Dark DiscoHyperdub Archives

Reviews: Late summer preview

New vinyl from Shackleton, Appleblim, Gatekeeper and Geeneus, plus Dubstep Allstars 4 and Tempa Allstars 3

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Shackleton + Gatekeeper
‘Tin Foil Sky’ b/w ‘Tomb’
Skull Disco (SKULL004)

More creative heaviness from one of the best labels around. Shackleton’s ‘Tin Foil Sky’ is a percussive workout comparable in intensity to Digital Mystikz ‘Conference.’ The track is built for the mid-set plateau – those trance-inducing, limbs-flailing few minutes when your self fuses with the rhythmachine . Echoing flutes and washes of pink noise add an ethereal dimension to the track, while a smooth, welling bass fills out the bottom end.

And a return to mystery-figures for Skull Disco with a track from the heretofore unknown Gatekeeper. In ‘Tomb,’ the start/stop percussion is minimal, centred on a stuttering metallic snare that leaves plenty of room for the bottom end. The bass comes in an insistent pulse – the sort that flexes speaker cones into uncomfortable shapes – broken every few bars by a distant, distorted kick. The track is thick with feedbacking echoes of the one-syllable vocal theme. Heavyweight.

– paul autonomic


Shackleton + Appleblim
‘Hamas Rule’ b/w ‘Fear Riddim’
Skull Disco (SKULL005)

Ooh, I’m a sucker for a hoover, and I know Appleblim is too. Last year, he told me that there’s a definite 92/93 darkside influence lurking inside his tracks. Now, with ‘Fear Riddim,’ he’s gone and built an eerie little crusher around that most iconic of darkcore synth sounds. (He’s in good company too – Geeneus and Pinch having come up with their own variations on the theme.) Coupled with an echoing vocal sample, it forms the refrain of his much-anticipated ‘Fear Riddim’ – complete with clockwork hats and a bassline that will literally mash your body down into the ground. Even better is ‘Fear VIP’ (currently on his MySpace) with vocals by Riko. But there’s no word on a release for that one, so for now, you’ll have to buy the instrumental and do your best Riko Dan impression in front of the mirror (as if you haven’t already). ‘Appleblim touch dem…’

Finally, a sad rumour has it that Shackleton will soon be leaving dubstep behind to pursue new musical paths. And with his fifth, and possibly last, Skull Disco release, he already seems to be looking beyond the genre’s borders. Listening to ‘Hamas Rule’ it’s hard not to think of Muslimgauze – the agit-tronic alias of the late Brin Jones whose dubwise engagements of Middle Eastern music and politics came with titles like ‘Arab Jerusalem,’ ‘Fedayeen,’ and ‘Hebron Massacre.’ But more substantially, this is probably the most developed exposition yet to date (amongst released tracks at least) of Shackleton’s affection for Middle Eastern rhythms and instrumentation. Deep and spacious, the track echoes with perfectly tuned wood drums, shakers, and tambourines organised around undulating sub-bass and a sweet harmonium melody. While I don’t want to overstate the comparison to Muslimgauze – this really is a style unique to Shackleton – ‘Hamas Rule’ does, nevertheless, seem to move along in a similar spirit, making it a welcome addition to a musical lineage which, although it was cut short, seems all the more relevant today. If this is in fact his last dubstep release, I’ll be sad to see Shackleton leave the scene. But having watched the progression of his output over the last couple of years, the promise of things to come more than makes up for it.

– paul autonomic

Dubstep Allstars 4
Mixed by DJ Hatcha and DJ Youngsta
Tempa (TEMPA CD006)
Release Date: Late July

Tough and cool for the summer scorch, Tempa maxes out the dosage on its fourth instalment of the Allstars mix series with twin tons of bass weight hand cut by Hatcha and Youngsta. Just four months after Kode 9 and SpaceApe’s headtrippin’ cosmic March op, the quickening pace of Tempa’s release schedule marks the growth of a genre under-the-magnifying-glass flashing back, and the move of Tempa’s pressure cooker night FWD to a weekly, worker-bee-friendly, Friday.

The new double pack is a return for the DJs responsible for the initial two of the mix series. Hatcha and Youngsta’s personal focus as mentors, buyers, and selectors, pushed Lower London’s sonic newest stutter-drum subsystem into what increasingly more and more people are learning to love worldwide. Around 30 dubs deep, the two sets are dub degrees in brain surgery and rocket science. With no MC’s on either CDs, both mixes stick standard industry mix CD format, continuing to rep the scenes familiar best and brightest burners, alongside a few bits from the growing ranks of new producers Kromestar, Headhunter, and Hijak.

