Review: Dub maestro Mala joins forces with prominent British writer, dub poet and Rastafarian Benjamin Zephaniah and Natty for this heavy hitting, hand-stamped 12". "I'm a bad man anyway, this is my sound" says Zephaniah with real passion as spaced out pads and delicate chords soften his battle cry, and his musings on the black man's struggle, righteousness and Rastafarianism play out in absorbing fashion. Best believe this one is going to become a real cult favourite, not least because of the exceptional sound design and sense of space inherent in any Mala tune.
Review: Without argument, Terror Danjah has been one of the most influential and respected producers in the grime scene since day one, and "Invasion" is his sixth album. Fully instrumental and loaded with ideas, samples and a myriad of musical twists and turns, this far excels any standard grime boundary and celebrates everything that's great about UK bass and beatmaking culture. Every beat has its own story; the soulful swoons on "Scene 1", the absolute gully daggers of "Snowfall", the wheezy eastern pipework of "TBC" and the dense, intense head-spin "After Dark". Total blueprint business and releases at a very poignant time. We wish Terror a speedy and full recovery.
Review: Epoch returns! And he's packing some of his rarest steez since "Soundboy Abduction". All air raid sirens, trippy widescreen basses and a scientific spoken word all comprise to form a brutal wall of sound slo-mo drama on "V1" while "Roacher" bubbles with a technoid sense of playfulness and unpredictability. Finally "Rib Cage" takes the surreal sensations to even higher levels with a melting intro, nagging hi-end percussion and the strangest harmonic strings ever to grace an Innamind release. Truly singular.
Review: Since 2015, deep dubstep explorer Corin Bornoff AKA Karma has put out one EP a year. This year's was delayed, it seems, but it has finally appeared - just as 2018 is wheezing its' last, scarlet-faced breath. Opener "Bluefoot" was arguably worth the wait, though. Built around a skewed but still stepping, reggae-fired dubstep "ridim", the track shuffles along on a wave of hushed shakers, ultra-deep sub-bass and intergalactic dub-wise effects. Over on the flipside, "Choose Life" is surprisingly positive, with Bornoff wrapping ear-catching synthesizer melodies, alien electronics and UK steppas style bass around a punchy drum track.
Review: Hyperdub kick off the vinyl side to their ten-year celebrations with this weighty four-tracker from some of the leading lights from the label's story. Mala is in a strident mood with "Expected, Level 10" carrying through that extra touch of melody from the Mala In Cuba LP. DVA cuts loose with the leftfield scattershot groove of "Technical Difficulties", reveling in tonal experimentation and jagged rhythmic flair to a stunning end. Still locked into the sci-fi trap tangent that characterised Severant, Kuedo turns out the haunting "Mtzpn" and Helix pops up for a remix of Kode9's "Xingfu Lu" that strips down to bare essentials with a little starlit soul rubbed into the framework.
Review: While he's offered up the occasional remix, William "Burial" Bevan has been rather quiet of late. In fact, this two-tracker marks his first original material for almost two years. Lead cut "Claustro" is an unexpectedly up-tempo dancefloor affair - a sweet and sticky chunk of future-garage that sees Bevan wrap sugary female vocal snippets, spacey chords and bubbly analogue electronics around snappy two-step beats - drenched in vinyl crackle and tape hiss - and a rock solid bassline. It will raise a few eyebrows given his previous work but nevertheless sounds like a summer anthem in waiting. Bevan returns to familiar territory on flipside cut "State Forest", a ghostly, field recording-laden ambient excursion where pedal steel style motifs slowly rise above opaque electronics.
Review: Woof! Hyperdub bring together two of the most recognisable and enigmatic artists of recent times on this 10", as Zomby and Burial square down ahead of the former's new album for the label. Zomby's Ultra LP is undoubtedly one of this year's most anticipated albums and "Sweetz" suggests it may be a very moody affair indeed. Whilst rooted in UK dance, Zomby and Burial do look elsewhere for inspiration too. Just under seven minutes long, "Sweetz" veers through various sub-heavy soundscapes with intermittent rhythmic patters and a distinctive looped vocal sample whose pitch changes with dramatic effect.
