If ever there was a name suited to 2022’s summer of record temperatures it’s TIBASKO, aka Hertfordshire-based duo Ken Petalcorin and Andy Bowden. Hailing from Hitchin, having grown up in Welwyn Garden City, and friends since secondary school, the 27-year-olds put out their first release in 2018 — minting their own Omusaré label with an EP of dreamy, lo-fi house. Just two years later they were tipped as Ones To Watch by Kiss and the BBC, before Pete Tong went on to name them as Radio 1 Future Stars for 2021.
On 9th September they’ll drop an eponymously titled six-tracker that makes good on this promise. With breaks, widescreen bass and emotive melodies, ‘Traces’ soars, taken to epic levels by Bulgarian folk samples. ‘Gradients’ and ‘Still Rushing’ bring a proggy elevation to bumping club drums and drum & bass respectively, while ‘System Error’ swells with musical drama. ‘Must Be Right’ channels Reese-driven, R&B-soaked garage through the pair’s distinctive filter, and ‘Almost Falling’ strips everything down, dubby bass and dreamy pads accompanied by the hookiest of auto-tuned vocals.
“We still sometimes pinch ourselves at the fact we’ve been tipped by such a huge legend as Pete Tong,” say the pair when we catch up to discuss this rapid rise. When TIBASKO formed, having bonded raving together at clubs such as Egg LDN, it was a skill share of sorts: Ken, who was born in the Philippines and spent time in Japan before moving to the UK, was already producing music, inspired by the likes of Kaytranada, and had formerly been the guitarist and frontman of an indie band. Andy, meanwhile, had DJ’d at local parties since his youth, and was finding his way into making music through Ableton and YouTube videos.
Still coalescing their sound, they say, when their debut ‘Alma’ EP blew up, lockdown helped them more fully define themselves, pushing their new release in a direction that incorporates a home-listening element. “We’ve found ourselves drawn towards breakbeats and more emotive, trance elements,” they say of this evolution, name-checking the likes of Four Tet, Bicep, Jon Hopkins and Aphex Twin.
Indeed, Hopkins, and other peers such as HAAi and Bonobo, were big fans of ‘Isolate’, a track which came out earlier this year and also transformed the sound of a Bulgarian choir into transcendental trance euphoria. “We’ve always had a huge fascination with really obscure world music samples,” they tell us, explaining how Ken was first enraptured by Thracian folk music when he visited a uni friend in Sozopol. “Bulgarian folk choirs are particularly interesting because there’s an element of melancholy and depth within the music that fits with our sound so well.”
Having previously dropped into DJ Mag for an HQ set, the pair tip Wigwam in Dublin as one of their favourite DJ gigs and set off on their first US tour in September, taking in dates including Las Vegas’ Life Is Beautiful festival, Club Vinyl in Denver and CRSSD Festival in San Diego. “We’ve not travelled much Stateside so we’re absolutely stoked to be experiencing a new part of the world — to any of our fans out there, feel free to say hey if you spot us. We’d definitely need some recommendations of good food places to visit.” Alongside this, they’re working on a live show, the culmination of a dream they’ve had since the start of TIBASKO.
It begs the question, if it all blows up Stateside and they make it onto Hot Ones with Sean Evan, how would they fare? “We’re a sucker for hot sauce,” they confirm, Tabasco (what else?) their standard. “Frank’s Buffalo hot sauce is easily a standout, too. As for Hot Ones, I’m sure we’d be atrocious at it, but we’d give it our best go. We’d probably tap out near the end.”