“No? Who am I then? – A puppet. – And you’re not? Or maybe, you’re my puppet. But like all puppets you think you’re actually human. It’s the puppet’s dream, being human.”
Silent Dust is the musical project of Andy Hobbs (Hobzee) and Daniel Blishen (Zyon Base). They have been producing music under their respective solo monikers for more than a decade and made their discography debut as a duo in 2008. Hobzee & Zyon Base forged their unique career path from the prevalent post-liquid drum & bass sound to the outskirts of Autonomic with releases on some of the genre’s renowned labels including SGN:LTD, Fokuz, Influenza Media and Samurai Music (‘1000 Paper Cranes’ is a firm favourite), which garnered wide support and praise by the genre’s most prolific djs and taste-makers.
In 2011, with the supportive encouragement of Marcus Intalex, Hobzee & Zyon Base re-invented their musical identity and vision and emerged as Silent Dust. In fact, their sophomore self-titled album was penciled to be released on Marcus’ Soul:R, however due to distribution issues the project was halted. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as Silent Dust decided to launch their own platform none60 beyond the genre confines, free from schedule restrictions, formulaic constraints, expectations and musical agendas.
“The label was initially set up purely as a vehicle to release our album and new ‘Silent Dust’ material. By having our own label, we knew we could have complete creative control, speed up release times and always have a home for our music. It also meant that we could operate outside of the 170 tempo, which people had begun to expect. After a year or so of just releasing our own material, we realized that it would be a great platform to release music from artists that we were fans of and were making music similar to our own. The label title (none60) is a bit of a play on one-sixty, but the ‘none’ is there to represent the fact that we don’t feel tempo should be as important as it is often made out”.
Fortunately the aforementioned 14-track album titled ‘Silent Dust’ (NSYCD001) survived intact and was released on October, 31st 2011. The album sampler includes remixes of the lead singles ‘The Giant’ and ‘1959’ by the genre’s luminaries Marcus Intalex, Om Unit and Calibre respectively.
The establishment of none60 through necessity proved pivotal for Silent Dust. It provided an opportunity to reassess their approach to music allowing them to break away from creative restrictions and expectations and foreshadowed their most creatively ambitious work to date. Their time since none60’s birth has seen them remove all limitations of genre, tempo and conventions, frequently collaborating with gifted vocalists like DRS, Selfsays, Zilla Rocca, Jon1st and terror among others.
Fast forward to 2018, none60’s back catalogue has reached thirty releases. The label fosters a creative habitat for like-minded artists, who have been making waves the last few years including Sinistarr, Dexta, Oliver Yorke, Quentin Hiatus, Dissident, Lewis James, Sina. to name a few. The label’s cinematic aesthetics (even ‘Silent Dust’ has been inspired from an episode of ‘The Avengers’ TV series in the 60s, which is also where the intro and outro to their none60 podcasts come from) are supplemented by exquisite artwork. The record/cd sleeves and digital posters for none60 have been designed by Simon Buckley, Steve Jones, James Mernagh and Woefoep. Retro and futuristic themes with a touch of surrealism, rich colour palettes and stunning photography combined with minimal yet intricate designs add a new artistic dimension to the musical output.
“In the time since we released our first album we’ve been working with a lot of vocalists and also had the opportunity to remix a few non Drum & Bass acts (a collection of official and unofficial remixes titled ‘Fragments’ has been recently made available on the Silent Dust bandcamp page here), so steering away from the conventional d&b template has been more of a natural progression than something we purposefully set out to do. We still really like Drum & Bass and working at that tempo, but you can learn so much more by simply switching tempo and allowing yourself to take more chances”.
Silent Dust – Listen To The Night (NSYCD002, none60, September 2018)
“We had planned to follow up our debut album quickly, but we enjoyed the freedom of releasing singles and opening up none60 to other artists. Seven years and 30(!?) none60 releases later we have the follow up!”
Silent Dust’s second album ‘Listen To The Night’ premiered last Friday (September, 28th) and is available for preview and purchase on bandcamp and at your favourite outlets. As the title suggests, it is the soundtrack of dreaming, adding widescreen vistas and deep, saturated hues to the monochrome night silence. A time for reflection with moments passing quickly and regenerating until the night is over.
