A Blues: Rat Heart’s forward-looking ensemble LP

In an interview with Loud and Quiet, Space Afrika’s Joshua Inyang and Joshua Reid were asked to talk about musicians they admire who have slipped under the radar. “Rat Heart is one of the UK’s most talented producers, hands down,” Inyang says. 

“Honestly, you go and speak to anyone in Manchester. And I think every one of his releases has been pivotal for the city. He’s a guy who doesn’t care about fame, he doesn’t care about reviews, he doesn’t care about getting paid for a DJ show. But he fucking LOVES music.”

I would go as far as saying Tom Boogizm is the best DJ on the planet,” Reid adds.

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Despite the respect he’s earned from fellow artists, you would be forgiven for not having heard of Tom Boogizm, let alone his Rat Heart persona. There’s no press team to contact. I couldn’t find a single interview the producer has given. But If you’re into the underground electronic scene, or Manchester culture more broadly, you will almost definitely have heard his music. 

Boogizm has been an NTS resident since 2015, hosting a regular two-hour show named Robbin’ Lobsters from Mobsters. He runs his own record label, Shotta Tapes, and is a familiar face at some of the UK’s best DJ nights. 

On his NTS show in December 2020, Boogizm introduced Rat Heart, a persona under which he now releases much of his work:

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the church of Rat Heart / In today’s procession, we will be addressing loss, life, love and how the DJ world has been taken over / By middle class people in extremely suspect footwear / With their transparent middle class agendas / Nobody seems to want to address these issues / But do not fear, Rat Heart is here.

Ensemble ‘A Blues’ artwork

A stream of singles followed and then an excellent self-titled LP in July 2021. In his releases as Rat Heart and Tom Boogizm, there is a rejection of self-promotion and pageantry. His Bandcamp liner notes talk of ‘self-serving, fraudulent DJs, promoters, booking agents & industry toads’. 

What does seem important to the producer are people, places and space. Each Shotta Tapes release, perhaps unsurprising, is a physical cassette tape mastered by a small audio tape copying company in Stockport. The Introducing Rat Heart LP, released in March last year, is only available as a cassette. If you want to listen to his music, try Boomkat, not Spotify or Apple Music.

Last month, Rat Heart released an ensemble LP titled ‘A Blues’. A limited edition physical cassette tape was made available for purchase at Peste, Oldham Road’s new wood-panelled book, record and art shop.

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It opens with buzzing synths and sorrowful, fading vocalisations. White noise sounds like pouring rain in the second track, Chikonga, a perfect soundtrack to moody walks around the city. 

Rat Heart plays with tension and emotion, adding soothing, sad vocals in The Relevant Elephant. Who cares who’s wrong? / Who cares at all? a voice asks. It’s often hard to make out exactly what the lyrics are, but the singer’s torn, regretful tone is clear. Perhaps this is the ‘blues’ to which the LP’s title refers, or a reference to its intermittent bursts of jazz. 

‘A Blues’ is deliberate and cinematic, a reflection of an artist who cares more about why he’s making music than if anyone is listening. The tongue in cheek track titles – ‘I’m a fucking songbird m8’ – are a reminder of the humour that cuts through all his releases.

One of the final tracks, Natasha, highlights why peers like Space Afrika, Anz and Rainy Miller sing Rat Heart’s praises. It’s subtle and stripped back, but powerful in the atmosphere it creates. The LP is not explicitly about Manchester or city life, but it’s unmistakably urban in the truest sense of the word. Music for rain splattered concrete and the promise of much more to come.

A Blues by Rat Heart is released on Shotta Tapes. Consider buying the EP from one of Greater Manchester’s independent record shops or from the artist’s Bandcamp.