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The Month In Dubstep & Bass: May 2010

By ; May 31, 2010 at 12:01 AM 


Marcus Price & Carli

Mat Bira Kvinnor Weed EP

(Palms Out | POS015)
Styles: House, Dubstep
Purchase on Boomkat

The formidable New York house label Palms Out drop this trans-Atlantic release absolutely out of nowhere, one of the biggest releases of this year in terms of name recognition alone. Two wonderfully screwed tracks by Swedish producers Marcus Price & Carli are remixed by Bok Bok, Girl Unit, Kingdom, and Dubbel Dutch. Drooling yet? First up is “Mat, Bira, Kvinnor, Weed,” a track that sounds something like acid-Funky, squelching and whistling around a vocal hook that sounds like a cheerleading squad on cough syrup, the repeated chant strangely universal in its two-note thrum: this shit will get stuck in your head. Kingdom gets the first go-round, keeping the track mostly intact while emphasizing the dubbier elements (laying on plenty of thick echo and deep sub), interpolating an R&B sample that sends the song off into uncharted waters for a few nail-biting seconds as the squelches become ferocious and threaten to devour everything as the foundations shake and rubble is loosed from the roof. Dubbel Dutch chooses a sparser locale for his limbre, elastic rework, the first half carefully built up from synths and vocal snippets before exploding into a blissfully percussive back end, while “Crazy Pays” refits the track into a stomping electro number, turning textures prickly and building up to so many climaxes you’re already spent by the time it reaches its thrilling, bouncy midsection.

The other side is even weirder, “Var E Näääken” sounding like Juke at 16rpm, skittering drums in exaggerated slow motion and bass stabs stretched out into throbbing sheets, the nightmarish vocal sample repeated ad nauseum until it turns your brain into mush. With his typically top-form remix, Bok Bok sticks pins into the track at all the wrong places, stunting its movement, grinning as he watches it writhe in pleasure. He drops a Night Slugs-esque ascending/descending riff on it, compressing it until all the air rushes out and the track floats in asphyxiated suspension, intricate percussion obliviously pounding and clinking away. Things get dizzy for Norrit’s nauseating remix, the track consumed by punishing metallic pulses that only subside for a brief, filtered-to-hell breakdown. It’s Girl Unit’s remix that manages to overshadow the entire EP, however: showering the track in corrosive acid rain, if it weren’t for the vocal it wouldn’t even sound like a remix. With that same interstellar grandiosity as showcased on his flat-out amazing “IRL” EP, the track bobs and dips as wood is molded with metal for something that sounds unsettlingly unnatural, the freak-of-nature sound ominous as it looms over the horizon and threatens to plunge the world in a state of perpetual rave. [AR]

DJ Madd (w/ Matt-U, Headhunter)

“Flex’d (Ikonika Remix)” / Running Man EP

(BOKA Records (BOKA004) | Black Box Recordings (BLACKBOX004))
Styles: Dubstep
Purchase BOKA028 | Purchase BLACKBOX004

Hungary’s DJ Madd is one of 2010’s brightest prospects — not that he’s exactly new, but if you ask me his output from this year is a big leap forward and he’s shaping up to be one of the most formidable talents in bass music in 2010. I was big on his last release on Boka records, a collaboration with French producer Von D, and he follows that up with the first of two releases this month, a new twelve on Boka with an Ikonika remix and a new original on the flip. Ikonika’s remix of “Flex’d” hits on the tribal funky thing she’s had going this year, a sombre (but propulsive) meditation with decaying vocals, riding uneasily on distant strings with inconsolable 8bit squalls falling like pixellated rain. “Detroit Skank” is classic Madd, dubby chords billowing out over a straightforward skank; when the synth horns enter, they flicker and waver like there’s visible heat lines following them, sounding anything but natural. Repetitive to the point of captive hypnosis, the track admittedly doesn’t go anywhere, but the coasting is so pleasant it’s a relief once that warm bass comes back in after being prematurely weaned in the alarmingly sparse breakdown.

