KID SHIRT

Monday, July 17, 2006

DUBSTEP ALLSTARS Vol 4: CD TWO

See, I haven't forgotten. Honest. This time Hatcha is on the decks...

I confess, I find Dubstep more alluring when it sounds less like Dub and more like itself. C'mon, surprise me: let's hear the sound of chromosomes spinning, of musical genomes unravelling and recombining...let's hear Intelligent Design, the sound of beats evolving...

So I admit I was initially less smitten w/ the opening tracks on this...they felt too rooted in trad. Reggae tropes, but a nocturnal airing thru my Wharfdales revealed new layers of textural detail. Skream and his brother Hijack team up on "Babylon Timewarp", throwing down some low-slung eastern-flava/d skank: mournful, plaintive and rootsy...also, no surprise, given Hatcha's history of championing new talent on dubplate (everyone, basically!), we finally see the emergence of Kromestar aka Iron Soul (who Skream was bigging up when I spoke to him a couple months back, along w/ Quest) as a potential major player in dubstep's next wave...

For me, though, things start to really kick off around track 6 when Digital Mystikz' "Left Leg Out" shows a distinct lop-sided Jazz limp as it hops like a Chinese vampire around clattering congas and a pulsing electric-piano vamp worthy of early electric-era Miles...which leads beautifully into the darkly-sour Fender Rhodes dis-chords of Benga's appropriately named "Broken Step" w/ it's off-balance beats and a fat little bass-sound that nips at yer heels like a robotic bulldog. This is like Jazz-Funk gone evil...Herbie Handcock's been abducted by some Lemurians dressed as Jaco Pastorius: heavy Afro-Atlantean Phuturism that Sun-Ra would approve of...yeah, and I think Miles woulda dug this shit too...more gorgeous sub-surface Benga magick on "Electro Music" w/ it's clicky hydraulics and tuff, well-lubed beats...these have the ghost of 1st-gen Techno hovering over them; a postcard from a phantom future that references Metropolis, Detroit and No U-Turn.

Benga's on fire here w/ a run of excellent tracks: fairground Rocksteady organ-chops and swirling spy-film strings swoop down as if they've just hang-glided in from a lo-budget HK thriller staring George Lazenby. Rattling cutlery and a vortex of echoswirl lead us into hesitantly-choppy riddims and mooooore strings...but something scaley and aquatic emerges from deh synthetic oooooze in a Post-Drexciyan SmartSkin DrySuit and things get really strange for a few minutes, as the music stays in the shadows, skulking around the edge of a brightly-lit otherworldly city...creatures skuttle past us in the murk and filtered toad-language mummerings come from damp back-alleys as we sneak in and out of the light...

Skream's "Blipstream" (from the mighty Skreamizm vol 2) is astonishing...a jaunty, lurching bass-line and a playful 'whistling' motif that wobbles its way like a ganja-monged leprechaun across the wharves and jetties of a fog-shrouded landscape of rotten-wood warehouses: this is dubstep's equivalent of retro-Noir...as dark and playful as a Chandler novel. There's something, dare I say it, Irish about this track...another big, big tune from Skream.

The mix descends into clipped synthetic minimalism with tunes by Kromestar and the Mystikz showing that Hatcha has lost none of his skill in summoning up dark, edgy soundscapes build from minimal beats and some devastating frequencies...tracks like these get called sound weapons and you can see why: the bass rattles around inside yr skull like a fat mind-beetle laying sound-eggs in yr synapses...incredible to think about Hatcha pioneering this sound just 3 or 4 years back, playing stripped-back vicious little fuck-dubs like this to a disbelieving audience still on the rebound from a love-affair w/ UKG: to do something like that takes faith, self-belief and some serious nerve...respk' to the man: he helped changed musical history, and he's still got his shoulder to the wheel...

My God, but what's that fat fucking monster of a beat...iz that tha Mystik's "All of a Sudden"...? Jeez, and if it is, then it's a fucking mind-blower...heard it at FWD>> last month and it is a real skank monster...somewhere round here the printed track-listing seems to go awry, so I'm a bit cautious about naming a couple of tracks I'm not sure about....but not to worry, for there is greatness aplenty...I mean, you could do a lot worse than checkin Mala's mix of "Request Line", for instance...