Silent Dust effortlessly collage instances of drum & bass, hip hop, electro and jazz in a sophisticated, almost theatric fashion augmented with an extensive use of film dialogue vocal samples and sci-fi literature excerpts.
The CD version contains 11 tracks; there’s also a digital bonus track and a supplementary EP with 4 instrumental versions of vocal tracks. The 3-track vinyl album sampler includes a compelling Calibre remix of the album’s lead single ‘Refuse’.
The opening track ‘Half Night’ sets the tone of the album starting with an eerie melody, wind chimes and a sampled dialogue involving a dream, taken from David Lynch’s cult mystery film ‘Mulholland Drive’ (2001). Soon the dream cuts short, wondering if it is day or night and the track enters post-Autonomic territory with a haunting female chant and an orchestration of radiating harp and piano strings that gently sway in immersive ambience.
The pace radically changes with the unapologetic yet heart-breaking downtempo lead track ‘Refuse’, featuring the vocal talents of DRS. Calibre’s technical wizardry transformed it into a mesmerizing roller retaining the emotional weight of the original (the remix is exclusive to the vinyl album sampler).
‘Another Sunlight’ captures the first solar rays, as the sun comes up from the edge of the deep green sea. Synth tones diffuse and hum as vignettes, often crisp and bright, other times dissolving into ‘Boards of Canada-esque’ unease.
‘Beat Fate’ (featuring Illingsworth, SelfSays & Jon1st, the track is also included in the album sampler) is an exemplary hip-hop theme with one of those archetypal high-pitched, snaking keyboard lines.
‘Myths’ is definitely one of the album’s highlights with lingering chords, stuttering vocodered vocals, a captivating breakdown and a poignant and thought-provoking Ray Bradbury quote taken from his classic dystopian novel ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (1953): “…the scientists have theories, and the theologians have myths, and they are both the same thing, because we end up in ignorance…”
‘Puppet’s Dream’ (my personal favourite) is a sci-fi lullaby. With soft and delicate ambient textures and acoustic guitar licks, the main theme is centered again on a dream; the puppet’s dream being human. The vocal sample appears on Steven Soderbergh’s film adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s timeless novel ‘Solaris’ (2002).
‘$$$’ (featuring terror) stylishly integrates a swing jazz choir into hip-hop and urban culture finishing with a word of advice: “spend your money wisely”.
‘Waiting On You’ has a repetitive vocal hook bordering on an EDM club track, but Silent Dust proficiently get away with it, shifting to a d&b tempo with additional layers of subtle, melancholic strings.
‘No One Man’ (featuring Selfsays) starts with an announcement warning about the purpose and peril of propaganda, taken from a post-war public information video, and is the album track with the most dynamic percussion parts with lyrics recounting the futility of proclaiming one’s truth, agonies and fears.
‘November’ (featuring Zilla Rocca) is one of the album’s most emotional pieces, combining silky vocals with a rumbling off-kilter bass-line. A casual re-interpretation by Silent Dust (aptly titled ‘No Jacket Required Mix’) is a digital bonus track.
The closing track ‘Silence’ (featuring Sina.) is a very pleasant electro/synth-house surprise capturing a breezy summer night; echoes of innocent and simpler times.
“It’s probably cliché to say it, but I hope the album tells a story and works as a whole as that was something we set out to do, despite the mix of Drum & Bass and Hip Hop we think it flows really well. The vocalists really make the album and absolutely nailed their parts – we are lucky to work with such great vocalists that really understand what we are trying to do… it makes it such a smooth process!
There are plans for something early next year, but can’t say 100% just yet. For the time being we really wanted just the one remix and who better to get involved than Calibre, after the job he did on ‘1959’ from our first album!”
Silent Dust are musical story tellers and ‘Listen To the Night’ creates a narrative that includes the listener as co-traveler and participant in their late night tales.
Quotes in blue italics by Andy Hobbs
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