Release Date: Aug 26, 2014
Record label: Ninja Tune
Six years is an awfully long time to keep your fans waiting. But to be fair, Kevin Martin hasn't completely left us in the cold. We've had two full-lengths from King Midas Sound, plus a handful of EPs from The Bug, although none of them have been quite as earth-shattering as 2008's London Zoo. His unique blend of grime, dancehall and dubstep, along with his rib-crushing basslines and first-class choice in vocalists, meant that album had an insane number of sing-along rave classics.
After the brilliant brutalism of 2008's London Zoo, a set that fused and mutated ragga, grime, and dubstep, Kevin Martin snagged Bug collaborator Roger Robinson and Kiki Hitomi for King Midas Sound, whose Waiting for You was a dreamier if dread-filled affair. KMS performances grew increasingly combative, reflected in their 2013 single "Aroo" -- more akin to shoegazers Medicine, albeit with a desire to batter rather than pierce. Meanwhile, Martin kept the Bug around with infrequent 7" dosages dealt through Acid Ragga, his descriptively named, Ninja Tune-affiliated concept label.
Through his work with Justin Broadrick (Techno Animal, God, Ice), his own King Midas Sound project, and most notably as the Bug, Kevin Martin has earned a reputation for being on the cutting edge, while maintaining near obsessive quality control. Angels & Devils is his first album since London Zoo ascended all those year-end charts in 2008, and it's primed to expand that reign of glory where so many producers would fade into the fringes after that long a gap between albums. As the title suggests, the album is split into two halves.The "Angels" portion is clearly denoted by the contributions of Liz Harris (Grouper), copeland (formerly of Hype Williams) and Congo mystic Gonjasufi, with instrumentals tapping a rich vein of ambient downtempo.
“How did we get here and where do we go now?” asked Spaceape at the end of “Fuckaz” on The Bug's third album London Zoo. It’s the question vocalist Stephen Gordon leaves us with after two verses of social and political invective delivered in a series of fuck yous. “Fi all dem fucking people that ignore blatant facts just so they can maintain an order beneficial only to themselves”, fulminates Gordon on one of the many lines that capture the foreboding moment in which the album was released back in 2008.
The man born Kevin Martin (aka The Bug) is generally inspired in his choice of collaborators, heavily relying on them in his search for the ultimate hardcore soundclash. The aim is best epitomised here by The One, which manages to credibly squeeze both Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick and Roll Deep’s Flowdan onto the same track. Yet, under his King Midas Sound project Martin has also been working with lighter tones, and the first half of Angels & Devils is likewise tense but downbeat.
Kevin Martin has long been one of British music’s most interesting and creative characters. Through a varied two-decade plus career, Martin has consistently made excellent music across various genres. It’s his music under the persona of The Bug that has arguably been his most captivating. The Bug has a distinct ambience all of its own, with music that occupies its own bleak and murky world.
Review Summary: Down the rabbit hole.Angels and Devils, Kevin Martin’s newest LP as The Bug, spirals down further into the nether regions of bass music than Martin has ever traveled before. He’s made incredibly dreary music before (see King Midas Sound’s superb “Meltdown”), but he’s never done anything quite this ominous and oppressive. It has its fair share of dancehall killers, as any good The Bug album would, although it would seem that Martin has wised up to the extremely slim chance he’ll ever make anything as jaw-droppingly nasty as “Skeng” or “Jah Warrior” again.As a result, the album inches forward at a glacier’s pace through its entire first half.
Kevin Martin finally follows up 2008's apocalyptic London Zoo with more thumping end-times fare. This time around he splits his cast of guest vocalists into angels and devils (listeners lacking an LP can pretend to flip one over mid-set). The angels side earns its name via slow-burning, lush, and dubbed-out numbers featuring guests Liz Harris, copeland, Miss Red, and Gonjasufi, along with a few instrumental numbers that burrow all deep and introspective-like.
Kevin Martin’s last outing as The Bug, 2008’s ‘London Zoo’, was an apocalyptic satire about his hometown featuring a plethora of MCs and his trademark brooding dancehall. ‘Angels & Devils’, his third LP, uses dourness to create an album of contrasts. Side A (the ‘Angels’ side) is full of moody trip-hop and collaborations with soulful vocalists Liz Harris of Grouper and Inga Copeland formerly of Hype Williams.
Kevin Martin has been re-interpreting street musics—mostly dancehall, but also grime and dubstep—for nearly 17 years as the Bug, one of many aliases he’s worked under in a long career in underground music. He’s proved himself the rare artist capable of placing these sounds into more outre contexts without sacrificing any of their ferociousness. His last album, 2008's London Zoo, was full of menacing, fevered ragga that helped make explicit the connections between dancehall, grime, and the still-burgeoning dubstep scene.
It’s been six years since The Bug’s third album London Zoo came scuttling out of the UK capital’s underground like a toxic avenger, tearing strips off its enemies with a lethal blend of righteous indignation and street ferocity while channelling the goriest shades of dancehall, grime and dubstep. Six years is a long wait for the many fans The Bug has picked up since London Zoo, but two EPs and a number of 7” releases have helped pass the time. Most importantly, the years of anticipation have been vindicated by its full-length successor Angels & Devils, a superb follow-up that consolidates his strengths (bass menace, punk energy, unimpeachable vocal freelancers) while pushing into subtle new territory.
Each crisis bleeds messily into the next, and from our mass-mediated distance the effect is enough to scramble the senses. In an era of live rolling news feeds, minute-by-minute updates and hastily tossed off op-ed commentary, the divides and distinctions between these individual reported events become blurred: Gaza melts into Iraq, into Syria, into Ferguson Missouri, into petty divide-and-rule violences committed at home by a coalition government seemingly intent upon wreaking as much havoc as possible in its five-year tenure. The never-ending news flood is confusing: relatively minor events close to home are sucked into the same torrent as sickening injustices committed further afield, rendering it all surreal, somehow equidistant.
The Bug — Angels and Devils (Ninja Tune)It’s hard to brag about the condition of the world right now but harder to argue that not much has changed in the world over the last six years. When Kevin Martin presented London Zoo in the summer of 2008, the cauldron of aughts poisons was boiling over. The half-dozen dancehall MCs who took turns at his microphones narrated visions of trigger-happy bosses and a surveillance state.
opinion bySAMUEL TOLZMANN < @scatlint > In a pop-dance crossover climate where even seemingly guaranteed hits-to-be like Evian Christ’s “Salt Carousel” come and go without much in the way of fanfare, dropping menacing blasts of serrated bass synths is simply no longer enough to grab the attention of the internet or the dancefloor. But Kevin Martin, the London producer who’s been recording for almost two decades as the Bug, among other aliases, isn’t just any bass producer looking for an edge. For the uninitiated, here’s an analogue: When we want to remember a time when “brostep” felt like a game-changing development, when a "drop” seemed like it might actually possess enough force to do permanent damage to one’s insides, we look to Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites,” which continues to shock after all this time and EDM’s speedy ascent to monogeneric ubiquity.