Bristol curation and promotion collective The Bottle have kept themselves busy throughout 2020. With the restrictions in place obviously bringing live events to a standstill – the duo behind the brand – otherwise known as DJs The Milkshake Boys – took the bull by the horns and began releasing the Frontline EPs – delectable collections displaying the fast-rising acts both in the alternative and electronic communities who are that the forefront of what’s refreshing and exciting right now. With all proceeds from the sale of the EPs going to various charities – most notably the NHS Trust and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Foundation – the duo have not only ensured that they’ve adapted within the current state, but vitally contributed towards a better future within the current state of society.
The Frontline 05 EP, released last Friday, is the last in the series from The Bottle. It feels pertinent that not only is it a comprehensive collection of revitalising electronica from some of the South West’s most underrated producers, but it could be celebrated with their first event since lockdown last Friday, at new Bristol venue Strange Brew. The EP itself is an invigorating collaboration, ranging from pulse-pumping bass swelters to tectonic-grinding sub-setters – with a keen eye for a conceptual ebb and flow focusing the compilation. Señor Chugger & Count Van Delicious embrace a certain je ne sais quoi with a proper workman’s industrial disco – all nuclear alarms and 90s trap signifiers. It remains percussively heavy throughout – Blixa delivering the balearic stomp of ‘Movida’, Natural Sugars warping the shit out of some distortion on ‘Old Romantic’ and Egodeath get all anxious on us with the future-dwelling endorphin-melter of ‘Personal Data’. It’s disturbed for sure, but unquestionably galvanising.
The small victories may have come few and far between this year, but The Bottle have offered some real light and excitement through their run of releases in 2020. Whenever we do once again get to return to the euphoric elation of a night out like before, you can be sure The Bottle will be at the forefront kicking it off.
The EP as a whole really has a deft curation to it – it’s emotionally conceptual in it’s ebb and flow as much as any good DJ mix should be. Is there an element of experimentalism to putting these sorts of releases together, and do you feel you are able to curate a curatorial atmosphere in doing so?
Ben: Glad you think so! Well i think that the tone of a VA release like this is largely defined by who is on there, and the type of music that the people produce. Everybody that we reached out to is someone who’s music we admire and enjoy, but you never know exactly what track theyll send and what sound it will be. So yes it is quite exciting seeing how these sorts of things come together, then releasing it in a way that you hope makes it fit together as something well rounded and digestible.
It’s also interesting to explore the depth in which an electronic release such as this can cover. There’s such a variety on offer here – can you pinpoint what it is that makes it productively cohabit?
T: I think it’s nice with a compilation like this. You have a bit more freedom to explore different sounds and genres, as opposed to a 4 track EP for example where you’re a bit more restricted in the kind sound you want to release. I think because it’s for charity as well we hoped to cater to a wider audience and expose people to music they might not normally listen to. For me, what makes it all cohabit so well is the quality of music on offer, it makes for good listening when every song slaps so it’s a credit to the artists really more than anything.
The production on offer here is particularly gratifying – something like Seka’s Syzygy with it’s almost uniform, trembling percussive notions and Blixa’s subterranean house blitz hit that much harder because of the pin-point sharpness of its production value. Where do you stand on capturing that balance of energy and exuberance with technicality ability, and why do you think these artists do it so well?
Not being that seasoned producers ourselves its difficult to say what I think the people on here do well that makes their music sound great. But with everything we do with The Bottle we like it to be exciting, and have a bit of a party vibe to it, and thats what I think is reflected on the release. All the tracks go hard in their own way, even Admin’s more laidback track ‘only you’ has a face scrunch inducing basslline, if ya know what i mean.
How do you feel club culture is adapting to the current restrictions and limitations it’s being held under? Do you feel the reliance on streaming and visual mixes, something that has grown more and more popular over the years, will at some point become too much of a weight to carry for the format? Can it offer the same experience?
I feel club culture is adapting the best it can under the circumstances. People seem to have accepted sit-down gigs/club nights as the best way to experience music after a long period of nothing. I keep hearing the phrase ‘the new normal’ which drives me mad, I think it’s dangerous to start labelling this as ‘normal’ as this is not how music should be experienced. People go to watch live music or club nights to dance and lose themselves in an environment where you feel free from the rules and restrictions of everyday life. In terms of live streams, they definitely became the go-to method of enjoying music at the start of the pandemic, but I don’t think that’s sustainable, especially in terms of live music, both the artists and the crowd crave that face to face interaction. There’s nothing better than a live show where the artists and cores are feeding off one another’s energy.
You were able to celebrate the release of this Frontline EP with an event at Bristol’s new venue Strange Brew, something that we’ve been craving for many months. What was the experience like reorientating yourselves within a live space and within the context of live music as a whole?
Yeh it was wicked man, Strange Brew is a great new venue and was so enjoyable to just be back sharing music with people in that kind of setting. Everyone on our lineup killed it and there was just a great atmosphere in there, with i think a lot of people just enjoying having some music to listen to out again. Highlights of the day for me being the japanese flute sample that Senor Chugger and Count van Delicious were hammering during their closing balls-to-the-wall italo set and Esbees genre bending percussive hour earlier on.
The Frontline 05 EP is out now, purchase via Bandcamp below – all proceeds go to charity.
Words by Ross Jones Photography by Evie Spicer