dyed Dark’ Skream Remix (Leftroom)
kode9 ‘Magnetic City’ (Soul Jazz)
Mala ‘Left Leg Out’ (DMZ)
Jason Kaye (?) ‘Untitle’ (Hotpoint)
TRG – ‘Broken Heart’ (Hessle Audio)
Jamie Woon ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ Burial Remix (Live Recordings)
Peverelist – ‘The Grind’ (Punch Drunk)
Substance & Vainqueur – ‘Immersion’ (Scion Versions)
Mala – ‘Forgive’ (Deep Medi)

I really put my money where my mouth has been on this one. After banging on about ‘the state of things’ for so long, Sunday was all about forward-sound and mutation. A huge thanks to Jasmine and Matt for all the work they did to help bring this together.

Right, off to Mutek!

* Buy Skull Disco music, including the 2 CD collection Soundboy Punishments at

* Read Blackdown’s newest Pitchfork column for more on the growing links between Skull Disco/Bristol Sound and Basic Channel/Hardwax/Berlin.

3 Responses to “The Skull Disco came to town…”

  1. Gutter Says:

    glad it all came together, paul! interesting setlist from you there as well..ridiculously close to where my head’s at these days!

  2. Kuma Says:

    magic! glad to hear it went off properly…

  3. Jas Nasty Says:

    YAY paul! thanks so much, and you need to be praised for all your work as well! It is a pleasure working with you, and I am so touched you consider me one of your favorite dj’s, i feel the same way about you!

    What an amazing night it was. I felt honoured to be involved, and it is so amazing to play your favorite music and have people be really into it and dancing….thanks everyone!