Underground Berlin DJ on the idealism of safe spaces in the electronic scene
A true product of their environment, Young Echo draw on the rich musical history of Bristol. Dubstep dread permeates the atmosphere of their eclectic 2013 debut, Nexus, with trip-hop running in the souterrain. Influenced by the sound system culture, they belong to a paradigm shift in electronic music, epitomised by the hiss and crackle of tape; they are unafraid to embrace the mechanical character of the apparatus in search of a more real, authentic sound.
Given that the collective was also formed around listening practices and music sharing, with Vessel, el kid, Kahn, Ishan Sound and Amos Childs coming together for a series of online radio broadcasts dedicated to their wandering musical interests and leftfield experiments — broken electronics, boisterous dub, fiery grime, distorted dancehall, spoken word poetry, tampered R&B — it’s no wonder they’ve been penned as ‘a lateral study of Bristol’s musical heritage.’ Gradually adding new members — Bogues, Manonmars, Rider Shafique, Neek, Ossia, and chester giles — the group has also expanded sonically, often breeding in-house collaborations and offshoot projects like Killing Sound, asda, Zhou, Baba Yaga, or Gorgon Sound.
Just as they map out the sound of Bristol, we wanted to map out their points of connection; this is their collective story, one member at a time.
Amos • Amos Childs
I already knew Alex (Bogues) from school and had been in a band with him and also done some (badly clipping) Dr. Dre style (I hoped) hip hop beats for him. I also vaguely knew Jack (Manonmars) at school as well, but I wouldn’t find out he rapped or even really liked music until later.
I suppose it was around 2007-2008 when me and Cris (Ishan Sound) were starting to get to know each other and make music together – the very early beginnings of what would become Zhou. We would meet either at my mum’s or at his school if we could go into the studio where we would try and experiment, making tracks together. We eventually got a few we were happy with and uploaded them to MySpace. That’s also where we stalked a few of the other guys’ pages (I vaguely knew them, they were friends of friends), and this eventually led to us exchanging messages and later on some MP3s.
Cris • Ishan Sound
Amos introduced me to all of the others in the original crew: Seb (Vessel), Sam K (el kid) and Joe (Kahn). I think he met all of them through friends when he went to college in Bristol. I only met the other three when we got together to broadcast our first online show, spun out of our habit of sharing music with each other.
We sat in Seb’s mum’s house one Sunday evening and played some music we had been making or been interested in. It was stuff that sometimes wouldn’t quite fit the dancefloor or even with some of the output from our main musical projects. That was the end of 2010. The broadcasts were pretty shaky back then and, for the most part, have remained technically rudimentary.
Joe • Kahn
Our early radio shows enabled us to explore the musical dynamics of the group and bring to life what we felt was the common thread between us all as artists.
I think it was really refreshing for us to have a platform where we could showcase the material we were all writing individually, material that didn’t necessarily work in a club environment. It’s become the space in which I feel I can truly be myself and experiment with sound.
Over the past few years we’ve invited other like-minded artists to join the collective and it’s evolved naturally, expanding the spectrum of music that we work with as a group.
Seb • Vessel
Amos brought Alex along to one of the first broadcasts. I remember him getting on the mic and everyone being really excited, and not long after, possibly the same evening, he joined the gang. That’s when the group started to become this potentially limitless, flexible structure that could accommodate many different musical approaches.
Joe had a studio space at a complex in north Bristol at that time and suggested we might be able to broadcast the show from there. This meant more space, more volume and, crucially, a live audience. Our ideas about what we might accomplish as a collective really began to form during The Sunday Sessions at F.A.G. Studios.
Sam K • el kid
F.A.G. Studios were primarily used as rehearsal spaces for bands, so for the first time we were able to invite live acts as guests on the radio show. For one of my favourite shows, we had three different rehearsal rooms rigged up to a mixing desk with cables stretched across the corridors like trip wires. That night we had Ekoplekz, Giant Swan, The Naturals and The Big Naturals playing live on radio. We also had Jamal Moss playing there once. Some unlikely stuff happened down at F.A.G.
It was also around this time that we were approached by Rump Records to release an LP. They had released records by artists we liked so we started to assemble a tracklist.
