Just before the lockdown in early March, Kevin Martin moved from Berlin to Brussels. After ten years in the capital of Germany, he and his family were in for a change. For Martin, used to super-diverse Brixton, Berlin turned out to be a bit too mono-cultural.
Last month we spoke about his move for cultural magazine Gonzo (circus). Read the January/February issue (only in print) if you want to know more. His dancehall sound system and regular night Pressure remain at Gretchen, a club located in Berlin’s Kreuzberg area. Due to the covid-19 measurements, Martin still has to find out if Brussels is ready for his dancehall madness.
Before moving, Martin recorded a couple of albums. Last year he released Wrecked, as Zonal and together with long-time collaborator Justin Broadrick. Sedatives, a solo album under his own name Kevin Richard Martin, came out just a couple of months ago. I’ll link to the albums below.
Although US-born Felicia Chen aka Dis Fig lives in Berlin, she and Martin recorded In Blue without meeting each other in the studio. Last year, Dis Fig released Purge, a dark, rough, in times bombastic, industrial, experimental noise album on which Chen uses her voice mostly as an instrument.
The skeleton for In Blue dates back to 2018 when Martin recorded songs for a radio show. Early on in his explorations in music, he fell in love with dub and dancehall. Most of his recent projects are excursions to the borders of those genres. As The Bug, he combines a more studio scientific approach to dub and dancehall with a deep emotional longing for the dance floor. Both are equally important, although they seem to be extremes.
On the album In Blue, Chen uses her voice much more in a songlike vocal structure. Her vocals are thin, high-pitched and ghost-like, giving the deep fuzzy and noisy basslines the necessary counterbalance. Without them, the minimal dancehall rhythms, stripped from all melody and warmth would sound too rough and alienating.
Martin mixed the album in his new home studio in Brussels during the lockdown, and that makes it easy to interpret In Blue as a claustrophobic reaction to the isolation and loneliness fueled by the hopeless situation of being confined in your own home. In the last song ‘End In Blue’, the only thing left is the airy vocals of Chen on repetition. Martin and Chen refer to the sound of this album as ‘Tunnel Sound’: a foggy, melancholic meltdown of narco-dancehall, zoned soul and dread drenched, electronic dub.
The result is as beautiful as it is scary.
In Blue by The Bug & Dis Fig is released by Hyperdub.