May instalment of our column includes reviews of new Scuba, XI, James Blake, Rude Kid, Ital Tek, Baobinga, and more, as well a mix by Milyoo and interviews with West Norwood Cassette Library and Guido

The Month In Dubstep & Bass: May 2010

Love Pressure EP on Hotflush Recordings

Another month gone by in the blink of an eye, and already we’re back with another column jack-packed with bassy goodness. May showed no sign of slowing in the good releases department, including stunners from newcomers such as Sepalcure, JOAAN, Kavsrave, and of course West Norwood Cassette Library, the mysterious Londoner who we’ve bestowed Record of the Month status on this month and also have conducted an interview with for your reading pleasure. As a free aural treat, we’ve got a fantastic mix from Kentuckian producer Milyoo. If three pages of reviews and an interview wasn’t enough reading for you, we’ve also got reviews of Guido’s debut LP Anidea and an interview with the man himself, as well as a review of Actress’ unparalleled Splazsh album. Column favourite Rudi Zygadlo released his debut album as well, which I [AR] reviewed over at FACT Magazine. We’ve also got a look at brand new Bristol label Saigon with a face-melting mix of dubstep and techno from Orphan101.

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




West Norwood Cassette Library

What It Is

(West Norwood Cassette Library | WNCL001)
Styles: Dubstep
Purchase at Boomkat

The cryptically named producer West Norwood Cassette Library comes off of years of blogging and months of sharing free tracks with his first proper release, the storming “What It Is” on his own eponymous label. Skidding to a start with slippery liquid keys, the vocal sample floats into view like some slyly winking cartoon character, popping up around the track and spouting off his catchphrase mischievously. The track slowly piles on percussion and bass before it floats right off the waterfall and heads into free-fall mode, aquatic percussion sounds percolating and richocheting as shallow drum hits splash like detritus falling from the sky, causing ripples and shallow disturbances as the track floats down its perilously rapid river path. The keys re-emerge in a descending riff, cartoonishly suspenseful as the water turns red and starts to boil, the sub-bass bubbling and rising up in thick, sludgy bubbles that threaten to overturn the rickety raft. “What It Is” switches through these moods in quick succession, increasing tension as it’s never clear whether what follows is going to be a plateau or another waterfall. Brackles turns in a typically futuristic remix as the organ whines deliriously around re-configured garage percussion, endowing the track with a more concrete skank and slowing its momentum as the rushing river congeals into molasses. It’s not as breathlessly exciting as the original but it’s a solid addition to the ever-growing Brackles catalogue of future garage and other assorted curios. The name West Norwood Cassette Library would seem to imply some sort of archival reverence, where looking into the carefully-recorded past provides a direction for the future, but Bob Bhamra’s uncompromising forward-thinking vision betrays none of this: watch out for this guy, you want to be prepared when you really hit this waterfall. [AR]


Love Pressure EP

(Hotflush Recordings | HF025)
Styles: Dubstep, Techno, Garage
Purchase link forthcoming

Sepalcure, a New York-based duo made up of some familiar faces, is the newest signing to Hotflush and their debut EP has them diving into an already well-defined sound. Theirs is one that seems tailor-made for Hotflush, and it’s appropriate that this is the first release in the ‘regular’ Hotflush line of 2010, an amalgamation of the kitchen-sink found sound of Mount Kimbie and the steadfast cleanliness of Scuba. There’s that trademark wooden percussion and the familiar loping progression, but instead of the respective fuzzy blur and exacting precision of those two entities, Sepalcure’s songs are busy and so intricately detailed it feels like the slightest unexpected jolt could knock them askew. Witness the way a bass wobble is so subtly weaved into “Every Day Of My Life” that it’s barely even detectable, or the way an echoing vocal combs the sub-depths of that track. Their use of vocals is perhaps their most interesting aspect, taking snippets just like everyone else, but instead of manipulating them to childlike or inhuman cadences, Sepalcure simply leave them alone, giving the tracks an approachable accessibility that feels distinctly American; they add energy, melody, and humanity to the sounds. Not that this isn’t bass music pure and simple — the bright synths on “Down” recall ‘future garage’ luminaries such as Brackles and labelmate Joy Orbison. If Sepalcure suffers from anything, it’s a need to set themselves apart, but closing track “The Warning” does it nicely, opening with a shoegaze chords that are punctured by the percussion until all the air is let out and a plodding piano emerges from the deflated remains. I just have one question: when’s the album? [AR]


