The Sound Of: Pressure Dome

A fresh spin on a beloved sound, a pool of slept-on talent, a sharp aesthetic — there are plenty of magic ingredients that make a label successful. People don’t talk as much about the power of balancing the books and making sure each move is sustainable, but an affinity for numbers and a day job in label management has helped Jen Hartley — AKA Yushh — grow Pressure Dome the right way. Nearly five years in, her label stands proud as a respected platform in the amorphous category of UK club music, distinct from Hartley’s own artistic output as Yushh, which is more likely to appear on kindred platforms like Wisdom Teeth and Well Street. From the outset of Pressure Dome, Hartley was more focused on shining a light on her friends’ music and fostering a sense of community.

“At the start I was just trying to get everyone working together and feeling part of something,” Hartley explains. “I used to have a radio show on [former Bristol radio station] 1020 on a Friday. It was our monthly social, everyone would bring their USBs and catch up. Loads of relationships and amazing music came out of that, people collaborating with each other...”

Sonically, Pressure Dome occupies the liminal post-dubstep zone where techno, jungle, ambient and electronica elements all slip and slide into reliably mutant productions. It’s a genre-not-genre spearheaded by labels like Livity Sound, but Hartley doesn’t consider Pressure Dome to be a Bristol label in the tradition of the city’s most fabled stables. She recalls Idle Hands’ Chris Farrell referring to the music she was releasing as ‘the new Bristol sound’, but it’s arrived at a time when this broken, dubby sensibility in club music has detached from geographical limitations to become a more global concern.

Even if Pressure Dome appears to run like a well-oiled machine with a clear-sighted trajectory, there was no grand plan when Hartley started the label. In fact, it was just a case of needing to do her coursework. “I was at uni doing music production,” Hartley explains. “At that point, I was writing a lot of music, but I wasn’t very confident with it. There was a module where they insisted you had to release something, and I was like, ‘I’ve got loads of talented mates around me, how about I release music from them?’”

As well as fulfilling her degree obligations, that first ‘Welcome To The Pressure Dome’ 12” set a tone for the label which has maintained since. The sound spiralled into vivid, tunnelling abstractions around the 140-ish axis, sporting plenty of sound design and HD effects processes. The assembled artists had little to no prior exposure, but they were all united in the high quality of their offerings. 

Even the artwork by local designer Jesse Webb established a look which has held true in the four years since. Nothing was calculated, but compared to the rookie errors many make on their first steps into releasing music, Hartley immediately set creative and quality standards which have come to define Pressure Dome ever since. “There’s a time and a place for in-your- face dance music, but I think subtlety is really important,” she says. “I love sound design, I love things being interesting — when every time you listen to it again you find something new. Those intricacies and details, feeling like it’s not just a pure energy focus. It’s a lot more considered than that.”