Departure Lounge prepares for take-off
David Pollock talks to Departure Lounge as they present their most impressive line-up yet with Bass Clef, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and Souljazz Orchestra
The promoters behind Edinburgh’s Departure Lounge take pride in being unable to pin their night down to any one genre or style. Chris Knight, otherwise known as DJ Astroboy, explains that the best way to get a handle on what they do is to take a look at the guests who play there. On the evidence of this month’s instalment, though, the truly fantastic line-up might make you think this is the city’s best club by many miles.
Heading up the trio of acts booked for April is Bass Clef, with a delicious combination of dubstep, dancehall and Afrobeat. Backing him up are Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (the sons of Sun Ra Arkestra trumpeter Phil Cohren and recent guests on Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach) and Souljazz Orchestra. The latter group is a Canadian soul, jazz and funk outfit who have received support from the likes of Horace Andy and Gilles Peterson, and who are already two-time veterans of Departure Lounge.
‘We’ve had a pretty mind-boggling array of people,’ says Knight, who runs the club and DJs alongside Mark Colquhoun (Mr Zimbabwe) and Jim Bathgate (Jiminez). ‘We put on everything from jazz to dubstep to funk, soul and Latin American styles. Even within that broad range we’ve got a very liberal remit, although everything is rooted in black music.’
In that case, the sound of Bass Clef should fit perfectly. While his 2006 debut album A Smile is a Curve That Straightens Most Things was seen predominantly as a dubstep record, Clef’s recent follow-up May the Bridges I Burn Light the Way has broadened his style in all directions.
‘The definition of dubstep has narrowed over the past few years,’ says Ralph Cumbers, Bass Clef himself. ‘I used to sit on the margins of it, but now the margin has moved closer to the mainstream and I’ve gone further in the opposite direction, towards mutant strains of Afrobeat, juju, kuduro, kwaito, cumbia, soca, grime and UK funky.’
Although he – like the club – doesn’t like to be boxed in. ‘I have no idea if I have a style,’ says Cumbers, ‘and if I do, I reckon it doesn’t really fit anywhere, which is fine with me. The new album was an attempt to blend live instruments and percussion with heavy electronics, partially inspired by juju legend King Sunny Ade, who released some amazing albums in the 80s, and Talking Heads, who were obviously on a big Fela Kuti kick at one point.
‘So it all comes back to the African rhythms for sure, but also the bold spirit of seeing no difference between electronic and acoustic sounds, and slamming them together to see what happens.’ His live show promises ‘no po-faced laptop set’, instead featuring ‘live trombones, drum machines, samples, cowbell and whistles.’
Departure Lounge, meanwhile, are only looking up from here, with their seventh birthday coming up this summer, and then a month of programming the music at the Roxy Art House over the festival. DL continues to be enduringly unique and unmissable.
Departure Lounge is at the Caves, Edinburgh, Sat 24 Apr. Bass Clef also plays Mixed Bizness at Stereo, Glasgow, Fri 23 Apr.