“Splendor In The Grass” / “115 State”

(7even Recordings | 7EVEN015)
Styles: Dubstep, Techno
Purchase on Boomkat

The increasingly reliable 7even somehow managed to unearth another unearthly (sorry) producer who accidentally got his techno in your dubstep, and it’s as tasty as any processed chocolaty confection. “Splendor In The Grass” is a skyward journey through peaceful vistas, propelled by hollow percussion and soft chords until the storm clouds roll in and a prickly riff introduces some much-needed tension. But just like any storm, there’s beauty in the destruction as everything coalesces for a marvelous moment of pure synthesis, where drums, synths, bass, static and screeches come together for something halfway between catharsis and wide-eyed stargazing. “115 State” returns to the surface for a deep, techy track barely centered, drums pinging off in all directions as drones, buzzes and hisses float in and out like haunting visions; it’s the sombre, sparse hangover to the technicolour explosion of “Splendor,” not quite as engaging but cozy enough to get lost and recharge in. JOAAN, welcome to the club, I hope you’re here to stay. [AR]

Dark Arx

Blood Vein EP

(Dark Arx | DKX002)
Styles: Dubstep, Techno
Purchase on Boomkat

The idea of the dubstep/techno crossover, as drafted by Peverelist, Appleblim, Martyn, and many others, once seemed like a groundbreaking new frontier giving dubstep a boost in credibility as well as longevity. Now it just seems like the norm, as it alters the direction of dubstep through its multiple-year identity crisis, more a term for sparse bass music low on the dub and high on the, um… step. That’s not at all a bad thing (see above), of course. But this austere, sinister twelve from London’s Dark Arx (head of his own eponymous label) sees a fusion of dubstep and techno more daring than these ears have heard in a while, finding the least compromising, most encompassing middle ground imaginable. Featuring the darkest sounds of modern techno and fitting them to a warm, almost inviting dub template, something that sounds like a warm, beating heart affixed to a pulsing slab of techno. The three tracks are markedly different; “Blood Vein” sounds a little bit like a drugged Digital Mystikz, trading in the reggae influence for futureproof sparsity, while standout “Argent & Sable” paints soft, broad brushstrokes with thick and deliberate chords, more mournful than anything else. It’s a testament to Dark Arx that “Streak,” the only track actually at 140bpm, sounds perhaps the least like traditional dubstep; wizards, scientists, or just cheeky jokers, I’m not sure, but rarely does crossbreeding go so smoothly. [AR]

Kush Arora

Voodoo Sessions EP

(Kush Arora Productions | KAP006)
Styles: Dubstep, Ambient, Garage
Purchase on Boomkat

Kush Arora returns after a long absence with this EP of gorgeously detailed spiritual dubstep jams. “Humidifier” is a certified epic, drum machines colliding with mystical flute samples as synths jump from rung to rung like a crazed animal in the jungle. The entire EP gives off rainforest vibes, remarkably immersive and surround sound all the way. When the beat drops in “Humidifier” and the ominous scrapes inch their way in, it feels like you’re being chased through the jungle, as the music slowly acclimates to something more traditional, turning the moody meditation into a flute-infused garage banger as the mallet riff finally comes in and the percussion goes apeshit; not many songs are comparable to Mala’s “Changes” but this one equals it in both mood and percussive mastery. “Empty Alleys” is shapeshifting bass music pastiche, juggling funky house, acid, and, erm, wobblecore all at the same time for a dangerously claustrophobic mess, crushing as the different elements vie for room in the poorly-ventilated tune. Just as you get ready to wipe the sweat off, Mr. Arora takes you down into the dungeon for the hazy dubbed-out “Nakhil,” the sound of a chain gang slaving at 140bpm as Maga Bo and K-Libre spit menacingly on top. This is essential music, burning with spirituality and an affinity for the natural so uncommon in electronic music. [AR]


