The Bug

(Ninja Tune)


Going into a new release from The Bug (aka Kevin Martin), you can count on a few key things being in the mix: cavernous atmospherics, check; an incredible level of dub, dance, hip-hop, dancehall, hardcore and experimental music literacy, check; most importantly, punishing, relentless, life-affirming bass – check. All are present and correct on Fire. But there’s so much more to this record than that.

From dislocating opener ‘The Fourth Day’, featuring poet and frequent Martin collaborator Roger Robinson tracing a grimly vivid, Children of Men-meets-The Drowned World vision of post-pandemic dystopia, we’re dragged through a procession of brutish, uncompromising sonics, led through the suffocating murk by a cast of superb guest vocalists. 

There’s the pugilistic doom-grime of ‘Pressure’ and its typically lean, agile Flowdan appearance; Moor Mother’s imperious turn on the relentless ‘Vexed’; a smart, meme-nodding feature from Northampton’s FFSYTHO on ‘How Bout Dat’; a cocktail of cheekiness and threat from Logan on ‘Fuck Off’. Most striking of all, though, is the utterly heart-breaking ‘The Missing’, on which Martin’s production takes a step back to cede the floor to Robinson once more, as the poet combines magical realism and all-too-earthly eulogy in tribute to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. Career-best stuff, this.