Pev & Hodge, Bells

[Punch Drunk]

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After a series of fruitful collaborations and releases on Livity Sound, Honest Jon’s Records, and Hessle Audio, Tom Ford (alias Peverelist) returns to his Punch Drunk label after a three-year break, working this time alongside fellow Bristolian Jacob “Hodge” Martin (also known as one half of Outboxx). The 12″ in question is called Bells, and it features two different versions of the same theme, namely “Dream Sequence” and “System Mix.” Although both producers share a common infatuation with all things percussive, two distinct rhythmic signatures can be found on both versions of “Bells.”

On “Dream Sequence,” Pev’s counterintuitive spatial setting gives way to Hodge’s tendency for beautiful harmonies and a straight 4/4 kick — a significantly unexpected deviation from the sweaty dub explorations for which Punch Drunk has been known. This cut therefore reveals an impressive amount of restraint from Ford, whose otherwise nonconformist drum patterns crowned him as a staple of contemporary junglist expression. Luckily, Hodge’s challenge results in a simple but beautiful example of understated techno, washed in subtle osmosis of echoey church bells and scissoring hi-hats, pulsating textures and sub-bass stabs, circling up into a deeply hypnotic and meditative ending. The “System Mix” however, is emblematic of Pev’s buoyant bass excursions. This time, Ford’s syncopated compositional language prevails completely, rendering this version a dubwise study in tension, torn between stuttering drums and drifting third-generation church bell echoes, sunken in massive sub-bass howls. It’s a typical Peverelist start-stop system, paying attention to the smallest of details, giving an almost lifelike feel to every echo. And although it will definitely run for one of the best heavyweights of the year, it ironically seems less shocking than the majestic, 4/4-driven “Dream Sequence” — and in comparison to Pev’s recent maddening output, it might even sound tame.

We’ve seen both producers drift toward techno for quite a while now, each from their own perspective and on their own terms. But now, with wider tectonic shifts in Bristol toward this direction becoming ever more evident, they have sought to find a common experimental ground for even bolder moves. Peverelist has already proven he can fit his UK sound-system bass into any template that comes along, and Hodge’s techno sensibility has seeped well into his Outboxx project. As usual, this Punch Drunk release is an excellent pair of tunes with numerous masterful touches, and their immense potential sounds more like a promising start of something entirely new and brilliantly stark, a taste of what may come — rather than the thing itself.

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