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The Month In Dubstep & Bass: March 2010

By ; March 22, 2010 at 12:01 AM 

The Month in Dubstep & Bass - March 2010
Photo: Cloud Seed by Vex’d album cover, ZIQ260 out on Planet Mu

Third page of reviews of our favourites from this month. Keep an eye out for more features, and of course next month’s column with reviews of Ikonika, Ramadanman, Starkey, and more

March’s edition of The Month In Dubstep & Bass was written by Andrew Ryce [AR] and Sam Olson [SO].



Humanoid EP

Purchase on Boomkat

RWINA hits hard with their sixth release from San Franciscan beatmaster Eprom, who brings some neon acid washes after his rather moody release on Surefire Sounds and ahead of a similarly psychedelic release on Bad Acid next month. His style is unique, mixing Starkey-style fluorescence with a more aggressive, deranged touch. RWINA proves prescient with the best thing I’ve heard from him yet; sounding assured and decisive, Eprom blows the roof off with three varied, thrilling tracks. The title track is probably the best, an epic adventure that doesn’t really stay on any one note for longer than thirty seconds. Bursting with ferocious, buzzsaw neon riffs, it’s like Bristol gone mad, hectic stereo separation and pounding drums powerful enough to cause a bit of nausea. When the bass really comes in at about a minute, Eprom alternates between harsh, serrated synths and softer tones, with a heaving see-saw motion emphasized by the quaking bass. With a breakdown consisting almost solely of a computerized voice, it’s got scifi vibes all over, but it’s still unmistakably dubstep. “The Slaughter” brings gloriously hammy horror vibes, starting off with a sample of Jim Morrison screaming until filtered strings harken a twisty, shuffling riff that plots out a dizzy, herky-jerky vertical motion before plunging back into the horror motif with shrill strings going off like car alarms. This is of course all punctured by snarling bass wobbles that cut through like electric knives, and a completely nutso synth malfunction that sends the track into overdrive, everything going at full blast but never sounding crowded.

“Lick Out” tones down the harshness, a sticky, dubbed-out roller that sounds all kinds of aquatic. The dulled kicks sound like they’re underwater, and the springy percussion doesn’t merely hit but splashes, disintegrating on impact in a gooey, oozy mess of sound. Stark bass zigzags underneath the surface of the water, poking its head out like a cartoonish sea-snake, swimming around in menacing circles and sending the bass drum on a terrifying descending riff that sounds like it could easily blow the speakers at any second. The track turns ominous with low-octave pads as the little underwater cave becomes infested with those sea-snakes, overwhelming and dragging the listener into the water with them, ooze still dripping in time obliviously, until the breakdown hits and water floods into your ears until all you can hear is the water rushing around the frantic creatures. You’re allowed some breathing time but you’ll never make it out of the cave, the twisted arrhythmia continuing eternally, until the track nears its end and the water starts spiralling madly until it’s all gone down some unseen drain on the bottom. With this release, Eprom confirms himself as a master of measured cacophony, with a million sounds happening at any one time; but he does so with a singular sense of control and finesse, balancing out the sounds and textures and proving immaculately detailed even when it sounds like there’s no room for details. He’s a producer who’s been capturing my ear as of late, and this, coupled with a number of fantastic releases (RWINA, Warp, Bad Acid, and more) in the span of a few months, has got me rapt with attention. [AR]


