Stepping into Start the Bus, it feels as though the crowd is doing its best to emulate East London, rather than the West Country. Nonetheless, as I tiptoe past the throngs of immaculately-coiffured students, I notice Bristolian drum n bass don Ron Size sitting casually by the bar, an endorsement of the band to come if ever there was one.
Swindle, accompanied by drums, bass, sax and trumpet, erupts on to the stage in a fit of fidgety samples and descending bass lines, his energy contagious. The keyboardist and producer, who has released several tracks on Mala’s Deep Medi label – which is currently pushing the more experimental end of what remains of dubstep – has been distinguishing himself with his live shows that bridge the gap between vinyl/laptop-focused dance music and the funk and jazz of his predecessors.
The frenetic show puts several genres through a blender: jazz, garage, dubstep, even a bit of p-funk, all of which are reconfigured by highly skilled musicians – a sight which is refreshing amid a musical landscape that is saturated with imitators and in which human connectivity and communication is sometimes lost. Bringing to mind the collaborations between Flying Lotus and Thundercat,as well as echoes of a more neglected corner of early 90s UK dance music culture – Acid Jazz – the performance is the most hyperactive, intense and interesting attempt to provide a live template for a garage/dubstep I’ve seen for some time.
Yet the set fluctuates between the melodic, organic arrangements of his backing band and lowest common denominator crowd-pleasing elements: synth lines that edge perilously close to the sonic monstrosities that have come to characterise the US ‘EDM’ movement. Despite this, Swindle gets away with it. His talent is too great to be downplayed, his infectious enthusiasm impossible to ignore. His skills as a bandleader and a producer are such that he amply demonstrates the ability to transform and reconfigure genre, just at the moment that it risks becoming stale.