Deep Medi Musik / Mala of Digital Mystikz – Meditative ‘Dubstep’

[Mala - the man who created Deep Medi and co-founded DMZ.]

For Mala, it’s never been about blowing up or making it big. He was just doing what came natural to him and his friends and hoping others might feel that. The producer hates the idea of promotion and hype, and is even reluctant to let his own sounds escape the ecology they’re rooted in. But eventually the limelight was pointed towards their dark little corner and he realized he was in the position to help others flourish. So he assumed that responsibility and started a label to help cultivate artists with a similar mindset to his own. It’s called Deep Medi Musik.

[Mala -- "Forgive" from Deep Medi Releases Vol. 1]

He helped shape a scene through uncompromising vision. It was a single-minded goal of creating music, basking in its positive effects, and living in the moment. This manifested itself in the form of DMZ, a club night and label meant to share their 140 BPM mindset. “I was like, ‘I don’t care, I don’t want no help from nobody, I don’t wanna sign my music to no labels…’,” he recalls. “It was really just like, ‘This is what we’re doing, this is DMZ, this is what we’re about.’”

The sound included his minimal ‘broken dub house’, Coki’s brash synths (together the duo are known as Digital Mystikz), and Loefah‘s sparse, halfstep ‘chest bass’. Their music could only be heard at their dark, unadorned club night with a massive sound system at 3rd Base, or on limited-run vinyl releases and dubplates.

[Digital Mystikz -- "Anti-War Dub feat. Spen G" This song was used in the Children of Men movie.]

“When people first started hearing our stuff no one called it anything, distributors didn’t know what to call it or how to sell it, so it was really just a case of us deciding to do it ourselves,” Mala says. “We decided to press up some white labels and see if anyone would be interested in taking any, and it just went from there. We sold more than we ever expected, which allowed us to go and do the next one.”

Eventually, the party’s siren call to “come meditate on bass weight” came to define an era of music that most refer to as dubstep. Word began to spread in early 2006, and the world descended on their humble bi-monthly party. Their music was featured in a major motion picture, and they started getting booked to play crowds around the globe.

[A DMZ dance in 2005. Photo by Georgina Cook who documented the scene.]

But even now that the music world has changed partly due to their efforts, and people clamber to understand the genre’s origins, the DMZ sounds are kept close, and they refuse to repress the majority of their releases and dubplates.

For one, Mala doesn’t want the music to be misrepresented. If the music were played on laptop speakers devoid of any low end frequencies, it would defeat the purpose, he points out. “So it was really about people listening to the music the way I thought it should be heard.” And then there’s the moments that those tunes lived in: “It doesn’t feel right to keep repressing things that existed in a certain time and space, and have a certain energy that is relevant to a certain period of time, even though they’re still relevant now, to some extent, in some people’s lives.”

Furthermore, he’d like to encourage more people to experience those moments together, as part of a group: “With technology nowadays we’re in such a position where people will maybe not be inclined to go out if they can have everything at the click of a button, so for me, it’s just my way of just trying to connect with people in the real world.” And if people know a DJ has a song that they might never play again, he thinks that creates an incentive to get out there and see them perform.

[The Deep Medi team.]

But that’s what Mala wants from his own music, and the South Londoner recognizes that he has a responsibility to help cultivate a new generation of music producers. That’s where Deep Medi comes in.

“It goes back to the youth work I used to do [teaching Logic and Reason]. A lot of record labels don’t really concentrate on developing somebody, they just want a quick turnaround, but certain things in life take time. I thought I’d try to help bring other people’s music that I was into.”

[Goth Trad -- "Cut End". A 12" released on Deep Medi in 2008.]

“A record label,” he explains, “should support an artist to the best of their ability, and when you have the contacts I think it’s important that people are made aware to the best of your ability of what’s coming out.” That means you can download a significant portion of this catalog, the releases are often repressed, and they send out press releases for new records and such.

[Quest, who has the largest body of work on Deep Medi, second only to Silkie, to the left there.]

Medi encompasses an international roster, with the likes of Goth Trad from Japan, who veers toward sluggish bass wobs and fat synth melodies, and Truth from New Zealand, a group fond of horror themes. But the label’s artists employ a broad musical scope. They explore tempos beyond the 140 mark, venture into brighter sounds, and occasionally use more expansive melodies.

Silkie, the first of the Medi artists to drop a full length release with the label, is a great embodiment of Medi’s mix of foundation and progression. His shuffled beats and weighty bass are matched with vivid synths and organic instrumentation. “Beauty” offers warm underwater blips that seek out a passionate piano. The remorseful “I Sed” marries fuzzy keys with smooth synth stabs and skittery percussion. And then there’s “80s Baby”, which takes vibrating globs of bass and a frenetic, rich beat and hacks at them with neon soul.

[Silkie -- "I Sed" from Deep Medi Releases Vol. 2]

The sonic DMZ roots are still quite visible in the team, even among the newcomers. The technical, dynamic percussion is often there. The deep basslines are too. And they don’t fail to recognize the struggles daily life entails.

Even this young label’s name is rooted in those early parties. Deep Medi is short for deep meditation. “When it comes to our dance, that’s what I want people to do,” says Mala. “I want it to be a positive meditation. I’m not into no madness, man!” - MS

Make sure to check for the upcoming Digital Mystikz album, because you know it won’t be available for long.

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