After heavy-duty releases on self-administered imprints Low End Activism and Sneaker Social Club, as well as London’s beloved graffiti-laden mutant-bass stronghold Seagrave (RIP), the almighty Low End Activist makes a welcome debut with the ESP Institute. No stranger to mining distant regions the hardcore continuum and the residue of soundsystem culture at large, his relentless traversing and assembling of U.K.-specific rhythms demonstrates there is no end in sight when it comes to evolving the region’s musical gene pool. The 5-track 'Gossip Is The Devil’s Radio' strings together a smear of dystopian instrumentation—ghostly pads wrapped in melancholy, percussion that marries bleep with low resolution shrapnel, and vocal fragments that resemble a control tower’s two-way radio on the fritz—all imperfectly focused through a damaged lens of dancehall. We’re drawn to a dull moan that pervades throughout the record, reminiscent of the nihilistic moments in Abigail Meade’s score to 'Full Metal Jacket' where the sonics resemble a slow churn of molten steel occasionally punctuated and pierced by crystalline shards. The depth between the bone dry immediate foreground and distant wet background creates an exquisite sense of longing which isn’t inherently dark or menacing, but seductively bleak. As voyeurs, we may certainly appreciate the aesthetic LEA portrays, but we can’t fully comprehend the sense of escapism rooted within this music without having come of age in the damp and restless confines of England on the cusp of Thatcher’s abuse. Its a reminder that the light at the end of a tunnel, while it may be dim and grey, is still a light after-all, and the only way out is through.
Published: 10th August 2023