In 2009, Mala’s Deep Medi Muzik released the debut EP from Christchurch, New Zealand trio, Truth. With shuddering sub bass and swooping hooversounds, the release, ‘The Fatman / Stolen Children’, introduced the emerging dubstep act, who now operate as a duo, to sound systems in the UK and beyond, launching their journey to becoming the global force they are in the scene today.
There are echoes of this story in that of Ebb & Texture, another Christchurch duo who are sending waves through their local scene and beyond thanks to a recent release on Cutcross Recordings. The London label, founded by the mighty Sicaria Sound, reached out to the pair, real names Guy and Leila, after being drawn to their previous solo releases. Having written and played music together a lot already, the prospect of working on a full EP was a no brainer, particularly alongside a platform as reputable as Cutcross. “Our styles have always been somewhat similar, but different enough to create something new,” they say. “The whole process was super organic. Massive shout out to Sicaria for the support and trust!”
The resulting EP flirts with a variety of sounds, with a solo track from each artist alongside two collabs leaving room for maximum genre-meshing. Ebb’s ‘5 Skin’ is pure bass weight: a perfect slice of dubstep pressure that drinks deep from the Deep Medi well. Texture’s ‘No Mercy’ is a masterclass in tension, it’s rumbling bass arpeggios lope over eerie synths and a jolting rhythm. The collaborative tracks, ‘Enmesh’ and ‘Cloudburst’, play to both of their strengths, dressing their sub-crushing bass with glistening electronics in the former and frenetic breaks and rave stabs in the latter.
It all points to a pair for whom the growl of the bass bin has been present for some time, but whose influences stretch deeper into a range of styles. “I grew up around rave culture,” says Leila. “My dad was really into hard house and trance. He used to take me to outdoor festivals around the Takaka region in Aotearoa [Māori name for New Zealand]. I remember the first time I heard jungle vividly. I had wandered off [at a festival] and found a small red tent. I remember being so mind blown by the music inside, and that experience has definitely shaped my tastes. I'm a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to my influences, I initially started out doing hip-hop, and my favourite band is The Cure. So my approach has always been informed by a melting pot of influences.”
“I used to mess around with a couple of mates playing punk stuff in a garage,” says Guy. “Apart from a few years of violin lessons as a kid that's pretty much my musical roots, and I was definitely a late bloomer in the rave scene; I was 19 when a few mates dragged me down to see [London dubstep DJ] Distance play on [Christchurch’s] Subtle Sound System. Long story short, I was instantly hooked and spent the next few years hitting every indoor and outdoor party I could find. It took a few years to get into producing, but once I'd started it was a complete obsession and here we are six odd years down the track! The music that's inspired me has always been the weirder, darker end of things: artists like Pinch, Mumdance, Walton and Logos have definitely shaped the way I approach production and sound design the most.”
Appetites for dubstep and sound system music in New Zealand have always been high, and its thriving scene has certainly impacted Ebb and Texture’s growth as artists. “I’m not sure how or why exactly, but for a tiny island on the opposite end of the world there's always been a solid scene,” says Guy, whose solo productions have also appeared on Subtle Sound Systems label. “Christchurch especially is literally overflowing with sound systems. I think the strong scene here and regular visits from international artists really contributes to the calibre of artists here too - while everything is very accessible today through the internet, I think having that proper rave experience is something that can really drive and inspire you, or at least it definitely does for me.”
“Ōtautahi [Māori name for Christchurch] has been an absolute hub in terms of sound system culture,” Leila agrees. “Subtle Sound being the most prolific system in Ōtautahi. A lot of talent has emerged from this city, with the likes of Headland, Akcept, Epoch, and the list goes on. I feel like we don't have to look far for inspiration. We're incredibly lucky.”
After an exciting 2021 that also saw them DJ for the Keep Hush Christchurch: 1985 Music Takeover (both sets available here and here), Ebb & Texture are now looking ahead to a busy 2022, with more music and shows lined up for both of them. Ebb will also be starting a new night in Christchurch with DJ Keepsakes, looking to push a more techno and rave-focused sound in the city.
In the meantime, you can listen to Ebb & Texture’s Fresh Kicks mix below, in which the duo swerve effortlessly from drill, dubstep and grime into blistering UK techno, breaks and jungle. “It's definitely a pretty good snapshot of what we're both currently playing out.” they say. “Neither one of us is any good at sticking to one speed or genre for long, and this mix is a representation of that. Including loads of tracks from the homies alongside some new and old favourites.”