Album Review: Ital Tek – Midnight Colour

[Planet Mu; 2010]

There are always some artist that just kind of fall between the cracks, regardless of the quality of their music. Some deservedly so, others merely because of circumstance. Brighton dubstep producer Ital Tek (born Alan Myson) might be seen as unfairly falling victim to this, more for his effortless blending of styles than anything else. Often described as electronica-infused dubstep or something similarly stupid, his music – since signing to Planet Mu, anyway – is pleasant and accessible but has a fairly ill-defined target audience. Debut LP Cyclical, released back in 2008, was an uneven affair, lacking the urban reverence or spirituality of prime contemporary dubstep, and set with a certain cold-hearted impenetrability that kept listeners at bay; an enjoyable listen, but not a particularly memorable one. His 2009 EP Massive Error, however, showed him allowing downright pretty melodies to waft into his tunes, and he continues this trend with his second LP Midnight Colour, a wonderful album where he slows the tempo and tries to find himself amid the larger spaces between the beats.

The pacing of Midnight Colour is curious, both in sequencing and pure feeling; even the tracks that are still 140bpm feel much slower. The alternately swaggering and swooning opener “Neon Arc,” with its flickering volume fluctuations and dramatic bass drops imbuing the song with a drippy, syrupy atmosphere, appears much more spacious than it really is. The tempo dips and rises throughout the album for a smooth, comfortable ride, gentle rocking motions that would put you to sleep if they weren’t so damn pretty: the jumbled string plucks of “Talis” sound like a computer-generated lullaby, and the dreamy “Strangelove” favours waves of synth, relegating the beat to a fever dream in the background. The more aggressive tracks swing with a booming force that sounds more hip-hop than dubstep. The mid-album pairing of “Subgiant” and “Black and White” hit so deliberately with their careful percussion, and so hard, that they feel much slower than their actual tempos.

Of course, slow and deliberate only gets you so far. The album has a tendency to drift by, so you’ve got to really invest yourself to get the most out of it — but when you do, it’s a treat. Loading his tracks up with all kinds of sounds and melodies, they’re meticulously detailed without feeling studious or fussed-over. “Moon Bow” is a textural playground, so intricate that you might miss the 8-bit melodies that are shoved off into the corners, hidden behind the multiple semitransparent layers of synth, and “Subgiant” brings some very satisfying low-frequency buzz. The album’s two highlights are its most obvious tracks: lead single “Moment In Blue” props up a lilting, music box melody and builds a wall of rhythmic vocals around it, while closer “Restless Tundra,” featuring a vocal from the lovely Anneka, basically combines all the different styles and moods from the album’s entire running time into a stirring and confident intro. When Anneka’s vocal (her best yet) finally comes in, it juggles sultry beauty with an almost desperate streak of aggression, quite like Myson’s productions.

Midnight Colour deserves more attention than it’s going to get, sitting in the uncomfortable no-man’s land between more traditional dubstep and whatever the hell ‘wonky’ hip-hop beats are being called these days. In fact, it probably fits nicely alongside some of the music coming out of the L.A. beats scene right now, but it does have a distinctly metallic UK edge, too focused for that free-floating hippie stargazing. Whatever you decide to call it, Midnight Colour is a gorgeous tour through unnaturally colourful manmade landscapes (just like the purple-hued album cover). If you can really get into the sightseeing mindset, you’ll be amazed at some of the things you’ll discover along the way.