Rudi Zygadlo

Resealable Friendship

(Planet Mu | ZIQ264)
Purchase link forthcoming

Glaswegian Rudi Zygadlo is Planet Mu’s newest signing, and well… look at that label artwork. Zygadlo’s playfully androgynous image plays out in his music as well, sounding equal parts David Bowie and Jamie Vex’d. Oh yeah, and he sings; “Resealable Friendship” even has a verse-chorus-verse structure! The vocals thankfully aren’t the forefront — this is no gimmick — and likely after the initial shock of the vocals wears off, you’ll be wowed by the rest. “Resealable Friendship” is the entire Planet Mu output of the last 2 years made to fit into some sort of hyper-appealing (but tiny) box, all pinging sounds and richocheting synths and what even sounds like a severely abused slide guitar turning on and off at the drop of a pin. Zygadlo lays deep, earwormy melodies over everything, giving us what is essentially a collection of riffs exploding all at once, interrupted by the occasional eruption of his manipulated, alien vocals. Instrumental b-side “The Udu and the Clave” caricatures the wobble aesthetic of recent ‘mainstream’ dubstep and sticks it right in the middle of Alice in Wonderland, frantically climbing up the walls and bouncing off the multi-coloured flowers and animals, the introspective breakdown providing some time to stop and smell the opium. As a nice little bonus, two remixes of the a-side are thrown in, by Mu heroes Starkey and Slugabed. The remixes sound exactly as they should — Starkey’s starts out mournful and turns it into a lurching, bass-centered march, giving Zygadlo’s admittedly fey track some much-deserved low-end, while Slugabed’s has a restless urgency, keeping the main vocal melody but uncoiling everything else and re-twisting them into odd shapes, playing with the riffs and sounds and creating what’s more like a cover than anything else. Zygadlo has an album coming out this May on Mu, and even if the last thing I need is something else to get excited about, I’ll be damned if this isn’t near the top of the list. [The digital release also includes two extra remixes, Raffertie turning album track “Perfect Logic” into an eight-minute tech house odyssey (!!), and Doshy trying his hand at “The Udu and the Clave,” accentuating the slight grime tendencies and giving the track a sinister bite with a halting, jerky passages]. [AR]


Badawi / Shackleton

“El Topo” / “Dstry All Prfts (Shackleton Mix)”

(The Index | INDEX001)
Purchase on Boomkat

This is the first 12″ on Badawi’s new The Index label, which is tipped to feature releases from artists such as Shackleton, Headhunter and Vladislav Delay, firmly putting it in the ‘one to watch’ camp. Badawi himself inaugurates the series with “El Topo,” a track which walks in the same bloody footsteps as Shackleton’s immense and brilliant [i]Three EPs[/i] from last year, driven by ominous synth stabs and dissonant strings that come untethered in huge, decaying arcs. The beat fidgets and creaks, breaking into microscopic tribalist echoes. It’s hot and heavy mysticism; the sort of thing that makes me strap on my Krautrocksampler’s Guide to Junior Shamanism and heading off on a vision quest until my third eye waters. It’s backed up with a special guest appearance by the man himself, Sam Shackleton cooking up a storm of bone-dry percussion and miasmic detritus with Vengeance Tenfold bringing some dark and baleful mutterings about knocking on the gates of the seventh veil and the laughing Buddha showing his poker face. I might prefer an instrumental, but when those echoed out cymbals clash behind the vocals, it sounds both fierce and incredible. Ironically, the Badawi track sounds more like Shackleton than this does, but there’s no doubt Shack can still bring the voodoo. It rounds out with a brief Badawi closer that’s opaque and creepy enough to pass for a Svarte Greiner track. All up, it’s a very dark and mysterious record, and I’m looking forward to hearing more Badawi in this vein. [SO]


Wedge & Aesoteric

A Night On The Wonk (Gemmy Remix)

(If Symptoms Persist | ISP003)
Purchase link forthcoming

Wedge and Aesoteric’s original version starts out with smoky, late-night vibes, cruising through the city in a haze of cigarette smoke and reverb’d guitar, some desolate gunslinger come to sample the delights of urbanity. Somewhere along the way, the bass starts to pulse and the groove starts to slink a little more. There’s a sort of retooled Nightmares on Wax vibe to it, and it’s rather lovely without being startling. B-side “Detached Reality” emerges from hiss and crackle with ominous hum, the beats fractured through warped vinyl. If “A Night on the Wonk” feels a little too clean, this track hurtles into the opposite direction and collides with Philip Jeck along the way. Eerie psychologist voice samples herald the arrival of detuned post-rockish guitars and a clean, more straightforward pulse in the beat. It’s a slightly unsettling track that somehow pulls its disparate parts together into something that’s quite effective. Guest appearance is provided by Bristol colourist Gemmy, who takes “A Night on the Wonk” and immediately begins to scrawl all over it, opening with a delicate web of chimes and blurts of G-funk synth. His take turns the track queasy, obscuring the original’s mood beneath a bed of shifting, wrong-footed melody. It doesn’t lose the original’s moody vibe, but rather enhances it and makes it more surreal, like the same cityscape viewed through the lens of a Lynchian fever-dream. It’s the best track here, but the 12″ as a whole is a rather fascinating detour. [SO]


