Weightless: Mumdance and Logos
“Different Circles – that’s what interests me, different spheres overlapping. Whether it be spheres of thought, spheres of culture.” Jack Adams is discussing his new label, whose title neatly captures the way both he and co-founder James Parker operate. Under the name Logos, Parker is a core player in both the label Keysound and lynchpin grime night Boxed. As Mumdance, the 2014 Red Bull Music Academy grad ploughs a resolutely cross-genre path involving work with Bristol figurehead Pinch and South London MC Novelist. Each of these spheres is distinctive, but each overlaps. Somewhere in the middle – a particularly dense patch of the UK’s musical Venn diagram – you’ll find Different Circles, and “weightless.”
Mumdance and Logos’ new venture has been a little while coming. The pair first met in 2012, when Adams heard a Logos track on the Keysound Rinse FM show and recognised a kindred spirit. “He was like a man after my own heart,” Adams says. “So I got in touch with him, was like, ‘Let’s hang out and make some music or something.’“ In line with Adams’ credos that “if something feels like it’s the right thing to do, do it straight away,” the pair were in the studio together within a fortnight. One product of this session, backmasked banger “In Reverse,” would make it onto Keysound’s This Is How We Roll compilation.
A lasting relationship was born. “I guess we both think about music in quite different ways, but they complement each other,” says Adams. “Sometimes when you make a tune it’s a struggle. When we’ve been making music it hasn’t been a struggle, it’s been enjoyable.” The pair had plenty to bond over – they cite jungle, hardcore and grime, all evident in their collaborations, as shared loves. But there were points of divergence too. “The ways we spent the mid- to late ’00s were completely different,” Parker says. He attended dubstep crucibles FWD and DMZ, while Adams frequented drum & bass night Movement, as well as managing a growing DJing schedule as an affiliate of Diplo’s Mad Decent label.
“A lot of DJs [now] are just banging out drum tracks for an hour. It becomes noise, because there’s no contrast to it.”
From these diverse origins the pair began, slowly, to zero in on a shared aesthetic – one which is even more singular than the stark percussive hybrids showcased on collaborative releases for Keysound and Tectonic. The seeds of the idea came from Parker, who has long been fascinated with the under-explored “romantic strain” in grime – its capacity for quietude, stasis, cryptic drift. “It’s like there’s a little door open in a corner,” he says of the style’s untapped potential. “And I don’t think anyone really fully went through it, until relatively recently.” Parker did more than anyone to widen this portal with last year’s Cold Mission LP, whose gorgeous nocturnal spaces outlined a bold new vision for grime.
Adams, meanwhile, found himself hankering for space and silence through his experience of the club circuit. “A lot of DJs [now] are just banging out drum tracks for an hour,” he observes. “It becomes noise, because there’s no contrast to it. Me and James come from an age when there were these, as stupid as it sounds, ‘journey’ DJ sets. And I think that can be lost sometimes.” In an effort to redress the balance, Adams began seeking out verging-on-beatless “palette cleansers,” using them to bridge gaps in his genre- and tempo-hopping sets. The tracks soon surfaced on Adams’ monthly Rinse FM slot. Before long they occupied an entire section of the show, in which Adams’ usual grime and techno selections would dissolve into a wash of ambience. When people started to ask what this strange genre was, Adams dubbed it “weightless.”
The name has now found its way onto wax in the form of Weightless Vol I, the debut release on Different Circles. A cast of promising young producers feature, each supplying a “beatless club track”; a grime-like composition distilled into simple, floating forms. The idea for the release first came from Parker, who had long entertained the idea of a record expanding on Wiley’s “devil mix” concept. (“Wiley probably isn’t even aware that he’s causing all these little waves,” Adams laughs.) Here, though, the beatless mixes would become the central attraction, rather than a B-side curiosity; or, as Parker explains, the equivalent of the moment when “people [started] doing dubs as the original, rather than there being a dub of an existing tune.”
In some cases, producers were commissioned according to this brief – for instance, Dark0’s “Sweetboy Tears” is a reduction of his breakout track “Sweetboy Pose,” made on Adams’ request. But most of the contributors were already on much the same wavelength. The poised, balletic melodies of Strict Face’s “Python Crossing,” for instance, are of a piece with past releases for Gobstopper and Tuff Wax, while Rabit continues his trademark deconstructive agenda on “More Memories.” Unsurprisingly, all hail from the fruitful nexus of instrumental grime centred loosely on Boxed. “We’re surrounded at the moment by a very fertile scene,” says Adams. “You want to do something that expresses the artistic community around you,” Parker continues. “It’s really nice to be a part of that little conversation.”
“It’s moving away from conventional harmony and melody. Moving towards sonics, and space, and using silence.”
However, the pair are at pains to make it clear that weightless is not just about grime. Different Circles, they say, operates on the genre’s “peripheries.” It’s as much a home for their other tastes and predilections, some of which would sit uneasily on the labels with which they already work. A partial list of shared loves includes the US post-noise scene, the scrambled electronic pop of audiovisual duo Sculpture and French musique concrete institution GRM. The second Different Circles release, by Parker, will feature a remix from noise-techno producer Shapednoise. “It’s moving away from conventional harmony and melody,” Adams explains, trying to express the weightless aesthetic in the broadest terms. “Moving towards sonics, and space, and using silence.”
The new label isn’t a wholesale reinvention for the pair, and they continue to move in numerous other circles. Parker discusses a forthcoming split with Rabit on grime label Glacial, while Mumdance is preparing further collaborations with both Pinch and Novelist. Together, they’re also working on more dancefloor-ready material in the vein of their past collaborative EPs. But with Different Circles, and weightless, they’ve created a space untethered from existent scenes; a free-floating realisation of their own distinctive vision. “If you’re fashionable then you run the risk of going outside of fashion,” Adams says. “I’ve found this more and more as I’ve made music: all you’ve got to do is just be yourself. If you’re staying true to yourself and putting out the music you enjoy, no one can really fault you for that.”