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The Month In Dubstep & Bass: May 2010

By ; May 31, 2010 at 12:01 AM 

REVIEWS: PAGE 1 | PAGE 2 | PAGE 3
INTERVIEW: WEST NORWOOD CASSETTE LIBRARY | INTERVIEW: GUIDO
IN THE MIX: MILYOO

Undaground Soundz

UGStep EP

(Self-Released | UGS001)
Styles: Dubstep
Download for free

Birmingham producer Undaground Soundz is making a splash the old-fashioned way; hard work, self-promotion, even releasing his stuff on his own instead of waiting for labels to pick up on his tunes. It seems to be working, considering he’s clocked thousands of downloads for his EP and the numbers on his SoundCloud profile are growing ever-larger. He’s got a super clean, no-bullshit sound, influenced as much by classic early dubstep as he is by the newer bigwigs like Caspa and Nero. But the aggression in his songs is embedded into the beats and the basslines, rarely erupting into unfortunate tearout or pointless masculine posturing. When the sawtooth bass wobbles come into opener “Cheeky,” they feel right: subtle, grounded, and melodic, and unlike so many other current producers in this vein, he remembers that there’s still supposed to be a sub underneath. Dude actually has a track called “Bass,” which wryly plays with jazz samples before introducing smooth-edged chords, proving that he has a softer, more meditative side, and “Waves” stomps all over those lush chords with sinister fuzz, but under his measured hand it works quite well. Finally, the EP closes in grimier form with “Darkness” featuring a rather hammy vocal from That Man Fox; it doesn’t quite work as well as the other tracks, especially with that vocal on top, but the floaty, stuttery instrumental sounds a bit like “Love In This Club” as refixed by Terror Danjah — that’s not a bad thing. This EP makes it obvious that Undaground Soundz has an understanding of dynamics that so many new producers in this sort of straight-up dubstep lack, and his versatility and considerable maturity have limitless potential; keep an eye out for this boy.

Scuba

“Eclipse” / “Tense (Ramadanman Remix)”

(ABUCS (Hotflush) | ABUCS007)
Styles: Drum’n’bass, Dubstep, Autonomic
Purchase link forthcoming

Not content with releasing one of the finest albums so far this year in Triangulation, Paul “Scuba” Rose drops a brand new 12″ on Hotflush offshoot ABUCS records. This new 12″ sees him deploying some of his more Berlin-minded material, and A-side “Eclipse” is built around big, cavernous drums and dubbed out synth stabs. It still retains his melancholy grandeur, especially in the middle section, when bled-white keys swirl in its center, before evaporating to reveal the skeletal core. It follows in the footsteps of his increasing stylistic triangulation, where his SCB material is merging with his Scuba material, and it’s all great. On the B-side, David Kennedy continues his Mr Prolific streak as Ramadanman, turning in a typically tripped-out remix of Tense that performs all kinds of teched-up spatial manipulations. It’s a best of both worlds kind of deal, chasing Scuba’s blue-screen dub-soul down into Ramadanman’s mechanical nightmares. These two guys have both been on a bit of a hot streak this year, and this one feels like another keeper. [SO]

Jackal Youth

Let Me Be EP

(Reduction | RDCTN005)
Styles: Dubstep, Garage, Funky
Purchase link forthcoming

The mysterious Bristol imprint Reduction Records follows the mind-shattering Hyetal/Peverelist combo with an EP from mysterious unknown Jackal Youth, for three tracks of rigid barebones funk. “Let Me Be” is all kicks and vocal snippets, synths and voices blending for a disorienting hook. This is mental asylum dubstep, where the sounds are confined to a padded room, no decoration, no details, just walls for the spare percussion to endlessly bounce off of. “Bruk” plays the same game with more feminine vocals and stark horn samples, the throbbing percussion remaining the focal point, while “Broken” dips low with South Asian percussion and woozy analogue synths, Jackal Youth allowing his own emaciated version of wonky hip-hop into his sound. No one will tell me who this guy is, and his music’s staunch screwface seems to fit that kind of forcefully secretive profile. There’s not much more to say, you just have to hear it, really. Whoever he is, I hope this isn’t just a one-off. [AR]

Calibre

“Tenopause” / “Discreet Dub”

