A small note based on Part 1: this is no history of dub – no need to create a list of dub forefathers in the comments! But if you’re interested in such things, definitely watch Bruno Natal’s Dub Echos, he talks to everyone under the sun, and it’s fascinating!)
A Quiet Bump [as seen in part 1] has their feet firmly planted in the heavy Rhythm and Sound aesthetic of half-time, head-nodding feel. The second modern dub label I’ve been impressed with over the years, Qunabu, is rooted a little more strongly in two other genres, the clicks and cuts and glitch of Mille Plateaux (which I’m probably more familiar with) and dub techno (to which I’m a relative n00b). The latter is a sound that’s captivated me over the last eighteen months or so, as I’ve gotten into old Chain Reaction, some of the Echospace / Deepchord projects, and everything on Echocord – but I’m absolutely no expert and I’m sure many readers have been following the genre stretching back well into the 90s.
Qunabu is more than just a netlabel; it actually arose as a twinned project of a design firm and netlabel, founded by Piotr Hatti Vatti and Mateusz Qunabu out of Gdansk, Poland. Mateusz and his brother Rafal sit well within a long Polish tradition of innovative visual design, and they offer a pretty stellar portfolio of all sorts of graphic and interactive design, photography, and video work. It’s all on displace, on the main site under the interactive section. I mention it because, unfortunately, right now the actual netlabel part of Qunabu has a placeholder page – it’s being redesigned and wasn’t ready quite in time for this piece. But it’s easy to get excited for how it will look, and in addition to their portfolio, the podcast series and the shop are up and running.
The amazing coincidence is that I was familiar with both Qunabu and Piotr’s work as Hatti Vatti, completely independently of each other. Hatti Vatti totally captivated me with his track “Different Music,” which came out on Indigo’s Mindset label a couple years ago – a song I still play in sets to this day. Fodder for a different article for sure, but I consider every track Hatti Vatti’s ever produced to be 100% awesome and probably be the finest example of what’s good and interesting about dubstep today – it’s the opposite of this. And in hindsight of course I can hear the connection between his brand of dubstep and the experimental and techno leanings of Qunabu.
The label has had an impressive output so far, and includes some ambient work from NN as well as a few pieces that call more on hip-hop and free jazz like The Strait of Anian’s This Wandering Winter release. But the majority of tracks lope along in the 115-125bpm range of slow techno, ranging in feel from fairly driving to almost muffled. Their two strongest releases so far have been the two volumes of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band”. These are the label’s showcase compilations, akin to the great Staedizism compilations from ~scape (and both put out long before Easy Star All Stars released and album with the same name!) They are both a pretty stunning collection of tracks from producers that haven’t seen many releases elsewhere.
Mateusz and Piotr answered a few of my questions by email below. Also, be sure to check out check out the captivating video of “You” that Qunabu created – showcasing the real love and affection they have for their city of Gdansk, a town that has produced Reza and his CX Digital label among others.
Who is involved in Qunabu, and when did it start?
Mateusz Qunabu [MQ]: It started in 2006. It’s been me, Mateusz Qunabu and Piotr aka Hatti Vatti from the beginning. I’m responsible for the website and technical stuff as well as the first selection of received audio and organizing graphics, etc. Piotr is responsible for finalizing the music and further contact with artists.
If you had to describe your aesthetic to people who didn’t know the label, what would you say?
MQ: Dub Side of the Moon, recently the dub techno side
Hatti Vatti [HV]: We started with dub techno, but right now we are focused on any electronic and experimental minimalistic genre. But dub elements are always somewhere around. HQ open-minded music.
How do you choose which artists to release?
MQ: The first release was from Piotr’s friend from a Polish reggae forum. Then he started to meet people on myspace. It was a time when myspace was full of interesting stuff (2006-2007), so he gathered a collection of tracks for Sgt. Peppers #1. After that we were receiving emails from people around the world. We’ve met a few of them in person, some of them we know only by email. Stendek is the only local friends we have published – I think he is one of the greatest artist in our portfolio.
HV: There’s no rule. We asked a lot of people for EP, but ~50% of our releases are sent as demos… It’s an international netlabel but we are really happy if we will get something cool from our country or city (Gdansk). I’m really proud of our first compilation – it’s 100% polish. All told, Qunabu has released music from 15 countries and 4 continents :).
Which project are you most proud of – or was the most difficult?
HV: Making “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Dub Band Vol. 1” was hard work. We were a bit unknown as a netlabel at the time… I think it’s my favorite release because of the big response and the feeling that we had done something really special in many ways. But I like every single EP and LP… “Sgt Peppers… Vol. 2” was our biggest project, but it was much so easier after “Vol. 1”. I think almost 100% Qunabu stuff is still “actual”, fresh and very interesting. Also, QNB004 (77’s Schlummerlieds EP) and QNB005 (Misk’s Pathos EP) both came out in the same moment (2007) – now it seems like a kind of prophecy of dubstep and dubtechno crossover…
What upcoming releases are planned?
HV: Avant jazz experiments meets dub techno EP + “Sgt Peppers…” Vol 3.
Kid Kameleon is a San Francisco-based DJ, promoter, writer, blogger, historian, archivist, and fan of electronic music. Tune in regularly for his CREATED series on new and undiscovered music, including what to hear, and talks with artists.