N-Type & Seven

“Unity” / “Syphon”

(Black Box Records | BLACKBOX003)
Purchase on Boomkat

London’s legendary N-Type collaborates with Seven on the ever-faster rising Blackbox Records for a sleek, shiny twelve in immaculate 2025 style. A-side “Unity” rolls eleven tons heavy, with mechanically swung drums hitting like wrecking balls with perfect precision, and stuttering industrial synths sounding like Berghain vibes captured in a jar and let loose in a dubstep rave. Paired with an over-the-top sample discussing rave culture in the poshest of accents, it’s a solidly satisfying crowd-pleaser. Things get a little lighter in the low-end with “Syphon,” where the steely synths are smelted and reformed into compacted, unnatural shapes while sulphurous, toxic bubbles escape into the atmosphere around them with tortured gurgles, poisoning the dank, musty air until there’s no oxygen left, nothing hospitable between the icy drums and the acid squelches, the rumbles and scrapes self-perpetuating independent of any human involvement. These tracks are what a modern factory must sound like, devoid of human workers — giant robotic limbs working together with no signs of life. Really though, N-Type & Seven won’t have any of that: where these tracks are playing, there’s bound to be lots of people. [AR]


Bok Bok / Brackles & Shortstuff

“Citizens Dub” / “Pipey D”

(Blunted Robots | BLR003)
Purchase on Boomkat

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Planet Bok Bok of late, from his two tracks on the wonderful Night Slugs EP to his absolutely amazing run of recent remixes. They’ve only left me craving more, and although he’s only got a single track on the new Blunted Robots 12″, it’s wonderful enough to keep me satisfied for now. He has this knack for percussion that I absolutely flip for, these huge spiralling beats that feel like wheels turning within wheels. On “Citizen’s Dub” he blasts these huge, sawn-off synths through the middle of it, Mr Fluoro Pink at the wheel with Mr Lime Green gutshot in the back of the car. It rises and falls like a rollercoaster, these lurid carnival sirens reeling back and forth while the drummer frolics in tropical waters, hypnotized by the sunshine on the diamond sea. Bubbz is left to do little more than stand there with dropped jaw, marvelling at the what’s going on around him. Sheer genius. It’s hard for Brackles and Shortstuff to follow that up, but “Pipey D” deals up a rather lovely line in funky drum breaks, with synth melodies frothing at the mouth while a vocal sample does the work in dragging us out into the dance floor. The doleful little jazzy piano line that flickers through the middle is a nice touch, especially when it crumbles into haze, but when it ends you’re just going to want to flip back and stagger under the weight of that Bok Bok track. It’s been a wonderful year so far, and “Citizen’s Dub” is seriously one of the greatest, most intoxicating things I’ve heard in it. [SO]


Jack Sparrow

“Terminal” / “Torment”

(Tectonic | TEC037)
Purchase on Boomkat

Jack Sparrow’s latest for Tectonic is a behemoth trawl through dark catacombs, barely light enough to make out basic shapes and certainly not enough to keep from slipping in the stagnant puddles at your feet. “Terminal” carries the burned out Skull Disco torch with fearsome techno dubstep excursions, winding the corners nimbly with ultra-clean percussion, maneuvering through the occasional earthquakes caused by massive bass drops. Creepy vocal samples contribute to the broodiness until the track suddenly switches up into a frenzied house rhythm, as it reaches a fervent sprint through the tunnels, steps landing hard with distorted percussion and fuzzy, blurred objects whizzing by until it winds down again, back to the casual, ambling pace, leaving you right where you started, realizing you’re completely lost in the maze of tunnels and no idea how to get out. “Torment” is more deliberate, taking its time to build, drums echoing off the hollowed out tunnels and water dripping from the ceiling, reverberating against the stony surface with a loud, microscopic crash with every drop. It’s a track that wouldn’t sound too out of place on a Shackleton release, but Jack Sparrow approaches the aesthetic from somewhere else entirely, trading in that producer’s queasy basslines for a more reserved, compact tune that shoots clean through like a bullet. Take a look at the artwork, and the titles — “Terminal” and “Torment” — and you’ll quickly figure out that this is not a happy release. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a pair of supernaturally great bangers. [AR]



