Bruise, the new duo consisting of British underground upstart Sona Vabos and 90’s UK House stalwart Diesel (of X-Press 2 fame), are on a mission with their sprawling, ecstatic debut, Presentation EP. Despite occupying different niches and career points in the ever-shifting landscape of underground UK electronic music, these two clearly share an affinity in their approach to music-making; no-punches-pulled, unadulterated, classic-House indebted dance-floor igniters.
Case-in-point: the first track off the B-side of Presentation, “Grand Hi.” After the explosive, choir-vocals-infused A-side opener, “Jagged Angel,” and the more subdued, yet pummeling dub-techno of follow-up, “Dark Sun”, “Grand Hi’s” opening disco piano chords feel like a warm ray of sunlight bursting through the grimy clouds. What’s so remarkable about this track is how it incorporates many of the elements so commonly found in early-90s Detroit or Chicago House, and yet makes it into something other than just pure revisionism, something wholly exciting and expansive. The key here lies in the simplicity of the structure and the attention paid to each arrangement. As the piano undergirds the whole track, Bruise seamlessly introduce more and more elements, including, most notably, a Nile Rodgers-esque guitar line, swelling orchestral strings, and, of course, those crisp hi-hats that simply beg dancers to clap along while being swept away amongst the rushes of euphoria.
With this track, the duo seems to have tapped into the essence of what makes house music so timeless. There’s not a single detail that feels out of place here, yet there is no fussiness or overwrought tinkering either. This speaks to the kinetic chemistry of the collaboration itself and the meeting of two minds on the same tireless, party-starting wavelength.
How did this group come about? Who approached who first?
Christian: I’ve known Darren for a number of yearshaving first met whilst working at PRS for Music. We quickly bonded over a shared affection of classic Detroit records and weird electronica and I eventually plucked up the courage to play Darren some demos, then things slowly morphed from there into a collaboration and voila Bruise!
Darren: Bruise came in to be being as an organic development through our appreciation of house and techno. We both work at PRS for Music and would often meet up at work and after work playing projects that we were currently working on. Can’t remember who originally initiated the partnership but it was about a couple of years ago now.
For Darren, what was it about Christian’s music or approach that really spoke to you and made you realize you must collaborate?
Darren: The thing I liked about Christians music was predominantly his approach to arrangement and melody. I really liked his work ethic and attention to detail. My main focus/limitation is drum programming and basic grooves. We both use Maschine so it seemed like the perfect hook up considering our love of Chicago House and Detroit Techno.
For Christian, do you see Darren as a kind of role model for your own career? What about his work or career do you find most inspiring?
Christian: Totally. Xpress-2 are proper house legends and with Ballistic Brothers and Darren’s own productions as Yellow Sox, I certainly see a role model in his ability to straddle different genres whilst always keeping thingsfocused on the dance floor. Darren’s also a phenomenal crate digger, always unearthing some weird and wonderful undiscovered gem to bring to the studio to fire up the creativity.
Talk a bit about your respective methods for making music. How do they differ? How are they similar?
Christian: My role and focus is on the writing, productionand the more technical elements with Darren steering the ship, making sure we’re going in the right direction and drawing on his crate digging chops! I always like to start with a blank slate for every session, so I never know where a track will end up and hopefully that approach comes across in what I think is a pretty varied selection of tracks on the EP.
Darren: My method of working is straight forward. I tend to only program beats or use samples, simply as I can’t play keys. I quite like being limited by options which results in having to be more creative. I used to use an MPC3000 but now do everything through Maschine which Christian also uses. Christian is more the technical practitioner as he has his own studio. He’s also, even though he won’t admit it, a great keyboard player so he’s definitely on the musical side and has great range with ideas and melodies and chord sequences. It seems to be a perfect match.
What about the label, Meda Fury, speaks to your own ethos as DJs and artists?
Darren: Everything about the Meda Fury label is in line with our outlook and take on house music. Also we’re fans of the label so to be approached by the head Nick Williams to release an EP was really thrilling. We love the label’svision and the consistent quality release after release. We played our first Bruise DJ set at Five Miles in London just before lockdown for a Meda Fury label showcase and from Nick to Eliphino to Silvestre the quality of music, range of styles and bpm really demonstrated the spirit and essence of the label.
Christian: For me, Meda Fury simply puts out some really fucking cool music. From the deep Takuya Matsumoto cutsto gems like Silvestre’s ‘Life’s Good’. I love how Nick supports an eclectic selection of both established and up and coming producers, so it is an absolute honor for us to be part of the Fury Family.
Interview & Review by Gilad L.