ANIMAL London: Unit 137 Stirring Up the Bass, Roots, and Culture

June 12, 2013 | Bucky Turco

There’s a big sound coming out of South East London and it’s called Unit 137. In their own words, Unit 1-3-7 is a “a collective of DJs, producers, vocalists, engineers and instrumentalists drawn together by a shared passion of conscious, forward thinking bass music,” consisting of Hylu, Jago, Zico, D-Tek, Galak Spiritual, Nãnci Correia, Papa B, Phoebe aka Irondread, and Sleepy Time Ghost.

And it doesn’t stop there. Unit 137 is also a record label, a recording studio, and now, a thumping 10,000 watt sound system. For Unit 137, the studio is where they make the sound, but their sound system is how they broadcast that sound, live and direct, to the people.

The name Unit 137 is derived from the number of their live-work space in Lewisham, a historical hotbed of reggae music. ANIMAL met Hylu and Zico while visiting their creative neighbors, t-shirt makers Done London, and they agreed to do an interview as well. But first they had to fire up the sound! About twenty minutes later we arrived and the orange cabinets were thundering bass while Zico laid down some crisp vocals and Hylu selected.

Thoroughly roots and culture, the collective creates original dancehall, dub and jungle tracks, but even the jungle is inspired by and remixed with foundational reggae, establishing a cultural loop, bridging old and new. Many members of Unit 137 also play in a 10-piece reggae band called onlyjoe. They live and breathe the music.

When ANIMAL visited Unit 137, they were preparing for their second release, the “Uplifting Riddim,” featuring production duo Hylu & Jago along with fellow onlyjoe member R. Kent and vocals by Josie Mel (Jamaica), Jah Defender (Trinidad), Galak Spiritual (France), and Dandelion (UK). You can find this latest drop in digital form and of course, on vinyl — which is very important tradition for 1-3-7 to maintain.

For those of you in London, their release party is this Friday.

Here is Zico performing live over the “Youthman Riddim” as Hylu selects:

You can find Unit 137 on Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter and their website.