The Bug

By Gervase de Wilde

You might expect someone called The Bug to make music that infected you slowly, gradually penetrating your consciousness. In fact, he crawls into your brain, via bruised and ruptured eardrums, and buzzes violently against the insides of your skull. Traumatised, you stumble away, dazed and deafened.

While this may not be everyone's idea of a good time, there were over two hundred Warp/Rephlex heads in Hoxton's Plastic People on Wednesday night, eagerly anticipating aural violence from The Bug, The Aphex Twin and Luke Vibert. A damp start saw most of us standing in the rain on Curtain Road for an hour before the venue kindly opened its doors. On the inside, we found a bass-heavy system already cranked right up for some typical Aphex distortions. The cell-like interior of the club really leaves you with nowhere to hide and one of the people I'd come with was looking distinctly worried at the prospect of spending the rest of the evening there. For once though, Richard D James wasn't the star of the show – he soon handed over to The Bug, whose live set-up was complemented by the ragga vibes of MC Ras Bogle.

When he's playing out his dancehall inflected hardcore sound, The Bug takes twisted ragga basslines to places where the sun doesn't shine. Adding that extra layer of abrasion to the rough edges of his set, Ras Bogle's mic-chatting moved the dancefloor in what he described as ragga-muffin style (even if most of the crowd were probably coming to the music from more of a techno/hardcore angle). Incorporating some material from his new album Pressure, as well as what seemes like several versions of the heavy tunes released as 7's on the Razor X label, The Bug took us on a mind-and-ear-bending journey through the darkest dancehall and steppers rhythms. Extra flavour was added to proceedings by the MC-ing skills of a lady introduced as the 'dancehall queen'. Her contribution lightened the mood a little and gave all those bugging out at the front a timely demonstration of how exactly to win' up your waist in a dancehall style. The last ten minutes saw the bass onslaught taken even further with Ras Bogle back on the mic and I have to admit a slight feeling of relief as well as the obvious disappointment when they finished.

For me, the most striking thing about The Bug's new direction is how successfully he incorporates hardcore techno and ragga/dancehall – two utterly distinct cultures and musical styles, united by a shared appreciation of the loudest and heaviest rigs. Perhaps because of our distance from the origins of reggae and ragga (as well as close ties with Jamaica) the UK has always had an innovative sound system culture and The Bug is pushing dancehall in directions that Kingston's bashment producers would probably never contemplate. Other artists (Bristol's Full Watts, for example) have experimented with the sound and some squat party systems have been playing a ragga-jungle/hardcore style for a while now. But The Bug's incorporation of live MC-ing, dancehall basslines and hardcore beats in the same set shows that he has faith in the power of what Ras Bogle described as 'integration/not segregation'.
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