London's Night Slugs label makes music for dance clubs emptied of their patrons, with the fluorescent lights overhead beaming full glare, and the janitors sweeping up the carnage of a few hours prior.
Actually, that's not true at all: If anyone knows the feeling of a raging club night, it's Night Slugs. Birthed in the messy, small-cap rooms and warehouse squats of London's mid-aughts club scene, Night Slugs makes music for getting down and dirty. Weaned on grime and dubstep but equally committed to house and hip-hop, electro and R&B, the label represents the very best kind of anything-goes impulses, where whatever record is playing turns out to be the only record in the world you need to be listening to at that moment. It's fusion without the fussiness, eclecticism without the irony -- a muddle-headed funk that cuts right to the chase.
But in its three short years of operation — founders Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990 spun the label out of a low-key party series in 2010 -- Night Slugs has also grown to exemplify a very particular aesthetic, one that brings us back to the after-hours of our after-hours club above. Their music, sourced from a loose collective that includes the artists Jam City, Girl Unit, Kingdom and Egyptrixx, emphasizes texture as much as it does rhythmic impulse. And what visceral, spine-tingling textures: broken glass, humming neon tubes, the clank of beer bottles settling into plastic racks, the squeak of washrags over mirrored surfaces, the mute gleam of polished chrome. Night Slugs' universe is, above all, tactile: It's dance music you can feel deep in your bones and in the trembling hairs on your neck.
Earlier this month, the label released Night Slugs Allstars Volume 2, a compilation wrapping up its past 18 months of activity in singles, B-sides, remixes and exclusive cuts. It's rare for a label that's so on the cusp of what's now in dance music to take that kind of comparatively long view (at least in a genre where six months might as well mean six years). But that's part of what makes the label interesting. Their catalog is a conversation that cuts through club music's usual din; this month's innovations just enrich what's come before. They're telling a story whose twists and turns encourage you to go back and thumb through the earlier chapters again and again. In that spirit, I've put together a portrait of the label that pulls from both Allstars comps as well as iconic singles, deep cuts and a few related projects released on the Sound Pellegrino label. Come for the dancefloor, stick around for the ringing in your ears.