Founded in 2014, Touching Bass overlapped with the peerless Plastic People for about a year before the latter was forced to close. It was enough time, however, for the South London-rooted collective to take on the baton of the Shoreditch institution, carrying forward its legacy of fresh, community-driven music. Encompassing a party, TB Dance, live gigs under the TB Live banner, a discussion-based series Speaking In Sound, and a fortnightly NTS show, in 2019 Touching Bass also added a label, presided over by co-founders Errol and Alex Rita.
With just one or two considered releases a year, the label’s output has been a slow burn of quality over quantity. Last year’s evocatively titled ‘cloud high in dreams, but heavy in the air’ by Danish three-piece Athletic Progression brought a wonky, modern hip-hop sensibility to playful, spacey jazz. The label’s new double compilation, ‘Soon Come’, steps this up a notch, arriving with twenty-two tracks that cover an international array of talent split across two records titled ‘Day’ and ‘Night’. A mammoth endeavour, there’s no surprise to find it’s been in gestation for the last two years, with Sammseed — another OG TB family member — also pitching in with curation.
10.4 ROG & Brother Portrait’s ‘The Lighthouse’ introduces exactly what kind of day it is, smokey pianos wavering with pitch-bend as Portrait’s flow winds tranquilly over them. Wu-Lu’s ‘Gooie’ comes on like a hazy, stripped-down Rotary Connection and Hejira’s ‘You’ presents breathy vocals amongst delicate instrumentation, all sunk deep in reverb, the edges fuzzy with distortion.
With 12 tracks on ‘Day’, this deep, jazzy, soul-infused spirit runs throughout the selection, drawing on various influences and criss-crossing the Atlantic while maintaining an unmistakable sonic identity. Nayiem’s rhymes are unmistakably UK on ‘Dandelions’, its building tension cutting off mid sentence, while Lori’s lush, laidback ‘Royalpine’ draws on contemporary US R&B. Alien & Kuzich’s ‘Took My Heart Away’ is post-coital P Funk, blissed out and giddy, while on ‘Common Ground’ Contour’s delaying voice carries echoes of Arthur Russell over a swaying, disorientated drum machine.
‘Night’ ups the ante. Arnheim’s ‘Help Me Realise You’ featuring Emm is amongst those easing the way, beautiful, airy flute-led looping over shuffling drums. The Wach’s ‘Dream On Freedom’ takes a similar tack but streamlines the live instrumentation, giving everything a sparser, groovier feel. And by AshTreJinkins’ ‘Sunshine2Point0’ we’re into twinkling second wave Detroit techno territory, crisp 909 claps, fizzing hats and a two-note ascending/descending bassline providing the dancefloor thrust.
This elevating intensity climaxes with the wiggling bruk of Ben Hauke’s ‘Turn It On’. Leaux’s ‘Wabi Sabi’ starts the dissolution, deep, spiritual introspection enveloping a tight, swaying groove. Eun & Demae’s ‘Your Company’ is as close as you’re going to get to a slow dance, soft and sensuous, birdsong adding to its early morning feel. And Molinaro’s ‘Dïs And Dissolve’ hits like early morning light as you step out the club, the world born anew.
A self-contained universe whose cosmic, funked-up, psychedelic hue draws a line from Erykah Badu, Theo Parrish and George Clinton to CoOp, CDR, and the furthest reaches of Worldwide FM, ‘Soon Come’ is Touching Bass’ arrival proper. Welcome to the astral plane, South London style.