Alex • Bogues
Following the release of our first LP as a collective, we started receiving offers for live shows. It was around this time that Rider Shafique and Manonmars officially joined the crew, and by late 2013 we had a few shows booked across Switzerland and Germany for the summer of 2014.
Ossia (Dan) had released music for most of Young Echo, and his presence at the radio shows always showcased a strong dedication to music in general. Neek (Sam Barrett) had worked with Joe for a while before the clique even formed, and much like Ossia, he attended the radio nights regularly and played some great sets.
By the time we were preparing to play abroad, Neek and Ossia were fully involved and all ten of us travelled to play those gigs.
Jack • Manonmars
The shows in Switzerland and Germany opened my eyes to what music is capable of. I began writing lyrics without any intention of seeing them go beyond the pages in my notebook. After becoming a part of Young Echo, I saw how positive people’s responses were, and it became clear to me then that this is the most influential thing I’ve been a part of.
With both our live shows and musical catalogues, I think we allow ourselves the freedom to do more than one specific thing, and that’s something that can otherwise hold a lot of talented people back.
Something Amos stressed to me from the moment we started recording together is how there’s no point in recycling what has already been done, regardless of how well you pull it off, or how much it inspires you.
Denzil • Rider Shafique
Sam Binga and I spent a day with Joe (Kahn) at Redbull Studios in London, and we recorded a track together called ‘Original’. We kept in contact and Joe later asked if I could vocal for ‘Prophet’, which features on his EP. It turns out Amos and Chris also did some production on the track, so when I was invited to Joe’s EP launch in Bristol, I got to meet the rest of the Young Echo guys. That night, I jumped on the mic with Bogues and Mars during the Jabu set. From then on, we kept in touch; I recorded some vocals for them and hosted some sets at their regular nights. A few months later, Amos and Joe asked if I wanted to join the collective, which I did without hesitation, making me the ninth member of Young Echo.
Sam • Neek
I first met the guys through Joe, who I was already DJ’ing and making music with. I liked what they were doing with their radio show and after coming along to hang out a few times, I was asked to play a few tunes. It was refreshing for me to have a place to play the weirder end of my record collection instead of just playing dance music like I was used to.
On the eve of the debut album launch, Amos grabbed the mic to invite me as the newest member but I was nowhere to be seen. In fact, I was down the road from the venue eating a jerk chicken wrap in Biblos. When I got back, I accepted his offer to join the squad and Amos was almost crying tears of joy.
Dan • Ossia
Joe (Kahn) is an old family friend of mine (Bristol ain’t that big) and I knew Sam Kidel from school, I’m pretty sure we also used to exchange tunes via MySpace back then. I used to hang out with some of the guys and I guess we were always on the same wavelength musically and socially. They formed Young Echo around the same time I was running events and starting labels.
I was invited to play on one of their radio shows a few years ago, maybe in 2011, and from then on proceeded to latch on to as much of their music as I could and released it mainly on NoCorner label, but also via Hotline and Peng Sound. I have always been impressed by their talent and unconventional approach to everything, so when I was formally invited by the crew at one of the monthly Young Echo Sound events a couple years ago, there was no question that I would join the collective if they were to ask. Which they did in front of a whole crowd of people, like a marriage proposal in public or something.
Chester • chester giles
I got to know Ossia from working together at Biblos. At that point, he was putting on the Peng Sound Dances, playing records in various places and was just generally on it, making things happen. I remember back then whenever we’d go somewhere he’d always have a bag full of posters for the next Dance that we’d put up along the way. He’d invite me down to the F.A.G. radio sessions, and I’d just shock out and vibe and it was really exciting.
I was kinda blown away by finding this scene of people who just wanted to play whatever they liked, however they liked, making interesting music without prescribing to any existing scenes or ideas.
I got to know the others in the group and started hanging out a lot with Seb, Amos and Cris at Amos’s house. Their energy and approach to things had a great effect on my work and my writing, so I started recording bits with Seb and playing records occasionally at their nights. It was only a matter of time until it became an official thing as I was recording and making tracks with most of them.
asda’s The Abyss is out now on No Corner. Young Echo plays Somewhere Else at Progress Bar in Paradiso-Noord, Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam on Saturday, 4 June 2016.