(Deep Medi | MEDI027)
Styles: Dubstep
Purchase on Boomkat

In 2010 there’s no shortage of cross-pollination between dubstep and drum-n-bass, and it seems like the more cerebral style of the Autonomic crew has got dubstep producers even more eager to step outside the traditional confines of dubstep — Scuba, Ramadanman, and even Skream are all getting in on the 170bpm action. But it’s not a one-way street, and plenty of dnb producers are moving towards 140 as well, and Calibre reprises his 2009 appearance on the legendary Deep Medi with this sleek new twelve. “Tenopause” is a classic-leaning track so rigid it’s almost hypnotic, hitting with heavy kicks, eerie chords, and subtle bass wobbles that ripple out of each snare hit like jiggling puddles of slick black oil. Things get dread on the b-side “Discreet Dub” which starts out with ambient synth washes and pocket tremors before the beat somehow sneaks itself in, hemmed in by splashes of piano and sub-bass so deep I’m pretty sure that it emanates from the centre of the earth. It’s a wonder that the track doesn’t get crushed under the weight of its own massive gravity, but Calibre is too exact and scientific to let that happen. Not even dubstep producers are making dubstep like this anymore. [AR]

10-20

Isthmus EP

(Highpoint Lowlife | HPLL048)
Styles: Damned if we know
Purchase on Boomkat

Mysterious producer 10-20 released one of my favourite albums of last year, full of crunchy, filmed-in-monochrome techno that joined the dots between dubstep and minimal techno without sounding quite like either. Since then, he’s released a string of EPs that, if you stitched them together, would make for a pretty damned impressive second album. Isthmus is the final release in this series (after Island, Lake and Mountain) and it finds him in typically fine form. “Halogen” takes about twenty seconds to puncture through the drums with shards of synthesized noise before hitting on this heaving, unsettling groove that feels permanently on the edge of buckling under the pressure. Like a lot of 10-20’s music, it feels like it was recorded from inside a snowstorm, but this time you can voices drifting out from one of the houses nearby, the lights glowing faint against the cold. “Athens”, on the other hand, opens in a state of complete rupture, each instrument locked in its own blind groove and butting against the others until the mechanisms slowly wind down for a few moments, only to be set loose again to build back up into clockwork chaos. The EP closes with “Zizec”, which builds some fractured Will Bevan-esque soundscape out of drum shuffle, ambient hum and ghost vocals, and then projects the result through broken glass. Absolutely gorgeous stuff. Strung together with its fellows or listened on its own, this is another great release from 10-20 and the always-interesting Highpoint Lowlife label. [SO]

Hackman

Always EP

(Shifting Peaks | SPEAKS001)
Styles: House, Funky, Garage
Purchase on Boomkat

Hackman is a busy man, and this EP on new label Shifting Peaks makes for a nice companion to March’s Bodies EP on Well-Rounded Records, taking that same polished glossy sound and throwing a vocal on top — why not? Featuring the vocals of , “Always” is the kind of perfect collaboration that musical dreams are made of, the smooth vocals never betraying the busy interaction of the bustling lifelike percussion Hackman engineers beneath. Brackles turns in a reliably screwed garage remix, beefing up the bass line and twisting the organ into weird, unnatural shapes until its an unsettling, writhing mass of missed notes and wrong tones, yet Lake’s lovely vocal still manages to outshine the dissonance. For the instrumental b-side Hackman chomps at a Guido tip for a delicate, percussive track featuring surprisingly deep sub-bass and gorgeous string swaths, tinkling ivories. It’s a kitchen sink track, with all kinds of mysterious noises and animal squawks, but stays locked within its groove enough to avoid feeling cluttered or aimless, and the discordant stabs of burning-hot brimstone that emerge at the end turn the percussion dark and hollow, recontextualizing the strings and piano into something almost pathetically optimistic. Who knew house could do all this? [AR]

SRC

Gold Coinz EP

(Numbers | NMBRS5)
Styles: Grime, Dubstep, 8bit
Purchase on Boomkat

After an impressive NES-funk outing on Rwina, SRC comes back quick with this EP on Numbers, continuing in the same vein while toning down the funk and upping the rave factor. “Gold Coinz” shudders and shakes with those twisty staccato riffs and “Fantasy Mix” wobbles and quakes for a dungeon-crawling stage. But for me, the EP is all about “Lemsip” — you know in the old Super Mario Bros games, when the timer started getting low and the music would speed up? Yeah, that’s what this sounds like. An urgent synth melody runs through the song as high-pitched synths cry and squeal as the life is squished out of them by enclosing walls, a snaky melody leaping and crawling its way through the cracks in the walls, bracketed by brief sprinting sessions as the song breaks out into a few metres of breakneck sprint. No one does 8-bit quite like SRC, and I didn’t even get to mention all the tracks on this EP. [AR]

