Pangaea and his label, Hessle Audio, have been working with a clear purpose for the last two years. Starting with a six-track self-titled mision statement back in 2010, Pangaea has helped lead the current crop of bass music heavyweights out of traditional garage and dubstep dance molds and into techno-infused weirdness grounded in a full swath of UK hardcore sounds, giving birth to jaw-droppers like Objekt’s “Cactus” and Bandshell’s “Dust March” on Hessle earlier in the year as well stuff like Joy Orbison’s string of 2012 collaborations with Boddika and whatever the hell Blawan was off doing this year. Pangaea’s newest outing, a “double EP” by the name of Release, gracefully typifies the current state of Hessle, sliding ever closer to tried-and-true techno while whittling London sounds to their barest bones.
“Game” is Release‘s obvious mission statement and tone-setter, heeling to a repeating sample “Do your thang, just stay ahead of the game” while a bed of fang-toothed snare shots crack into a tense negative space. Release is thick with paranoia and its melodies never really exit a blackened cloudy subterranean realm. Pangaea focuses on the percussive end, shaping the outlines of the track with each impact, changing up patterns and timing on the fly while malevolent, singled-minded synth lines toil in darker claustrophobic regions. “Game” is about as sunny as it gets, its bouncy tuneless synth swinging from the staccato 2-step snare hits.
It’s not hard to fathom why, despite its forty-plus minute length, Pangaea decided to label Release an EP. It’s not that the record is a smattering of unrelated ideas, but each track carves out its own self-contained identity, offering up a niche of particulars that sit more comfortably without a higher album-length purpose in mind (though, in a pinch, it totally could’ve passed as an LP). The title track follows “Game” and it’s a minimal bruiser, darkening the mood considerably. A wash of probing xenomorph synths curl around a chugging, out of the way snare before a throbbing dubstep bass settles around a halting clatter of drums. The track is in and out once its central point is exhausted and we move onto the jungle-y “Trouble.” “Majestic 12” closes out the first half with some headlong 130 BPM Detroit steel work, its whistling, sing-song-y synth hook almost tripping over the heady 4/4 pulse and delicious. underwater wood-knock snare polyrhythms.
The second half is even better. “Time Bomb” leads with a ravenous, stomping drum loop, its main synth hook waffling like a trapped insect while hissing black textures and vocal whispers drift beneath like ashen sediment across the ocean’s floor. “Middleman” is a patient, climbing dubstep lilt, Pangaea steadily adding layer upon layer to its constant, squeaky-clean synth hook. “Aware” is another techstep dynamo, hovering motionless on a spooky, bottomless atmosphere and wrapping it all in a busy riverbed of vamping bass synths and jagged beats. Seven and half minute closer, “High” is a physical, weirdo ambient exercise, its buckling machine sub-octaves and glassy Eno-esque synth tendrils interrupted by some stuttering vocal squalls. If Release has a standout, it’s probably “Held” for being so different from the previous seven tracks as well as being a kind of addicting curiosity on its own. Release definitely sees Pangaea staying ahead of the game, voyaging without hesitation into unchartered territories while keeping a foot in familiar UK bass strains.