Deep D&B duo Silent Dust want you to 'Listen To The Night', but first, Dave Jenkins listens to them...
Meet Silent Dust. You can call them Andy and Dan if you like. You can even call them Hobzee & Zyon Base, if you want to go back to the start of their partnership - they’ve been making beats together since the mid-00s. But, as the last decade neared an end, the UK duo found their already deep take on drum & bass had taken a more subversive, introspective turn. So Silent Dust was born: a project that smelted down Andy and Dan’s signatures into a much more spatial and stripped-back form, and that was focused enough to already pack an entire album within their first two releases. A vast, beguiling piece of work, their self-titled 2011 debut long 'un was clear statement of intent.
Mercifully, it was also a timeless statement of intent, because we’ve had to wait seven years for the follow-up. That’s not to suggest they’ve been inactive, by the way. Their label none60 has been slowly showering the left-leaning corners of the D&B dancefloor with forward-focused designs by the likes of Dissident, Wagz and Dexta since launching in 2011. They’ve also been providing us with steady source of remixes and edits over the years. But Listen To The Night is the most active the duo - who both hold down regular day jobs - have been in years.
Another bewitching melting pot brew of beats, drum & bass, hip-hop and ambience, in many ways Listen To The Night takes off where Silent Dust left off. But there’s more bite to the uptempo tracks and there are more bars on the beatier/hip-hop tracks. Featuring previous Silent Dust collaborators DRS and Zilla Rocca, Selfsays and Terror plus new friend Illingsworth, by Andy and Dan’s own admission it’s a much more collaborative affair - and speaking to them, you get the impression they prefer the process that way.
Speak to them for a bit longer and you can learn all sorts of things…
You never see them together in the same room
Bristol-based Dan and Kent-based Andy barely ever share the same space. Since linking up on the Dogs On Acid forum, their partnership and best creations have always flourished online. It took them two tunes before they even met in real life.
“We’ve worked together a couple of times,” says Dan, “but it just turns into a mess.”
“We might do an hour’s work, then end up making cups of tea and debating over things that don’t matter,” Andy adds. “We’ve got a nice flow going the way we do things.”
The flow is real: they explain how working independently means they only ever share ideas they know have strength and don’t waste time on creative cul de sacs. Working this way meant the 11 tracks you hear on Listen To The Night were the 11 tracks made for the album. 100 percent efficiency.
“A lot of people will make maybe 50 tracks for an album and whittle it down,” says Andy. “But the 11 tracks are what we made. That was it. Because of the way we work, we were happy with what we had.”
They’re all about the collaborations
By their own tag-team nature, Silent Dust has a collaborative heartbeat. But both Dan and Andy admit having additional fresh perspectives from collaborators such as none60 mate Sina, Jon1st and vocalists DRS or Zilla Rocca is just as vital to the way they work.
“We love bouncing off people,” Dan confirms. “You’ve got a track sitting around and it’s hard to feel the buzz for it after a while. You knew it was good when you started it, but you lose that excitement and thirst for it. When someone else comes along with new ideas it gives you that kick up the arse.”
“Then if it gets praise you can heap that on the other person, but if it’s criticised you can heap it on them, too,” laughs Andy. “But it all comes down to the track not just being about us. It’s much more of a melting pot of everyone’s ideas.”
The collaborative theme runs right the way through the artwork created by Dan’s oldest friend and successful fine artist Simon Buckley. Based in Vienna and Glasgow, and regularly exhibiting in galleries across the world, he’s been behind most none60 artwork including Listen To The Night.
“It’s collage and found materials,” explains Dan. “A lot of stuff he puts together in an experimental way. He messes with the elements and sees what comes out of it. He’s not looking for a particular outcome, he’s just putting the right ingredients in together and something will naturally come from it. That’s how I’ve always seen our approach to music. Plus the artwork makes no logical sense at all.”
Their none60 label is the business
Launched at the same time as the Silent Dust project and their debut album, none60 is at the core of Andy and Dan’s operations. Rooted in the 160/80 axis their early Silent Dust productions were based around, but in no way restricted by tempo or genre, this year alone the label has flexed from the dark dub technoid stampede of Dissident’s Apnoea to the turbine drones and Headz-level breaks of Wagz's Whiplash. Following Listen To The Night there’s also another long player on its way, as Andy and Dan invite label artists and friends such as eminent beat sculptor Lewis James on the label’s first various artists compilation.
“I think the label helped us work out where we wanted to go right from the very beginning,” considers Dan. “The first album was such a departure from what we’d done previously as Hobzee and Zyon Base. And then there was quite a long time before we put out any other stuff we’d done. The label helped to give me an idea of where our music fit in. It’s developed its sound and that’s helped us understand which spaces we fill.”
Words: Dave Jenkins
Listen To The Night is out now on none60 Records