Going the straightforward route, Youngsta’s mix is a standard Rinse FM outing. Youngsta chooses not to draw for the doubles like he does occasionally in live sets and radio shows, despite having the ammunition in the record bag for dub double-tapping. The Blackmarket boss manages quick cuts from Skream-ospheric floaters like ‘Dub Period’ and ‘Morning Blues’ into the full-on headfirst rush of the don duo DMZ’s ‘Blue Note’ – a dervish-swirl, bell-driven ‘up’ track that only Mystikz can make. The other usual suspects in the scene flash sharp teeth also. Loefah’s frostworld inspired bassbeast loops provoke rewind-button pullbacks. ‘System,’ a black hole bubble of sub-shock bass, the square wave chomps of ‘Ruffage,’ and the halfstep archetype ‘Mud’ are as raw as when they first premiered for the outer-London listeners on Mary Anne Hobbe’s Dubstep Warz. D1’s darkcore ‘Greazy’ is a buried gem in the bunch. A different and stronger take on his sound than his recent release on Soulja. ‘Greazy’ features quick electro lines cut with headbutting snare swoops, bouncing with much more energy than most recent lumbering halfstep dubs.

Hatcha’s side is clearly the more colorful of the two. Starting off with the hazy red desert Aurora Borealis of Skream and Hijak’s ‘Babylon Time Warp,’ the mix pushes from wobbler to wobbler, through the digi-dub productions that have been popular in the recent months.

The big absence is Crazy D, or any MC for that matter. Possibly out of habit, it’s hard to listen to Hatcha without his counterpart, making the otherwise giant mix drag its knuckles at times. The slack time is fortunately picked up by Benga. The self-released album Newstep has been eclipsed in press attention by Burial, but Benga’s arrangements as a whole trace wider lines around the half- step, 2-step, broken beat and even DnB clouds that surround the genre. ‘Broken Step,’ the to-be-released ‘Electro Music,’ and the string plucking, ear tickling wobble of ‘Ammo,’ stand tall in the tracklist. Judging from responses to Benga’s last sets at FWD and DMZ, Benga’s dubs will be setting standards all year.

With four releases in the series under their belt, the Allstars series has a chokehold on defining the genre on the store shelves. If the third mix was a hand written manifesto, number four is a pair of drink tickets. If Tempa plans more frequent mixes, hopefully opening up to the agents in the outer-zones, this release might escape some of criticism for sticking to the old guns. Regardless, until other labels step up, Tempa’s series is the Dubstep dictionary to the rest of the world,. In the testy world of monitor defined perspective, archived pirate static, formalized message board criticism, and keyboard cool hunting, Tempa’s top-of-the-pile reputation will not be easy one to maintain, but it is in the best position for some time to come.

– adruu


Tempa Allstars Vol. 3
Featuring: N-Type, Caspa, Headhunter, and D1
Tempa (TEMPA 19)

RinseFM’s N-Type kicks Tempa’s latest plate off with a sample-rich and groove-focused song that grabs a hold of the listener with an ever-evolving bassline hook and never lets them go. Expressive beatwork – especially the high hat programming – pins ‘Tolerance’ down tight. When N-Type brings in the breakbeat after the drop, all bets are off.

Caspa’s ‘Rubber Chicken’ boasts a chest-crushing bass line, spooky keys, and evocative pads. It also has a dead-simple beat structure that is robotically quantized and a crudely recorded and jeuvenille vocal bit that is regrettably placed right before the drop. That said, ‘Rubber Chicken’ will certainly make heads turn and many will forgive Caspa for that once the b-line makes the speakers bleed.

In ‘Sleepwalker’, sparse, chilled out pads echo like the surf over the white sandy beach of drum beats while the bassline rumbles in time to give this Headhunter joint a hypnotic quality befitting its name. ‘Sleepwalker’ is laced with ethnic percussion that has been harmonically tuned with the melody – a sign of a skilled ear at the controls. Not a peaktime tune by any means, but a slick and smooth entry into the night or exit from the rave.

In D1’s remix of ‘Warning’, intricate keys intertwine with his trademark beats and the bassline crescendos like a leviathan rising up from the depths of the ocean. The female vocal sample calls out for vigilance against impending disaster and pulsing synths, reminiscent of alarms, add to the sense of foreboding. D1 re-envisions Skream’s ‘Warning’ in a foreboding alien world, where the liquid atmosphere is always threatening to rush in and drown the listener. The tension in this piece is palpable.

All told, Tempa 19 is a versatile compilation of the various styles and methods of dubstep. From the bassline banger of ‘Rubber Chicken’, to the blissful escapism of ‘Sleepwalker’, this is Grade A, 100% pure South London dubstep, ladies and gentlemen.

– DeepSix


‘Dark Boy’ b/w ‘Parasite’ and ‘Bad Beat’
Soulja (SOULJA 009)

Churning, congo-laden rhythms and cavernous doubled-up kicks drive the half-step procession of ‘Dark Boy’ while gritty textures and haunting faux-vox pads are stressed by screaming stabs and a rock-hard snare splits the mix like a karate chop. ‘Parasite’ features clusters of stray synth shots panning across the stereo field but has a very energetic bassline not necessarily in line with the current school of dub-thought. Geeneus blurs the lines between grime and dubstep even moreso with ‘Bad Beat’ – it is instantly separated from most other dubstep offerings with its distorted guitars and multiple, explosive claps. While fans of the current half-step movement may find Geeneus’ beat patterns on ‘Parasite’ and ‘Bad Beat’ a bit ‘too jiggy’, others will welcome the shot in the arm. Both tunes are still bass-heavy and entirely skank-worthy. And ‘Dark Boy’ is dubstep dead on. Soulja continues to pave the way.

– Review by DeepSix

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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).