The other release of his is a doublepack EP on the fledgling Black Box imprint from Bristol, a collaborative effort with fellow Hungarian Matt-U and man-of-the-hour Headhunter. The EP kicks off with solo Madd 20,000 leagues under for “Dub Marine,” an old-fashioned roller with naval mine bass drops and careful drum hits reverberating between pockets of silence, it’s like Digital Mystikz under the sea. For his collaboration with Matt-U on the EP’s title track, all bets are off as a bright cyan synth riff stumbles in after a dread-feigning intro. Particularly arresting after you’re fooled into thinking the track is just another prickly sci-fi-obsessed testosterone mess, it’s a track that really shows the influence of DJ Madd’s sometimes-home of Bristol finally rearing its head. The synth jumps and skitters out of its predefined path for breathless moments of brain-tickling pleasure and the track’s genius (and rather funky) melody never really becomes tiring. Matt-U goes solo for the dissonant “Void” which quickly encloses around everything in the room with a suffocating synth riff, dropping percussion like anvils that somehow find space. These drops tear a hole right open in the floor, dropping right into some stone age rave where the only drum machines are the sound of boulders scraping against each other. The final track is a collaboration between Matt-U and Headhunter that’s just as percussive and techy as you might expect; nothing to sneeze at but after being thoroughly used by “The Running Man” and “Void” I’m too exhausted to really care anymore. Two utterly fantastic releases by a producer growing right before our eyes. I’d say he’s best when he has others’ input (Ikonika remix, Matt-U collaboration), but then his forthcoming career-defining ‘ARPZ 3000’ release on Subway would make me look like a fool, so for now I’ll just say he’s the best. [AR]

Lil Silva

Night Skanker EP

(Night Slugs | NS004)
Styles: UK Funky, Grime
Purchase on Boomkat

Night Slugs returns with an absolute shocker of an EP from infamous Funky superproducer Lil Silva. It feels like a bit of a triumph to finally have a widely available, digitally-released Lil Silva EP; he’s a fantastic, much-hyped artists whose past releases have all been, frustratingly enough, on limited and hard-to-find white labels. If a new 4 track EP weren’t enough, Night Slugs have gone and cherry-picked two of Silva’s biggest bangers, the horn-driven madness of “Seasons” and the grime/funky fusion of the anthemic “Pulse vs Flex,” remastered them, and given them their first digital release. But the real focus of the Night Skanker EP is on the new tunes; no remixes this time, just prime tunage. “Night Skanker” sees Silva incorporating that anticipatory, bubbling-under Night Slugs sound that becomes apparent with each release, as tense chords confusedly collide and eventually merge into an ugly, distorted riff: prime Lil Silva, something old, something borrowed, something new. Going harder is the EP standout “Perfussion,” a restless riff driven by something approaching breaks, sampled drums crackling like dynamite as lush disco chords sneak their way in past the blacklights, while “Golds to Get” tones things down (a tiny bit) as the chords get lusher, the drums get softer and vocals waft in and out. The EP proper closes with the clanking “Against Yaself,” with sections of almost trancelike, surging electro. These are by far the best Lil Silva tracks I’ve heard yet, and coupled with two indisputable UK Funky classics, it’s hard to argue against this as one of the most notable, most important, and most enjoyable releases in the nascent and notoriously release-shy genre. Chances are, if you’re interested enough to read it, you need to hear these tunes. [AR]

Scratcha DVA

New World Order EP

(DVA Music | DVA005)
Styles: House
Purchase link forthcoming

The man called Scratcha comes off of his blistering Hyperdub twelve from January back on his own DVA Music imprint, for a track so white-hot it burns just listening. “New World Order” threatens nuclear winter, megalithic percussion like rocks shooting out through geysers, and a descending bass riff that’s the aural equivalent of molten lava rushing down the side of a volcano, bunching up and building pressure as it slides down. Cutting down on the apocalyptic overtones a little, “Schizophrenic” hardens the house synth stabs and jumping drums, the churning energy core at its heart repeatedly the best of the track and submerges it below the surface for a few terrifying seconds, heaving and growling until the beat comes back in happier than ever to almost comical effect. The second plate offers a Roska-alter-ego-Bakongo remix of Soule Power and a rework of S. Chu’s “Quick Foot,” with the former’s “Lost” turned into a typically banging percussive loop, circular drums and industrial hisses playing off of each other in some gargantuan funky machine, while S. Chu’s track walks on quiet percussion, grooving steadily for 8 minutes as disco balls periodically erupt into bits of confetti, quickly sucked back in by the track’s internal vortex of rhythm. [AR]

