Jack Stevens, aka Sully is one of the UK underground’s more elusive producers. Despite an impressive array of releases under his belt - including 2008’s brilliant ‘Phonebox EP’ – he remains a somewhat mysterious figure. Few pictures of him exist, no Twitter, no Facebook. Yet, if you’ve ever come across any of Sully’s music then it’s a name you’re unlikely to forget. For some it has been a long time coming, but this month finally sees the release of his debut long-player, Carrier on Dusk & Blackdown’s Keysound Recordings.
Sully’s older work so often incorporated the swing of garage that he became known by some as ‘king of the swing.’ Carrier adheres to this notion, with two beautifully stripped down pieces of 2-step, both drenched in his trademark percussive swing. ‘It’s Your Love’ is raw and rugged, filling the gaps of space between the sparse, clicking drums with a rumbling, rolling jungle bassline. ‘2 Hearts’ is more melodic, with huge sweeping chords and a chopped up female vocal offering an emotiveness that is so often synonymous with UK garage.
It’s not just 2-step though, and Sully begins to explore the various guises of UK underground music as the record goes on. ‘In Some Pattern’ delivers a broken, aggressive slice of wonk, with colourful laser synth stabs colliding with a harsh, snapping, twisted bassline. The amen littered breakdown again offers that rough and rude jungle fervency – an influence that seems to underpin the entire LP. ‘Encona’ takes the rhythm and tempo of UK funky, fusing heavy Afro percussion with booming sub hits.
As the album progresses, it becomes clear that Carrier is not a long-player in its classic sense, there’s no real narrative on offer here, these are DJ’able tracks that would light up any dancefloor. This is no criticism however, as each cut offers something different from the next, and it’s the LP’s latter stages that highlight Sully’s more experimental leanings. ‘Scram’ combines sharp, eski strings with flurries of juke drums and 808 claps. It’s Ruff Sqwad meets Chicago footwork and it, well… works. He continues to explore this sound palette for the remainder of the LP, with tight 808 drum patterns and chopped vocals aplenty, all solidified by weighty, rumbling sub bass. He doesn’t abandon his ability to craft beautiful, enveloping melodies though, and ‘Bonafide’ is as poignant as anything on the entire record.
With Carrier, Sully manages to showcase the current state of UK underground dance music without falling into any played out clichés or adhering to any tired trends. Some of these ideas may already exist in the vast world of electronic music, but there are no formulas here. Sully explores these sounds but saturates them in his own raw, powerful and experimental style. Simply put, a classic.
Go cop the album now!