Release Date: Apr 15, 2016
Record label: Livity Sound Recordings
Joe Cowton – aka Kowton – has lapped up a lot of understanding for dance music between his origins in Cumbria and time living in Manchester, Bristol and London. Livity Sound, his own label with Asusu and long-term Bristol tastemaker Peverelist, has focused on their own work and that of impressive companions such as Hodge. Uncompromising from the get-go, Utility is full of warehouse-ready post-dubstep techno of various shades, and its stargazing synth chords, disorientating samples and creepy, degenerate-sounding hooks are meant for just that environment.
The Bristol axis around the Livity Sound collective – Peverelist, Asusu and Kowton, plus friends such as Hodge, Batu and Alex Coulton – have produced some of the most interesting fusions of soundsytem culture with techno in the UK. Forming close ties with Berlin’s Hard Wax crew, they’ve combined the extreme sonic discipline of the deepest techno with the rolling rhythms of the post-jungle, post-dubstep British underground. Of all these producers, it’s Kowton who’s veered closest to house and techno.
Joe Cowton has come a long way. When the English producer debuted as Kowton in 2009, his 2-stepping Stasis (G Mix) / Countryman perfectly fit Keysound's nocturnal moods. Since then he's orbited around his own nexus of dubstep, grime, house and techno. But his percussive sound never crystallized, moving freely from the spare drum tracks of his early Livity Sound records to more synthy and bass-centric fare—which is probably the best approach for any future-facing dance floor practitioner.
Utility may be a debut, but it certainly shows no signs of inexperience. This assured first release from Bristolian native Kowton (who first popped up with a couple of singles as Narcossist, back in 2008-09) sees the artist and founding member of the Livity Sound label stump up a solid, nine-track-strong collection of grimy techno and club quality beats. Plenty of highlights for fans of minimalism can be found here – choose, for instance, from the frosty, shimmering synth and compelling tempo of Scido, or the deliciously dark, skittish Sleep Chamber.
Kowton — Utility (Livity Sound)Though he’s always articulate, something in particular stood out to me about a recent interview with Joe Cowton. “I would hate the idea that people saw us as depressing in any way,” he said in reference to the Livity Sound collective. “If there’s darkness, it’s delicately placed, rather than having big, sad chords on top of everything … You play with a couple of very basic tools and get a huge sense of place.”Livity Sound remains one of the few essential labels from the UK’s post-dubstep aftermath in part because its dedication to basic tools servicing huge sounds will never fall out of favor.