Since his first appearance, ‘Stalker,’ on a single sided 7” released on the Mordant Music label back in 2004, Sam Shackleton’s musical output has gone on to blossom into some of the finest genre anomalies to have emerged from the depths of the dubstep scene. From the moment that the seething grime like atmospherics of the string loop opening get peppered with drum rolls, breathing percussion and primitive electro bass stabs on ‘Stalker’ its patently obvious even now – listening back a full five years after the fact – that his music is a peculiar beast that cross breeds the minimalities of techno with a penchant for acres of percussion against edgy melodies and it was this new, conga heavy, approach to 140 bpm music that Shackleton made ring true with the birth of his label, Skull Disco.
Co-run by fellow boundary pusher Appleblim, the label drew heavily on itself and the no holds barred attitude of Punk music as an influence, combing the timpani, conga workouts and physically contorting basslines to produce something bold, brave and completely… Skull Disco.
“The only reason I’ve been running at the bpm I have is because someone might be able to beatmatch it,” explained Shackleton to Blackdown in late 2006. “Is that dubstep? In terms of the atmosphere and sounds that I want to create I’m using the likes of Metal Box era PIL and Savage Republic as my benchmark if anyone…”
By never making any qualms about the label’s place within the scene – “you ask if I made a conscious decision to go my own way,” he muses, “I never thought about it. I just made the tunes that I wanted to hear” – Skull Disco’s reach went further than the immediate front row crowd at FWD>>. Pioneered by the leaders of other genres like Ricardo Villalobos, (who himself contributed an epic 2 sided remix of ‘Blood On My Hands’ on SKULL07) Shackleton’s music became some of the most successful cross over material with his measured templates gaining a wealth of followers the world over with unexpected results such as techno obsessive T++ reworking of Shackleton’s ‘Death Is Not Final’ on SKULL09 and his triumphant appearance at Sonar 2008 on the Mary Anne Hobbs curated stage.
After 10 physical vinyl releases and one dual CD compendium Skull Disco announced it would be no more, with the last offering being another 2CD collection of remixes and additional tracks that would strive to be the punctuation mark nail in the label’s coffin. Since then Shackleton has been all too quiet, occasionally popping up here and there on a Mordant Music compilation CD and accompanying 10” (Read the FACT Magazine review here), as well as on a re-pressing of his earlier outing on Scuba’s label Hotflush and a remix for Moderat that sounded quite far removed from his usual stylings. His appearance in December of last year at Plastic People literally tore the drums from my ears, with his uncanny talent to program and micro-edit his fluttering percussion easily becoming the highlight of my Christmas period, so it’s with baited breath that we await his imminent performance and possible new material unveiling at fabric this Friday.
Information on Shackleton is thin, check http://www.skulldisco.com for a discography.
To get a better idea of Shackleton’s musical lineage download DST’s – 60 Min Skull Disco mix here: http://www.skulldisco.com/dst_mix_01
Or watch these: