Dubstep round up

It’s about time I reviewed the latest crop of dubstep releases. Frankly it’s a bit of a mixed bunch.

Lets start with Bristol’s finest, ATKI2, with the Guilty Pleasures EP. I suppose for a start you can say that the b-side is possibly the sort of thing Random Trio should have gone for after Indian Stomp. Distillers’ Riddim is a strong ragga beat with some amenz and the requisite dhol stylings over the top. This is fun! Little bit of glitch factor, the ghost of a tune somewhere in there, and no wobble at all, which for some people is a good thing. Duty Paid is great too – possibly even stronger. More vibed up, rave-styled ragga dubstep – not quite ragga techno but not far off and those pitched up 808 subs are pure UK garage. Love it. Not terribly smart, but great to mix with, even if it does reopen all those “is dubstep breaks?” debates from the autumn of 2005.

Unfortunately the original mix of Guilty Pleasures itself is, well, a bit of a mess. On paper it should really work. Slightly glitchy post garage beats, high tech subs, a fresh female vocal… but it just doesn’t stick together. Too many ideas. So does Pinch rescue it? He’s the reason people are buying the record after all. And of course it’s a vast improvement; the vocalist is transformed into some of the old sino-dub. There’s that gorgeous space Pinch is renowned for. But compare this with say a D1 tune from 2005 and it’s obvious – the raw material just wasn’t that inspiring.
So… on to the remixes of Pinch’s Punisher. Like everyone else, I genuinely think Skream is a genius, and his version is a good mix tool, but in the end it’s just a bit too repetitive. There’s no satisfying drop, there’s no real sub explosion, and overall it just slides off your ears. Compare with his amazing Ancient Memories remix and you’ll notice a big difference in inspiration.

Of course Loefah’s mix can hardly fail to deliver. The louder you play it the better it gets and he is just the king of the bass. And the beats. And the samples. However, I’m not sure it’s quite up there with his best, and I think he could have done a bit more with that junglist open hat sample. Then again the sheer hip hop weight of it compensates. Pitched up a bit it’s fantastic.

Which is something that Oris Jay usually excels at. Wear the Crown was one of the best tunes of last year and he is, without question, the ultimate old skool dubstep don. Rob One Seven is so nearly great: swinging breakstep drums, twisted vocal sample, droning triangle wave noise in the middle, fab Sweet Exorcist bleeps and rave stabs… but it should really be a lot more atmospheric than it is. The arrangement is too repetitive and the bass line is too unimaginative and your excitement just fades after a couple of minutes. From Country on the flip just doesn’t work. It almost has the space but blows it by being too busy, and the bass sound is off. What makes it frustrating – apart from the fact that I was really looking forward to this release – is that I know for a fact he has better tunes waiting to come out.

Which brings us to the Timeblind Ghostification EP. The main cut, Copy Copy, is definitely worth the price of admission; Timeblind is all about glitchcore styled dubstep, but he keeps his fiddling under control and puts out a nice little skanker. But as you might have guessed, he’s too clever by half. Put it this way – one of the tracks is called the Ontological Ground of Being, which immediately makes you think this is someone who’s been reading too much K-Punk before writing his tunes. Which should be a good thing, but not when you’re pulling dodgy moves like releasing four minute noise scapes. You’re about twenty years too late for that one matey. But Copy Copy is going on a mix at some point.

So lets head back to the big boys and Tectonic Plate 3. Doubtless it’s sold out by now, as it should. It’s bee around for a while and Loefah’s System is just a motherfucker of a track. Obviously I prefer my vocal refix but that’s me. On the other hand… I’m not sure Digital Mystikz have ever made a really bad record, though some of the early ones weren’t too interesting, but Molten isn’t really one of their best. It’s another Coki wobbler, almost the same sounds as on the others, but the minor key strings don’t really cut it, actually sounding like a copy of Digital Mystikz, and the bass sounds have no real forward movement to them. And no, I didn’t like it much played on a system either. So, a bit of a disappointment there.

Which brings us to Loefah’s Voodoo on Omen’s new 666 label. God, it makes you sweat with excitement just reading that sentence, doesn’t it? Especially since it has a quite superb spoken word sample to play with, and Loefah in full downbeat drone mode, with just a touch of innovation in the arrangement. And… well, it’s not a bad record. If I’d got this as a demo from a new artist I’d be interested, no doubt. And of course, we’re comparing Voodoo with records by, like, the best producer on the planet, cos that’s how good I think Loefah is.

It’s just a bit boring.

I mean, it’s alright, and you could mix with it, and if you were Youngsta you coiuld probably do great things with it, but… You have to wonder if this was ever really meant to be anything but a dubplate.

So anyway. Mala. Left Leg Out and Blue Notez. You’ve got this haven’t you? I mean, you must have. Because this is one of the best singles ever to come out of dance music or reggae. Yes, yet another solid gold classic from Mala. Left Leg Out has been around for what, a year? And it’s brilliant 4 x 4, dark garage swing and heavy / light Rhodes stylings make me smile every time. Blue Notez. Wheras Blue Notez is simply amazing. Just buy it.

And if you think that’s good… there’s Coki’s Tortured / Shattered. If Molten is something of a below-par Coki wobbler, Shattered is right up there… superb heavy industrial dubstep, built for eq tweaking. It’s great. But Tortured is something else again. A political dubstep tune to follow in the wake of Anti-War Dub, it’s probably the record of the year, with simply the most memorable melody of any dubstep tune yet released, the heaviest bass, and the most plaintive vocal sample imaginable. Could almost be Prokofiev. A truly wonderful piece of music. It just doesn’t go on long enough.

So what does all this mean? I suspect we’re now past the point when almost all dubstep releases were, if not brilliant, then pretty damned good. And I’m already nostalgic for the summer of 2005. We shall all have to be a lot more careful about what we buy from now on. And I have to say that the gap between the premier division and the rest is widening. There are just a few people in the middle – Headhunter, Caspa, Hijack – when there should be lots of challengers.

Nevertheless, the really good stuff is toweringly good at the moment, undoubtedly the best music being made anywhere in my opinion. And my copy of Disko Rekkah arrives in a day or so – my favourite dubstep tune ever will finally be out, on Deep Medi rather than DMZ as I had thought would be the case, and I will be a happy bunny. I just wish the quality went a little deeper.

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