Words by:
Photography: Lucy Werrett

Jen Hartley is nursing a hangover at Mickey Zoggs.

The Bristol-based DJ, producer and label head known as Yushh was out late celebrating the release of her debut EP, Look Mum No Hands, for Facta and K-LONE’s Wisdom Teeth imprint. As we sit in the beloved Bristol haunt (home of Noods Radio, where Hartley holds a residency), we’re politely interrupted by the friends and fans Hartley has gained during her six years in the city’s close-knit music community, many of them warmly congratulating her on the new project.

Over an industrial mix being blasted through Zoggs’ speakers, Hartley casts her mind back to the place that sparked her creative impulses: her childhood home in north London, where her jazz piano playing father inspired her curiosity for music. Specifically, the E-mu Proteus 2000 synth he once brought home when she was 15, which opened Hartley’s eyes to the endless possibilities of sound design. “I’ve always been obsessed with the technology side of music,” she reflects, smiling. “I’ll often be in my home studio for hours just trying to make sounds I’ve never heard before.”

PB:PB, her 2019 debut two-tracker for All Centre, was the culmination of these sonic explorations. Combining the organic and synthetic to spellbinding effect, the title track sounds as though it’s been recorded in a futuristic aviary, with strange cyborg birds exchanging chirps to a backdrop of metallic percussion. A slew of similarly uncanny singles for underground tastemakers Rhythm Section and Woozy followed, demonstrating Hartley’s ability to conjure up curious moods and atmospheres.

Look Mum No Hands embodies Hartley’s quest for unique rhythmic flourishes, eliciting the image of infinite layers of sound, each component in constant motion. Project highlight Self Couscous is a glitchy, delicately arranged take on jungle; the luscious broken beats of Same Same call to mind Peverelist at his most elaborate; and the reverberating drum’n’bass sensibilities of Close Fall pulse with emotion, making it more suited to introspective late nights than peak-hours dancefloors. “The chord progressions in that tune instil a tone I’ve previously been too afraid to convey,” she admits. “I generally find it difficult to articulate my feelings, but I’m getting better at being vulnerable through music.”

Hartley recognises that her aversion to unfiltered emotion is, in part, down to the pressures and prejudices she faces as a woman making electronic music. “I’m adamant that everything I put out is technically impressive to prove I’m as proficient as my male counterparts,” she sighs. “I’m trying harder to recognise when that hinders my capacity for real creative expression.”

It’s through her own imprint, Pressure Dome, that Hartley finds the most artistic freedom. Since its foundation in 2019, Hartley has released split EPs, vinyl full-lengths and V/A compilations featuring tracks from the likes of Livity Sound’s Jurango and Ido Plumes, as well as cherished Bristol locals such as Pluralist and MISH. “I’ve heard people refer to Pressure Dome releases as a kind of ‘new Bristol sound’,” she muses, referring to the strain of atmospheric, dub-inflected compositions that have characterised the label’s output.

A forthcoming compilation, Two [Is Greater Than] One, will see Hartley’s community ethos take flight across eight tracks co-produced by signees and affiliates, including herself, Syz, Caldera, Wordcolour and Forever. It’s a tantalising, groove-driven project that embodies Hartley’s impeccable taste as a producer and curator across the spectrum of UK bass, techno and beyond. “With everything I do – as an artist, DJ, label owner – I’m looking to challenge people,” she asserts. “I want the music to allow people to lose themselves and then regroup, like, ‘How the fuck did we get here?’”

Sounds like: UK bass reverberating around a greenhouse
Soundtrack for: Solo clubbing
File next to: Salamanda, Ehua
Our favourite song: Self Couscous
Where to find her: @_jrhartley

Look Mum No Hands is out now via Wisdom Teeth