Throughout the rise of dance music over the past decade, the Dirtybird has proven to be more than a source of high quality rump-shakin beats. “OK” from Shiba San. Fisher’s “Stop It”. San Francisco imprint and curator of world renowned events, and is continually changing the collective consciousness surrounding house and techno, sparking the enthusiasm of an entire population of dance music fans for new ideas and possibilities.
Recently, label boss Claude VonStroke and his faithful protÃ©gÃ©, Justin Jay, continued this legacy with their new EP, Oh.
On this offer of four tracks, the collaborators exploit their first influences of garage, drum and bass and breakbeat. Pearson Sound, mainstay of famed London left-wing brand Hessle Audio, completes the project with a remix showcasing his talent for syncopated rhythms against a club aesthetic.
âThis is actually the left-most EP to release on Dirtybird,â said Claude VonStroke, real name Barclay Crenshaw.
âI really wanted to stretch out of my own comfort zone, throw myself into the fire of uncharted territory,â says Jay.
Hearing these two Dirtybird veterans put an emphasis on exploration isn’t surprising. Crenshaw and Jay are two of the label’s frequent innovators, producing music that maintains its avant-garde reputation.
But through a 16-year history and hundreds of releases, there are bound to be drops in the creativity of Camp Dirtybird. A few uninspired moments, the most recent of which came just before these two old friends entered the studio together.
âWhat happens is you get popular for a sound and that’s all you get in return,â Crenshaw says of Dirtybird’s demo submissions, which he always listens to personally. “I used to get a much wider variation in sound, but it just started to get closer and closer.”
Whenever this pattern resurfaces, Crenshaw eventually finds himself in a conversation where someone he trusts notices the banality of the release schedule. Usually, in this situation, Crenshaw will defend his choices before receiving criticism in the constructive way intended for them.
This time around Jay was the person Crenshaw trusted in the conversation, but Crenshaw didn’t get on the defensive because he knew Jay was right.
“Justin said something had to happen at Dirtybird,” Crenshaw recalls with a cheerful laugh before Jay stepped in and said, “I didn’t feel judgmental about what was going on, but rather excitement and ideas about the possibility. “
Excitement and ideas about the possibility. This is the intention that has driven Dirtybird since its inception. It’s an intention that all of the label’s closest comrades, Crenshaw and Jay included, embody in their creative output.
With that intention, something happened to Dirtybird. Just like Jay said. Crenshaw is already receiving demos inspired by the left-field style of the Oh EP. Once again the widening of the variety.
With this intention, Crenshaw and Jay have created four tracks that take a complete departure from house music while retaining the unmistakable energy of Dirtybird.
âThe taste of Barclay; his ear. It is connective tissue. This is something that cannot always be concretely codified. An artist’s taste can transcend genres, and there’s a connective tissue that you might feel, âsays Jay. âThat can then also be articulated through the music creation process, so just the fact that Barclay helped make these songs. The DNA of the label is injected that way.
Both the Dirtybird catalog as a whole and the individual Crenshaw catalog demonstrate enthusiasm for ideas and possibilities. From the collaboration with experimental bass magician, EPROM, to Crenshaw’s alien hip hop project he produces under his name, these influences are all present at different points in the history of his imprint.
After collaborating with Jay on the Oh EP, Crenshaw knew that this rekindled spirit of exploration couldn’t stop with them. So he decided that their EP would be the first in a series of white label records. With these outings, Crenshaw brings in artists few would traditionally expect to find a home on Dirtybird, but he builds them a home on his property.
“At the end of the day, Dirtybird is just music that I love, so it will inevitably sound like Dirtybird.” said Crenshaw.
Ivy Lab, the North London duo that harmoniously combines hip hop and heavy bass. Hugo Massien, who lives in the same sonic kingdom as the British grime legend Burial. Justin Jay’s good friend Danny Goliger who just released a breakbeat debut LP on Fantastic Voyage, Jay’s ever-expanding imprint and party collective.
These are some of the innovative artists that Crenshaw has put in place to bid on this new white label series. That number is already more than he expected to sign, and he is still looking to sign more. A new flock of birds is on their way to the nest, and with them, another significant change in the zeitgeist of dance music can be triggered from the Dirtybird catalog.
âThere has been this insane transformation with the American openness to electronic music,â says Jay. “Everything from the early days of Claude VonStroke to Fisher and Chris Lake is part of that continuum, and it’s good to see this new series being a continuation of that.”
Jay said this directly to Crenshaw in awe, as the final segment of the Joint Zoom call became an interview between the two. Demonstrate in real time the dynamics that surely existed between them in the studio.
âThe music is a testament to the collaboration,â says Jay. âIn large collaborations, many people push each other to be better than they would be on their own. You get the best out of each other and create something that you couldn’t have done on your own.
“We listened to the early tracks of Dirtybird, which was really helpful, and when we got to come together on tracks that we both really liked that were outside of what Dirtybird usually does, I got was able to get a picture of where we were going, âsays Crenshaw. “Justin came into this wanting it to sound like Dirtybird around 2007 – 2010. Kind of like stepping back into the Golden Era.”
We can expect Jay’s affinity for those Dirtybird years because that’s when he fell in love with Dirtybird. “Obsessed” is the word he used repeatedly throughout the conversation, and this obsession led him to his first outing on Dirtybird in 2011, at the age of 18.
Almost ten years after this first connection, Jay and Crenshaw together push the boundaries of Dirtybird, ushering in a new era for the label.
âGetting Barclay’s seal of approval was a fucking home run,â Jay said with unabashed enthusiasm.
Over the past ten years, Jay has learned so much from Crenshaw. In many ways, Crenshaw was responsible for Jay launching Fantastic Voyage because Crenshaw rejected dozens of Jay’s demos and needed a new home.
But what Jay considers the most valuable lesson from “Professor VonStroke” is the importance of finding enthusiasm in ideas and possibilities.
There was a time when Jay would do tracks that he specifically thought Crenshaw would sign. Unsurprisingly, none of them have been signed. When Jay started making music that got him excited, when he started chasing after his musical whimsâ¦ well, the rest is history.
Now they are making history with each other. Anything is possible and they couldn’t be more excited about it.