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1000names might just be one of the best-kept secrets in music. Despite being at the forefront of the beats/wonky scene this side of the Atlantic that’s blown up so big in the last year, they’ve somehow stayed just under the radar.
And it’s not like they’ve been quiet: since their debut on the seminal Beatnicks Vol. 1 alongside Jackhigh and Rustie – perhaps the record which defined the scene in its current incarnation – they’ve put out two EPs, two split singles and an album and been featured on Alex Nut’s Rinse compilation, but somehow it took until now for them to start to get the recognition those who know them have long expected.
The answer probably lies in the fact that they’re coming out Sofia, Bulgaria. Out on the Eastern edge where Europe becomes Asia on the shores of the Black sea, it’s hardly a global music industry hotspot. But maybe it’s this relative isolation that makes them stand out in the current explosion of low bpm music from LA, London, Glasgow and elsewhere.
First up, they’ve had time to get their sound right. Forming in 2005 as the union of a drummer and a painter with a shared love of samples they pooled their resources to get an Akai MPC and, guided by the sounds of Dabrye, Madlib/Quasimoto and J Dilla, pretty soon they knew where they were headed. Strangely, when you see them now it seems surprising they only teamed up four years ago – they look alike, they walk alike, they finish each other’s sentences – in fact, they’re more like a pair of brothers or non-identical twins. Obviously this was one of those partnerships that was just going to happen, eventually, no matter what.
Back in those days the European beats scene was tiny. Unknown to the media, ignored by blogs, this was a one-to-one network that owed its whole existence and sense of being to the internet. In this way it may be the first scene that was truly born of the internet age and truly international.
“It was nice, friendly and innocent. Everyone was unsigned” says Nikko a.k.a 99 Mistakes, the painter half of the pair. “We hooked up with Fulgeance on Myspace; the same with Jackhigh. Jackhigh told Joscha from [German label] Up My Alley about us, and Fulgeance connected us with [French label] Eklektik. Joscha heard Melonball Bounce and the next thing we were on Beatnicks Vol. 1 and we had signed an exclusive deal with Eklektik.”
Maybe it’s their involvement with mainly European labels that’s kept them out of the glare of the British media, more focused on the Rustie/Hud Mo axis in Glasgow and on the growth of dubstep. However, that’s all set to change, with an upcoming release on Bristol’s Black Acre on 10” green vinyl, followed by an EP on Eklektik and three EPs on the new Svetlana Industries label, also home to Jackhigh.
The original 1000names sound was hip hop based; samples and loops underpinned by possibly the wonkiest beats in the scene. Take classic tracks Melonball Bounce or Beauty Surrounds You –one a mash-up of a vintage Sprite advert, the other of the theme from Born Free. In both cases the tracks start with a conventional loop that’s thrown totally off when a huge beat comes in that seems to be hooked to another groove entirely and yet totally fits. This is known to cause two physiological effects in the listener – one a broad smile of pleasure and surprise, the other a potentially painful whiplash in the neck caused by interrupted headnod.
This was a direction that they refined and distilled over several years to reach culmination on 2009’s Toys Room Combat longplayer on Eklektik, but since last year something else has come into the mix: they’ve come under the influence of the synthesiser. Or, more specifically, the sound of early 80s electrodisco. You can see it in the song titles: Saturn Race, Paradise Rings, Marz on Marz, Roket Loop…
They’ve always had a sci-fi element to their sound and to their graphics, but now it seems like it’s out of control. Yep, there’s no doubt – it’s 2010, and, from a concrete Communist tower block somewhere in Sofia, 1000names are taking off.
by Toby Brundin.