Plastician And The Founding Of A New Genre
Before vibe.digital and Liquid Ritual, before Imminent Cybercorporation, before anyone even really knew wavemob was a thing, there was one place to consistently hear the most cutting edge sounds in electronic music. One DJ had a residency on a legendary “pirate turned legitimate” radio station in London, the longest-running residency of anyone there. His name was Plastician, and he kept getting on the mic, going on about this certain type of sound that still didn’t have a genre name, but he was playing it out on Rinse.FM during his two-hour slot each week. Whether he knew it or not, he was the hub of this new sound, as his early forays into grime and dubstep 15+ years earlier helped shape (and still help to shape) those genres as we know them today. His legendary tastemaking and curation, as well as the respect the underground had for him to coalesce and propagate a new sound now in the 2014-2016 SoundCloud era.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Plastician would put out the call on his socials to send him a SoundCloud DM with new beats for him to play out. The peeps who messaged him were mostly a bunch of kids and early 20-somethings, responding from their bedrooms, on their laptops, with pirated copies of audio software and the Lex Lugar sound pack, making beats. They didn’t make them for the club (they probably hadn’t set foot in a club in their life), they made beats for themselves and their peers, and it was a time of splendor on SoundCloud. On Rinse, Plastician would transition to these tunes that were usually made without a DJ intro, and he often referred to them as “wavy bits.”
Right away, having clocked onto this sound in 2014, I knew that if I heard someone get played out on Rinse on Plastician’s show, I should follow them. I was almost always in the comments section of the SoundCloud upload of the radio show that went up the next day, asking for track IDs and networking with other people who also dropped a comment. I found Kareful, Sorsari, Skit, Noah B, Øfdream, WTCHCRFT, and tons of others that way. I started making my own beats, which I had largely given up on doing after an unsuccessful journey in the early days of dubstep in the USA, and after I made a few I sent them to Plastician. He even previewed the first few, but didn’t download them. That was okay, I knew they weren’t that good, but it was cool that he took the time to listen.
It was around this time when a bunch of the artists I had followed earlier formed their own collective and they called it Wavemob. They were all tagging their genres the same, calling it something generic. At first, I wasn’t so sure I liked it but it had a simplicity to it. They called their music “wave.” They released their first compilation, and I got excited and was inspired to up my producing game. I had moved to New York City from my small Iowa town, and while I was making the best music I had ever made, I still wasn’t sure if anything I laid down was worth a damn. My mixdowns were choppy, and not as loud as some, but my ideas were solid, and at the least, I was making something that I liked, so I sent Plastician another DM with the download enabled, and I made sure to name the song file properly (“Artist Name – Song Name” and this is still relevant today). His exceptionally basic response changed my life, “Grabbed this cheers”…
I tried not to get my hopes up. Yes, he downloaded the song, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to play it out, right? Nevertheless, I tuned into his radio show, which played at 2PM Eastern Time, in the middle of my workday, and all of the sudden I heard it. The intro of the song I sent, and then he announced my artist name. I couldn’t believe it. I was sitting at my desk with my earbuds connected to my work computer, and the adrenaline was coursing. I was listening to MY OWN music on Rinse. My colleagues were oblivious to the catharsis I was experiencing, squirming in my seat. I may have made a high-pitched sound after the song played, but no one really heard so did it really happen? I was glued to the Rinse SoundCloud channel waiting for that upload. When it came up, I immediately commented on my own song and was so grateful all week to Plastician. I’d often go back in and see who else was commenting and who else got played that week, and one guy stood out to me in particular, it was a man calling himself M!NGO. This was another guy who got one of his first plays on Rinse that week so I followed him. I heard his tunes. I eventually reached out to see if he wanted to collab, one of the first times I’d ever reached out like this. I thought it was a long shot, but hey, Plastician playing one of my songs on freaking RINSE was a longshot. For a few days I didn’t hear a response from the guy until eventually, I got a DM back. “Yo Fam When You Want To Collab? I’m ready if you are!!!”
Not long after, I was rolling through Colorado on my way to my friend’s wedding and I came in a day early to meet up with the man. Jordan Wilkinson is an exceptionally tall human, and if his demeanor hadn’t been so friendly I likely would have been intimidated. He came out to the street after I parked and led me into a nearby house. Apparently, he was staying in the basement of his friend’s parent’s house, both of whom were deaf. Next to a dank, humid, and unfinished basement room, he had a DJ controller and a laptop on a standing desk. We talked for a few minutes but quickly started making a beat, another shot in the dark as I really hadn’t collaborated with anyone in person at that point. We found a decent drop for us at the time, and started on an intro. I remembered a scene from True Detective and figured a little cinematic quote would be appropriate for this vibe, so I threw that in there. The two hours I had to meet flew by, but we had the bare bones of a song.
A week later, Jordan finished it and sent it to me. I forwarded it on to Plastician who downloaded it again. Then Plastician messages me, “this is dope u mind if I hold this one back for the wave pool mix?” He eventually signed ‘Rebirth‘ to Terrorhythm, and you can still hear it on the Wavepool 2 compilation, the first wave-centric compilation Plastician ever put out. It wasn’t a definitive compilation of the kind Wavemob would put out, but it was definitely up there in all-time highlights for me to this day. Looking back, we are fortunate in that it’s not hard to experience the feeling of wave music from that time. We still have a direct window into the past with Rinse’s SoundCloud as they conveniently have an archive of all of Plastician’s shows (here and here you can find some of my favorites). And of course, no post about these times would be complete mentioning the epic finale. Did Plastician book Skepta again for his final show? Nah, it was Skit, Kareful, Klasey Jones, and LTHL. Going out the way the man came in. Pushing the underground.
After Plastician’s show came to an end there was a significant void left, which many tried to fill, myself included. After I moved back to Iowa, I founded a radio show that M!NGO helped me name “vibe.digital.” I was astonished at the excitement and support it generated from friends, fans, and especially fellow artists worldwide. I started to receive exclusive songs to play out on the radio show, including one from M!NGO and Pinknokia entitled, ‘Missed Call’. I did my best to help M!NGO submit that one to all the labels putting out the wave sound at that time, but to no avail, no one would sign. On the phone with Jordan I remember succinctly telling him… “Who is going to sign ‘Missed Call’?! Why won’t anyone sign it? Goddam, who is going to sign it…?” Then I paused and realized, oh shit. I am going to sign it. And that’s the story of how vibe.digital as a record label started.
Plastician’s early input into our scene was incalculable. The amount he was consistently doing to reach down and pull up artists like Deadcrow, Sorsari, Noah B, Kareful, Skit, and so many others is the stuff of legends now. The rise of successful and sold-out wave shows around the world today can be directly tied back to Plastician’s early support of our scene. We’ll always remember and I’ll always be grateful.
– Written by Donald “Fyoomz” Revolinski.
SoundCloud | Spotify | Audius | Twitter | Instagram
SoundCloud | Spotify | Audius | Twitter | Instagram