“The Ghost” (Headhunter Remix)

(Orca Recordings | ORCA01)
Styles: Dubstep, Techno
Purchase on Boomkat

A promising new label out of London, Orca Recordings (headed up by William Orca) launches with an impressive first release by Canadian producer XI, who delivers one of his most fully-realized tracks yet in “The Ghost.” A vocal sample darts its way around the recording, stretching and collapsing in brisk waves like a jellyfish, as synths bunch up and burst forth like charging lasers. Here, XI finds his niche somewhere between haunted house atmospherics and space-age futurism for this deceptively moody track. The ubiquitous Headhunter provides a techy remix in which he guts out the track’s main melody and spreads it thin across an operating board, bright industrial-strength lights shining down and illuminating every minute detail, as the track’s most memorable elements sink from the foreground when allowed so much more space to reverberate and explore. With this first release Orca carves out a very specific niche of the bass music world for itself, and with forthcoming releases from Asusu and Hyetal among others, it looks like it’s going to be a pretty comfortable one. [AR]

Rude Kid

Are You Ready? LP

(No Hats No Hoods | NHNHCD1002)
Styles: Grime
Purchase on Boomkat

The debut artist album on premier grime label No Hats No Hoods is also the debut album by young upstart Rude Kid, whose Jack Daniels EP we’re on record for loving, and for most of its duration it’s a crackling exhibition of the Kid’s raved-up pared-down grime style, a reverent mix of classic grime with tics and subtleties borrowed from many other genres. It’s a bit of a patchwork affair; fortunately, these are some damn good pathes. Half of the Jack Daniels EP is here, as well as his own remix of his classic “U.F.O.” which kicks off the album in twitchy, anticipatory form, hedging its way nervously around a riff that it never actually embraces. The concurrent twelve-inch release contains “Electric” and “Screwdriver,” to this reviewer perhaps the two definitive Rude Kid tracks. Aggro, tough, melodic, but with a distinct levity about them that makes them easier to swallow than your average monochrome grimestrumental (sorry, Skepta’s “UFO”). Only “Electric” is present on this album, so you’ll have to hunt down the twelve to get “Screwdriver.” But the rest of the album is no slouch; noisy workouts like “Dentist” and “Aftershave” are balanced by the almost trancey one-two-punch of “Lush (Remix)” and “Space Dance,” and “Winter” is like a restrained Terror Danjah, upping the dramatic strings in favour of cackles. For most of the LP he combines a classicist grime core with slightly more modern influences from all over the ‘nuum, and it’s a convincing manifesto for the genre. It’s refreshing to see a proper CD release of a proper CD album as grime continues to struggle to establish itself beyond the pirate scene, and I have a feeling that Rude Kid’s LP will do a lot to help. It certainly deserves to. [AR]

Zander Hardy

Hard EP

(Deep Teknologi Records | DTR002)
Styles: House
Purchase link forthcoming

Deep Teknologi finally release their second EP and first release of the new year, a set of kitchen-house UK house tracks by Zander Hardy. Lead track “Attack” saws, creaks, and clanks, giving off sunny industrial vibes (if such a thing can exist), metal on metal friction producing neon bright sparks as the track generates electricity in and of its own internal collisions. The mothership comes to land with “Signalling (To The Chosen Ones),” deep dark orchestral stabs beckoning you closer until the track explodes around you, thick bands of static swooping past and branching out into thin strands of pure chaos, like lightning breaking out at sea level. The EP closes in a slightly more earthly realm with the watery house banger “Get Away,” submerged piano looping hopelessly before Hardy layers on a decaying synth, giving the track an uneasy cough syrup sheen. The EP is a predictably forward-thinking slice of future house from the genius boys at Deep Teknologi, tracks that burn with fierce determination and leaving no sound untouched, the sound of fire spreading across drum machines and synthesizers and sending them into overdrive, one last desperate rave-up before the endtimes hit. [AR]

