Chal Ravens profiles a label on the front lines of UK club music.
Founded in 2015 by two Italian-born Londoners, Nervous Horizon has been at the vanguard of every recent stylistic shift in the capital's bass scene. Early inspiration came from the vibrant, hard-hitting club hybrids of the post-Night Slugs era, drawing on the tough percussive energy of grime and UK funky in particular. In the short space of time since, the label has developed a distinct sound of its own: playfully experimental but resolutely functional, folding in elements of gqom, reggaeton or Dutch bubbling (to name a few), sourced from a global roster of artists but readymade for London basements. Where some labels might attempt a land grab, Nervous Horizon also takes care to pay tribute to stylistic innovators, platforming artists who risk being written out of the conversation.
The label is based in a warehouse on the banks of the Lea River in East London, across from the Olympic Stadium. At one end of their studio is a huge custom-built workstation full of production gear. A long shelf along the side wall displays every vinyl release so far, from early 12-inches by cofounders Wallwork and TSVI to the label debut from Lithuanian hard drum enthusiast DJ JM. On the opposite wall, a red Chinese tassel hangs above a computer.
Tommaso Wallwork and Guglielmo Barzacchini grew up just 20 minutes away from each other in the Tuscan towns of Pisa and Pontedera, though they never met until they moved to the UK. Their families gave them "a very philosophical upbringing and made us think about things from day one," says Wallwork, whose mother is a Buddhist. Barzacchini's parents, even more unusually in Italy, had converted to Hinduism. I perch on a sofa while Wallwork and Barzacchini talk me through their story so far, the former steering the conversation in a freeform, fidgety manner that reveals his auto-didactic nature (he's brought his own notes, just in case he forgets anything), the latter chipping in with qualifiers and contradictions, playing the older brother. Both of them finish each other's sentences. Transcribing their conversation is, shall we say, challenging.