Twin System // Tendrils-Lurched Purple-In The Slush

I met Twin System’s Lewi Boome at Intonal Festival in Malmö, Sweden, last Spring. We spent a lot of the week talking about music in between hangovers, open sandwiches and oddball musical performances, but he struck me as someone who wasn’t into the game of relentless self-promotion. It took our mutual friend Trish — the consistently brilliant DJ k means — to point out Boome had put together an impressive 28-track Bandcamp compilation called Victim Of The System. It featured some heavyweight names like Otik, Hajj, Nick León, Silvestre and Mosca, but truth be told I never checked it out. There’s something about mammoth digital compilations like that I struggle to catch hold of in the relentless slipstream of musical data flowing past our eyes (and occasionally reaching our ears).

Boome is quietly building momentum as an artist in his own right, having just slipped out an EP for certified decent Well Street Records, holding a steady presence on internet radio staples like Kindred and Noods and issuing a smattering of track drops on compilations. But as I find myself consciously committing to repeat spins on the three compilations which have come out on Twin System in the past 12 months, I’m contemplating what has motivated me to drop a pin when so much music can so easily drift past us undetected. 

I normally swerve mentioning personal connections in reviews in case it somehow clouds the critical distance, but in this case it feels relevant. I absolutely did make an effort to check out the first in the trilogy of tastefully presented tape comps — Tendrils — because I got to know Boome, but he’s far from the only person I linked with that week at Intonal, and we’ve not really stayed in contact since. There was something else Twin System seemed to project, more so on the seven-track Tendrils than on the previous mega-comp. Here were seemingly disparate artists doing low-key bits in their own way, threaded together by some kind of tangible artistic intent as though they belong together. I’m not sure if community is the right word, but there’s a weird kind of solidarity of modesty which crosses over into the music, placing the whole thing somewhere adjacent to those slippery internet personas and their slippery music in the 3XL / West Mineral world. Just run the wry Kansas City humour through a more UK filter and you’re getting somewhere close.

Where the distinction lies between Internet friends and real-world community is unclear, but Twin System definitely has a physical presence in its parties at Spanners. Alongside the Bermondsey triangle which has breathed new life into London’s underground, that feted, tiny and perfect space seems to be an incubator for the sound which Twin System explores — a spongy mixture of nu ambient glossolalia, dub techno spatial awareness and the 2020 flip of the downtempo tradition, where the beats require a bit more flair than the most deeply-dug breaks. 

Take Sabla, who makes a mesmerising beat out of mostly hand drums (congas?) and sub bass with ‘Flame Ballad’ on the second compilation, Lurched Purple. It’s no surprise working out he was previously on Don’t DJ and Harmonious Thelonious’ Disk label. On Tendrils Teqmun carves out a perfectly twitchy construction from the Hessle-Timedance-Ansia school of avant-club, which of course requires a certain stubborn individuality by definition. The third, recently-dropped In The Slush houses Angel Hunt’s vivid abstraction of the dembow standard, DJ ojo’s minimalistic machinations and Notte Infinita’s snaking backroom techno. Whatever the tempo, the mood across all three compilations feels more tipped towards understated sessions for dedicated heads rather than brash dancefloor histrionics.    

Beats are very much just one part of the story, though. What’s noticeable is an embrace of the human in the midst of the futuristic sheen. From Cleyra’s arresting post-breakup sample on Tendrils stand-out track ‘Cross My Mind’ to feeo’s seemingly fragile, deceptively formidable ‘iknowyouwill’ which hinges around her vocal counterpoint, “please don’t let me down.” tobha’s bewildering, chasmic ‘I Don’t Know What I’m Doing (ft. The Exhausted)’ is largely driven by uncomfortable snippets of voice processed and twisted into avant-grade [sic] shapes. 

There’s a sense of flow to Tendrils, Lurched Purple and In The Slush, as though all three releases were conceived in one arc. It isn’t a basic intensity ramp from ambient to beats, but rather a sense of everything working together despite the disparities in style. It’s telling I’ve ended up listening to it as a 21-track mega comp despite my earlier gripes about the format, gliding between different points in the collection and feeling comfortably dislocated in the process. The great joy in music like this is the ambiguity that comes with it — it’s not immediately obvious why it snags your cerebellum, because by its very nature it’s subtle. In the era of the techno-industrial-complex and its many actors vying for attention, the whole vibe orbiting Twin System and similarly spirited labels is one of sincerity — a tunes-first attitude which reminds you what there is to get excited about in the current electronic music landscape.