Ital Tek

“Spectrum Falls” / “Giga”

(Atom River | DATM002)
Styles: Dubstep
Purchase link forthcoming

Brighton’s Ital Tek looks to be moving towards a looser, brighter sound in 2010, and this release on his own Atom River imprint is only the beginning. Originally establishing himself as a proponent of dark, brooding (if not exactly aggressive) dubstep, with last year’s Mako EP he introduced a new spectrum of colours and followed it up with the Massive Error EP on Planet Mu, which fit this new sound to the style of his debut LP Cyclical. The tunes on this twelve are something completely different; “Spectrum Falls” hearkens towards the sound of his upcoming Mu LP with a rolling harp riff caught in a wave of gently churning synths, everything soaked in gloriously exaggerated, oversaturated colour. “Giga” is a teensy bit more aggressive, as drilling basslines, swollen synths and snappy percussion commandeer a mournful string melody. These are quite possibly the best tracks Mr. Alan Myson has done yet — until next month when the LP is released, anyway. [AR]


Hacienda EP

(Sunday Best | SBEST84)
Styles: Dubstep, Drum n Bass
Purchase link forthcoming

I’m not sure who or what Trenchman is, but I don’t really care. Rumours are it’s an alias of, er, Stenchman, but this gorgeous music is far from the bottom-of-the-barrel wobbling of the music produced under that name. Released on Rob Da Bank’s Sunday Best label, this EP is the biggest surprise of the month, three gorgeous dubstep tracks that resonate and vibrate with intrinsic beauty. The forward momentum of “Hacienda” is padded by soft pulses of multicolour energy, euphoric vibes reaching almost trance levels but thankfully backing off just before it gets too be too much, a dramatic ebb and flow of tentatively swelling strings. For me, it’s all about “Parallel World,” an absolutely amazing track, heavy punishing percussion adorned with tinkling piano riffs that are beamed in like rainbows through dark storm clouds. The piano and the molasses-slow samples turn the beats into sheets of ice momentarily, until they break out split seconds later shattering the ice in a silent storm of beautiful tension. As a bonus there’s a “Garage Tweak” of Hacienda, pulling in the track’s aggressiveness and turning it ethereal and maybe even sexy, padding the edges and turning on the fake fog as the bass takes over. I don’t know where the hell this came from but it’s one satisfying package, and “Parallel World” especially is one of the most beautiful aggressive tracks I’ve heard in a minute. [AR]

Baobinga (w/ Ginz & Cosmin TRG)

“The Good Stank” / “I Get Ruff”

(Build Recordings | BUILD003)
Styles: House, Funky, Dubstep
Purchase on Boomkat

Baobinga seems to be the mascot of the polyglot bass music world, championing the myriad of styles under that self-fashioned umbrella, and his output is appropriately unpredictable. For the third release on his own Build label, he’s enlisted Ginz and Cosmin TRG to help him out, and the two tracks are rightfully at two opposite ends of a field. The Ginz track “The Good Stank” is a proper Joker impersonation, for better worse, though maybe actually a little bit better than Joker’s most recent output, all crawling bent synthlines travelling down curvy rainbow roads. Cosmin-TRG’s turn on “I Get Ruff” turns the nintendo riffs into something much harsher, as pounding funky beats and metallic noises bang down your door like a miniature army, as the synth spirals and spirals and spirals to well past the Zomby-pain-threshold. When the vocals come in, forget your inhibitions as the almost militant Funky takes hold and your body contorts just as much as those synths. Mr. Binga, you have good taste. [AR]