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Review: TransAtlantic Bass

Today we take a little detour from the usual gutter sounds to bring you a full of review of TransAtlantic Bass: The Mutated Sounds of North American Breakbeat and Garage, mixed by Cooper of North Carolina’s Urban Renewal Records and featuring Riddim.ca regulars DeepSix and G Notorious among others.

I’ve had this mix by Cooper of Urban Renewal Records in my hands for a while now, not sure quite how to approach it. It’s not the disc – it’s me. Like a lot of people who’ve picked up on grime and dubstep over the last couple of years, I followed jungle but mostly sat out the 2-step/UKG era and I’ve only started picking up on it retroactively through its newer transmutations.

TransAtlantic Bass – The Mutated Sound of North American Breakbeat and Garage definitely has its roots in that in-between period but it’s looking straight into the future …

Cooper calls the mix a mission statement for the label – ‘a testament to a new breed of international producers who are integrating British urban music with their local geography.’ (Actually, you could say the same about this site and in fact you’ll find members G Notorious and DeepSix contributing some of the standout tracks.)

Opening things up is TS Heritage’s ‘On My Mind.’ Initially it sounds like a sunny, maybe a little too smooth, soul-inflected 2-step track. Then come the hints of hoover-like bass – bits here and there to begin – and things start geting darker. The bassline starts twisting through sick pitch bends while the vocalist is chopped and echoed. His words and tone getting increasingly ill. Heavy tune. Things are off to a good start.

After a short 4/4 stomp Cooper drops G Notorious’ ‘Champ’ which track that had me hooked from the intro with its dread bass and a sample of The Mohawks’ ‘Champ’ which Canadian hip hop heads will remember as the organ hook Maestro’s ‘Let you backbone slide.’ Next, the aptly named GeeSixCru collab drops in with a bouncy roller that sets the stage nicely Jason Mundo’s massive ‘I Stand Rasta.’ Full-on heaving, distorted bass on this tense track with its dubbed out breakdowns and subtle vocal. A definite highlight.

Next up is one of the biggest tunes of the year – known widely on both sides of the Atlantic. Chicago producer Eric H’s ‘The Lights’ came out a little while back on the seemingly unstoppable Hotflush Recordings. Simple enough on the surface, it’s detuned-bells breakdowns and monstrous, quick-filtered rolling bass have to be heard to be believed. Big big tune. Next DJ Joseph chills the atmosphere for a moment with a brittle, dubby 2-stepper called ‘Late Night Dreams’ before Mundo’s ‘Scorpion 4×4’ stomps in with quick distorted bass stabs and what sound like echoing Arabic strings.

Another absolute highlight is DeepSix’s ‘Tactical’ – a stomper of a UKG-style track in the same class as Agent X’s ‘Killahertz.’ Serious bassline business holding together a skeletal collection of vocal clips and filtered instrumentation.

The rest of the disc is equally strong. Cooper’s mixing is tight from from beginning to end. Jason Mundo’s ‘Swing it Brother’ mixes deep buzzing bass with what sound like samples from a 78 rpm jazz record and the results are great. TS Heritage’s ‘Desire’ is another exercise in ill atmospherics, this time set to hand drums and deep a swelling bassline. Iris Soundsystem’s ‘Roller’ opens with a 4/4 kick and backwards bass stabs before settling into a nicely chilled 2-step riddim before morphing again into a breakbeat workout.

Overall, TransAtlantic Bass comes through with a strong selection of new UK-tinged North American tunes – expertly mixed and selected. It also makes for a nice change of pace after extended doses of rough and ready grime and dubstep bass attacks.

For more info be sure to visit the Urban Renewal website at UrbanrenewalRecords.com. Also be sure to check RinseIt Promotions for the latest from Deep Six, and G Notorious’ SoulChampion.com, one of the best (and best looking) resources on the web for UKG and related sounds.

– Paul Jasen

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Buy TransAtlantic Bass online from CD Baby and Groove Distribution.

EDIT: Now available at iTunes

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Riddim.ca was founded by DJ/writer paul autonomic (aka Mr. Bump) in February 2005 as a hub for North America's nascent grime and dubstep scenes. Since then we've helped promote events across the continent and made friends around the world. Mostly dormant now, we're host to one of the web's largest collections of writing on the late-Garage dis/continuum as well as a growing collection of rare audio and scans (coming eventually).