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Review: Dubstep Roundup

Kicking off the New Year with our new review section. New releases from Burial, Shackleton, Appleblim, Slaughter Mob, Search & Destroy and S.N.O. With a little luck (and a few promos – *wink wink* the publicists crew) we hope this will become a regular feature.

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This month, a wide selection of dubstep and related sounds from: Shackleton, Appleblim, Search and Destroy, Slaughter Mob, S.N.O., Macabre Unit, Burial, Rhythm and Sound, and Skream.’

Shackleton + Appleblim
Majestic Visions’ b/w ‘Girder’ and ‘Cheat I’
Skull Disco SKULL002

Following up on their well-received but somewhat underrated debut, Skull Disco’s Shackleton and Appleblim come back with an even stronger release that sees both producers refining their sounds and carving a unique space for the label.

Skull 002 opens with the clattering metallic percussion and the Eastern wind instruments (sounding like a bellowed melodica) that are becoming Shackleton’s trademark. Far more in the vein of ‘I Am Animal’ than his grimier Mordant release, ‘Majestic Visions’ begins with halting kick-snare interplay and steadily layers-in reverb-heavy shakers and rims. Suspense builds until after the two minute mark when the drop finally comes and a percussive workout is matched with swelling sine-bass and a revving, low-end growl, broken periodically by the return of the frenzied melody. Dubwise and spacious, ‘Majestic Visions’ is also one of the most rhythmically complex dubstep tracks about at the moment.

Appleblim contributes two pieces of dread minimalism to the flip with ‘Girder’ and ‘Cheat I.’ Both tracks have been making the rounds on dub, getting rewinds from N-Type, Joe Nice and Paul Rose and others since the spring. Metallic and plodding, ‘Girder’ is probably the better known of the two. A wide electric sizzle pulses through its now-familiar opening bars before a delay-washed toast incants the drop. Appleblim draws on the same darkside chill that infused his last release but this time inverts the sonic maximalism of ‘Mystikal Warrior.’ Hats and shuffled claps, thick with delay, propel a bassline that sounds like layered 808 kicks – distorted, resonating and bouncing off one another. Sparse and massive.

No less impressive is the thunderous wobbler ‘Cheat I.’ Again, percussion is sparse – stuttering kicks, elastic snares and echoing woodblocks. Resonant bells appear from time to time. This leaves lots of space for one of the most powerful and tactile basslines of the past year. Clean at the bottom, distorting through the upper-mids. Played loudly enough, it fills the chest and leaves you with a shiver. The only thing missing is the ‘Cheat I’ sample from the dubplate version (likely a copyright casualty) which has been replaced by echoing dancehall sirens.

Skull Disco could hardly have done better following up their debut. On the strength of this release and material waiting in the wings (including Shackleton’s ‘Limb by Limb’) this should be the year that Skull Disco moves right to the centre of the dubstep fray.

– Paul Jasen / autonomic

 

Slaughter Mob / Search and Destroy
‘Fever’ / ‘Cave Dweller’
Halo Beats

A most auspicios first release from slaughter mob’s new halo imprint. This is definitely on the breakier tip of dubstep. That said, two very different sounds are represented here. Search and Destroy’s ‘Cave Dweller’ is a murky number – like settling sludge – and brings the vibe down nicely. Dark and moody ‘Fever,’ on the other hand, has a very upbeat, rollin’ riddims and the growling bass slides off the back of the beats And behold – ‘Im nin alu’~! Remember that one? Funky! Keep an ear on this label! Really feeling this one especially the SLT side!

– monkeytek aka ghettobot

 

S.N.O.
‘S.N.O. EP’
Terrain Records 001

The S.N.O EP is the first installment from DJ N-Type’s Terrain Records. Those already familiar with N-Type through his weekly radio show on Rinse FM are already aware of how he, over the course of 2 hours, can move seamlessly from grime to dubstep and all points in-between. So then it’s only fitting that this on this first Terrain release, Manchester producer S.N.O squarely straddles the fence between grime and dubstep bringing out the best of both worlds on this 4-track.

The first side is all about the swing The vibe and many of the sounds are immediatly reminiscent of another Manchester alum, Mark One. ‘Bring da Beat’ starts with a shuffled industrial snare/clap pattern which immediatly leads you off into the stompy head-nodding bass. ‘The Germ’ is probably already familiar to the Rinse faithful. The deep rising bass, accented by vocal grunting make this one sound like rudeboy marching music!

‘Red Alert’, the first tune on the flip, takes a decidedly more melodic approach supported by old skool rave stabs and samples. The paced melodies and atmospherics make this one of the more mental tracks of the set. Probably not dancefloor material (unless you have a dancefloor full of burnouts….but i guess they wouldn’t really be dancing, would they?). ‘God Loves a Tryer’ continues the melodic vibe on a more upbeat tip with stompy, reverse-sampled drum programming layered over a ominous (almost gothic sounding) melody, and a bass that does it’s fair share of wobbling (without falling down ). However, my favorite part of the tune is the lead sample, which resonates with me strongly in this period of transition that both grime and dubstep seem to be going through presently: ‘It’s only after we’ve lost everything, that we’re free to do anything.’

Overall, a solid offering from the Terrain camp, and S.N.O in particular. Though a liitle more variation in bass sounds used would’ve been desirable, it’s very easy to tell that S.N.O has a remarkable amount of versatility in putting together a groove. Future releases from him, and Terrain, should be on everyone’s radar.

– Ricky Ricardo

 

Burial
South London Burroughs EP
Hyperdub 12 ‘ HDB 001

Burial’s first 12″ care of kode 9’s Hyperdub label. I am not certain who made this record but I have a few ideas… This is the sound of UKGarage disintegrating and it is, in fact, my favourite release of 2005. Thankfully there will be more output soon from Burial! This 4 track EP starts off with ‘South London Burroughs’, a dark driving track under raining skies. I must testify my love for the track ‘Southern Comfort’- a dubstep equivalent of ‘Chase’ by Future Forces and Nico… Remember? A terse UKGarage beat juiced up and locked in over a hypnotic bassline and odd little haunted melody… More of a snatch of melody that gets taken away before you can catch on. Side B hobbles out with a sweet, sad little tune called ‘Broken Home’ – not at all for the dancefloor, a nice reprieve. ‘Nite train’ closes things up nicely with that hynotic pulse which has been surgically removed from UKGarage tracks and is left runnin through this track with ambient dark synth lurches that remind me a little bit of No U Turn releases. Nice MJ vocal bit for good measure.

– monkeytek aka ghettobot

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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).