“Protecting Hands” (Geiom & Isan Remixes)

(Deep Medi | MEDI024)
Purchase on Boomkat

Clouds’ “Protecting Hands,” was released almost all the way a year ago, the Finns’ weird organic dubstep sound so huge it had to be spread over two sides. It might seem a bit odd that Deep Medi is only following it up now, but when you hear the remixes it’s not hard to figure out why they needed to be released — with two diverse remixes by Geiom and Isan, it’s a great example of how to make vocals work in dubstep. No stranger to vocals, Geiom is in for a remix that takes the woodsiness of the original and sterilizes it, putting the anachronistically classic vocals in sharp relief. Geiom’s beat starts out subtle, smartly keeping the focus on the vocals, until its built enough momentum that it just goes out on its own, frantically darting, rising slowly and keeping the vocals in the background, before descending back into vocal-land with a more propulsive, distinctive beat. It’s a typically classy mix that gives us the best of both worlds, and Geiom does just as well with this kind of hazy, dubby mood as he does with his usual more tropical fare. On the other side, Isan bring something decidedly non-dubstep with their downtempo remix, the epitome of a slow-burner. Marvelously laconic and smoky, it meshes perfectly with the near-slurred vocals, and when the bass drops at two minutes in, it all starts to make sense, a happy medium between classic DMZ style and self-consciously smooth nu-jazz ‘electronica’ — basically, it goes down nice and easy. Two markedly different interpretations of a track that was already pretty different itself means yet another solid twelve from Deep Medi. [AR]



“Sweetz (2005 Flex)” / “Angry World”

(Keysound | LDN016)
Purchase on Boomkat

Keysound’s latest release is two prime unreleased Skream dubs dating all the way back to 2005, and instead of being lost bangers, they’re more reserved, devastating slow-burners. A-side “Sweetz (2005 Flex)” spins fiercely on its rigid axis, its slow, stabbing bass and belligerent kicks causing mini-earthquakes, and distorted, tweaked tones acting as the aftershocks. “Angry World” is even more subdued, taking Sweetz’ mammoth bass riffs and replacing them with clean breaks and a rumbling, snaky bassline, sounding a bit like the ultra-clinical techno-infused dubstep making the rounds in 2010, only with all the dinny reverb intact, hollowed out percussion plinking resignedly, plasticky chords navigating the track’s spaces. Chiming bells, wolf howls (!), and a ridiculously hammy vocal snippet add to the overbearing drama, creating a track that’s just as menacing as it is hilarious. Really, it’s hard to quantify what makes these tracks so great, nor is it easy to justify releasing these particular two over the million other unreleased Skream tracks sitting in purgatory over the years. But either way, what we’ve got here are two incredibly classic-sounding Skream cuts from old times, the answer to anyone pining for the glory days, or simply for anyone who wants some good dubstep. [AR]

As usual, March was a month inundated not only with great releases but also great mixes, podcasts, whatever you want to call them. Besides our own excellent mix from Hackman, here’s a run-down of some of the other mixes worth checking out from this month. Peverelist did an astounding mix of almost all brand-new dubplates for FACT, Baobinga (fresh off of his new LP) did a lovely mix of percussive madness for The Fat Club, Shortstuff did a rather fiery mix for ICEE HOT, Alex Nut showed off his eclectic tastes with his FabricLive promo mix, and Scuba came absolutely, positively correct with his beautiful mix of dubstep and techno for a Scuba vs. SCB podcast for ResidentAdvisor.


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