Ben UFO (Hessle Audio – London)
Over the past five years, Ben UFO has acquired a deserved reputation as one of contemporary dance music’s most daring and wide-ranging selectors, with his keen ear and razor-sharp technical abilities enabling him to cut between eras, lineages and mixing styles with dazzling ease and fluidity.
Having cut his teeth in early dubstep and drum ’n’ bass, his roots lie in UK rave culture – yet his selections cast the net wider, drawing new mutations of this culture into the orbit of house, techno and other global dancefloor sounds. In the club, his sets somehow manage to be simultaneously considered and raucous, sliding from sidewinding broken rhythms into an irresistible four-to-the-floor groove, or broadsiding you with unexpected tangents, old favourites and bizarre secret weapons.
Thomson’s development as a DJ has been inextricably linked to the maturing of Hessle Audio, the label he co-founded in 2007 alongside Pearson Sound and Pangaea.
It’s refreshingly difficult to pin down what makes Ben’s DJing distinctive and exciting, whether you encounter it on the radio, in a recorded mix or on the dancefloor. If there’s a core characteristic of his approach it’s an infectious warmth and restless love of exploration, exemplified by his habit of meshing mind-bendingly strange tracks into peak-time sets, and by the way his Thursday night shows on Rinse FM weave together jacking unreleased dance cuts with new finds and dubbed-out oddities from across the globe. In the club, he shapes these elements into something rich and unpredictable, interspersing phases of driving momentum with joyful curveballs and ruptures in the flow that jolt you back to your senses — moments, as he describes it, that feel like coming up for air on the dancefloor.