Doc Daneeka

Deadly Rhythm EP

(Pattern | PTN001)
Styles: House, Funky
Purchase on Boomkat

RAMP launches its new (Funky) house-oriented label Pattern with this massive EP from the bubbling-under Doc Daneeka, four sweaty jams that drip with that distinctly LDN bass. “Deadly Rhythm” balances grunts with low squelches, vibing tribal like a gathering of robotic Aborigines plonking away at their drumsong with mechanical precision. It sets the horizon alight in a distinctly muted fashion, sunlight and shade defeatedly pulsing with the rhythm, giving into their technology-corrupted fates. The Doc puts on his rave hat for the Lil Silva aping “Bumble Bee,” a ridiculous banger with silly buzzing basslines and deeply embedded drums going off like synchronized timed mines. The destruction chews up the other half of the track and it slides right into 2010 anthem “Swine Flu,” where Daneeka alternates between luscious chords and bare essentials gutter house, turning the omnipresent first-world-third-world sociopolitical tension out onto the dancefloor for four minutes of delirious, confusing bliss. Or something. Doc Daneeka’s sound is efficient and businesslike compared to many of his looser UK Funky compatriots, and it makes for a distinctive first release from a label that’s already looking like a keeper. [AR]

Daega Sound

“You Make Me Feel” / “Silver Dawn”

(Formant Recordings | FMRNT008)
Styles: Dubstep, Garage, Funky
Purchase link forthcoming

Houston’s much under-appreciated bass scientists Formant Recordings follow-up a string of fantastic releases from XXXY, Shortstuff, Hyetal, and XI with another set of techy bangers from Vancouver stalwarts Daega Sound. “You Make Me Feel” is floaty and cerebral, light-footed percussion and organ tones supporting breathy, sensual vocals as the bass quakes underneath; dig the breakdown where the bass takes over and turns the track inside-out, shifting the focus until the track begins to disintegrate for a delectably airy final two minutes. “Silver Dawn” sets up ticking twitchy percussion on top of a shimmering, twisted horn sample and peppers it with garage-style vocal stabs. It’s a perfect ringer for the kind of ‘future garage’ coming out of the UK right now, remarkable for a duo based on the West Coast of North America. Don’t mistake this for pale imitation though: these boys know what they’re doing and they do it as well as any of the bigger names. [AR]

James Blake


(R&S Records | RS1003)
Styles: Dubstep, ???
Purchase link forthcoming

James Blake makes his debut for the esteemed Belgian techno label R&S, his biggest release yet in terms of sheer hype, refining his sound without really doing anything new. Blake’s music still swoops, lurches, and stands there looking pretty, all with those distinctively tweaked vocals. “CMYK” is the sound of an artist nailing his signature sound; if you’re new to Mr. Blake, the way the track climbs up and up and up, vocals circling around your head as the air gets thinner, and then drops everything in organized freefall is sure to be breathtaking. “I’ll Stay” shows his jazzier side slivers of jazz guitar and chants in between skittering tapdance percussion for one of his most hyperactive tracks and in “Footnotes” he dabbles in vocoder croon for a plaintive amble. Sounding like his earlier, looser work, “Postpone” leaves huge gaps between the sounds as jazzy chords swell and flutter, bursting halfway through into autotuned bliss, the mechanically separated harmonies inciting as much joy as any actual choir. There’s no doubting that what Mr. Blake does is singular and nearly impossible to replicate (for now, anyway), and he’s taking advantage of that by doing the same thing over and over again. But how can I complain when he’s pumping out stuff like “CMYK” or “Postpone?” [AR]


Quotes EP

(Numbers | NMBRS4)
Styles: Dubstep, Garage, Funky
Purchase on Boomkat

It seems like Numbers has been waiting forever to finally go off, and now that they’ve got their steady stream of releases going, god help us all. First up is this EP from newcomer Kavsrave, who knocks it out of the park with the sound of pure bliss in the form of the unfortunately-titled “PClart.” Breathy female vocals pulse and repeat like fleshy, deliberate strobelights, spread over the track like semi-transparent tissue, too soft to tear and too thick to crease, just beautifully adjusting itself to the contours of the track. When the bass drops, so do the vocals, free-falling and bouncing off the little bits of detritus along the way like a pinball, cushioned by warm surges of bass. “Tightly Closed” plays like a daydreaming Joy Orbison, gently fluttering vocals over widescreen chords and hypnotic percussion, and “Baggage Handler” plays off of sunny American pop, filtered guitar plunks morphing into distorted bass riffs for an amazing chorus as the vocals croon obliviously. Kavsrave’s sound is big, thick, and alive, sounding familiar in the most welcome way, but uniquely his own in his idiosyncratic grasp of helium vocals. It’s official, summer is here, and there’s no better soundtrack. [AR]


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