Hervé

Ghetto Bass 2

(Cheap Thrills)
Styles: Dubstep, House, Funky, Garage
Purchase link forthcoming

Hervé follows up his utopian-step bass music mix CD Ghetto Bass with a second volume that proves not only bigger but smarter with an impressively diverse track selection, and most importantly, killer mixing. The first disc is all about letting loose, tearout party vibes obscuring everything else. But where some ‘dubstep’ producers run with this sort of abandon into undesirable ‘filthy’ territory, Hervé keeps things lighthearted, and cuts it with choice bits of elastic UK house and garage. When these tracks wobble, they wink, and it’s a bit like a Kitsuné Maison comp grounded in British bass musics. If the first disc is all fun and games, the second disc is a near-genius smattering with pitch-perfect buildup; kicking off with A Made Up Sound and Joy Orbison, things soar into the glorious UK Funky of up-and-comers R1 Ryders before descending into a darker, more aggressive section with cuts from The Others and suddenly switching up into drum-n-bass territory. The mix climaxes finally with Hervé’s own current single “Blaze It,” a blissful dnb anthem that even manages to make High Rankin bearable. Throughout Ghetto Bass 2, Hervé shows his comprehensive knowledge of all things bass — the cover art advertising “ghetto bass, house, tropical, nu-jungle, future garage & dubstep” really is correct — and the way this mix ties all these disparate genres as at once inspiring and humbling. Interspersed through are several of Hervé’s brand new productions, which suggest that while he’s still got his bloodshot eye trained firmly on the party, his tracks are as deep and resonant as ever. [AR]

Guido

Anidea LP

(PUNCH DRUNK | DRUNK16)
Styles: Dubstep, Grime, Purple
Purchase link forthcoming

It’s easy in this ever-splintering world of bass music, to get caught up on pushing things forever forward, on tracking trends and bursting the bubbles of microgenres. This isn’t an album that’s intent on surfing any of those waves – it’s the sound of a guy who loves making music bringing out a set of wonderful tracks that demand to be played over and over again. It’s an easy album to fall in love with and it’s great to see one of these new producers delivering such a strong debut album. [SO]

ONE TO WATCH

Saigon Recordings is a brand new imprint out of Bristol, who claim to blend techno and dubstep to a new diamond standard, which they themselves call “Dub-Tech” (not to be confused with dub techno). Haughtiness aside, their first release seems to warrant this kind of superior attitude — “Tribtek” by newcomer Orphan101 is a steely and muscular two-tracker that rightfully should drum up hype when it’s released next month. To celebrate the launch of the label, we’ve got a Saigon Recordings mix by Orphan101, loaded with his own exclusive dubs as well as new sounds from Headhunter and his not-so-mysterious juke alias Addison Groove. The mix is beyond captivating, and the Orphan101 tracks run the gamut from throbbing, dark techno to tribal-influenced sounds to something that sounds suspiciously like trance, and blended in with the tracks from other producers it really does sound like a manifesto for a completely brand new sound — something which is ever rarer in the heady days of 2010. Check this tracklist:

1. Scribe – Orphan101
2. Similate – Orphan101
3. Corsa – Orphan101
4. Commune – Orphan101
5. Olo – Orphan101
6. 45 – Orphan101
7. Au Dela – Orphan101 & Bloodman Ft Soraya Saberi
8. Out Of The Sun – Arkist
9. Remote Viewing – Bloodman
10. Hocus Pocus – Headhunter
11. Deepfish – Bloodman
12. Propa – Orphan101
13. Home – Orphan101
14. Labella – Orphan101
15. Whish – Orphan101
16. Chasing Dragons – Addison Groove
17. V710 – Headhunter & Orphan101
18. What Do I See – Arkist
19. Worry Dolls – Wedge

Download the mix here

REVIEWS: PAGE 1 | PAGE 2 | PAGE 3
INTERVIEW: WEST NORWOOD CASSETTE LIBRARY | INTERVIEW: GUIDO
IN THE MIX: MILYOO





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