Review: It was only a matter of time before Boofy landed on Pinch's Tectonic. Both Bristol. Both magnetised to the fringes. Both responsible for untold low end hurters like these... "Back In The Box" is a heavy pressure cut with pneumatic kicks and ominous stretched brass textures while "Herbie" is a highly strung piece that's stripped back to just drums, subs and an eerie faltering lead and builds and twists when you least expect it. Flip for the churchy chords and rattled percussion of "In My Head" before "Perfunktion" closes with jazzier chords and a stone cold steppy kick arrangement. Classic Boofs.
Review: Busting open a brand new bottle of 2019 with his bare Mancunian hands, Walton returns to Pinch's Tectonic with his first fresh dispatch since his sophomore album Black Lotus. As always, it's a full-bodied assault as "Bullet 2" licks shots with technoid venom. "Inside" follows with a similar spirit but with even less layers of armour and a bouncier bassline, while "More Cowbell" does that toxic Pulse X style alien bass thing, gets all trippy with the percussion and seriously stampy with the kicks. Finally, we close with a bruked up G swagger on the spacious, foreboding "Gunshot Clap". Shots fired.
Review: Given the beat-making and production talents of Bristol boys Pinch and Khan, this hook-up with grime MCs Killa's Army - Killa P, Irah and Long Range - was never going to fail. Even so, "Crossing The Line" is insanely good; a future club anthem in which the three MCs get the hype going over a weighty, fuzz-fuelled beat that sits somewhere between grime, dancehall and dubstep. Killa (sorry) stuff. Pinch and Khan ditch the MCs on B-side workout "Send Out", instead peppering a moody bassline, clandestine aural textures and ricocheting vocal samples with gunshot snares, gut-punching sub tones and panicked electronics.
Review: Not content with dropping the delirious "Deadman", Sam Shackleton offers up another must-have release in the shape of this expansive double pack. Lead cut "Fireworks" is classic Shackleton - a skittering dubstep/dub techno fusion that makes delicious use of echo-laden congas, foreboding noises and distant, Middle Eastern melodies. It's utterly spellbinding. T++ remixes, delivering a ricocheting dub take. On the second disc, Shackleton reveals "Undeadman", a kind of bizzaro universe mix of "Deadman". It's pleasingly creepy, working odd samples and strange found sound around a solid, dancefloor-friendly rhythm. Flip for an excellent remix from Mordant Music, which makes brilliant use of a live dub bassline.
Old Apparatus - "Old Apparatus Meets Shangaan Electro" (4:00)
Review: Honest Jon's present the last twelve inch instalment of their impossibly varied Shangaan Shake remix project with the perma excellent MMM and Old Apparatus at the helm. Fiedel and Wiegand's take on the Tshetsha Boys is notable for two things: firstly it continues the duo's recent fascination with rhythms of a decidedly UK Funky nature (as executed with devastating effect on their recent Dex/Rio 12") and it further strengthens the impression Honest Jon's have given the commissioned artists a blank canvas to retain or toss as many elements of the source material as they deem fit. Thus recognisable snippets of the vocals remain alongside a brilliantly twisted treatment of the tinny melodics wrapped infinitely around butt slapping drum textures. Completely different in tone and execution, the elusive Old Apparatus invoke the spirit of Scratch Perry at his most intoxicatingly brilliant with a rusted, half stepping arrangement caked in all manner of feedback which serves to demonstrate how far reaching the project has been over the course of the 12" releases.
Review: Etch and Nico Lindsay make good musical bedfellows; the former's spacious left-footed soundscapes providing plenty of room for Nico's narrative, evolving lyrical style, they're kindred spirits linked by a glacial sense of adventure and refusal to compromise. Opener "Don't Wanna Know" kicks the doors down with force. Rough and switchy, there's a pulsing 2002 feel to both the step and flow while "Predator Vs Prey (Toxin)" takes us on a much swampier, weirded out trip that buns everything but survival. Finally, Tranq Sinatra joins the fray for an urgent finale where fast-tongue tales from Nico are backed from Tranq harmonies and another iced riddim from Etch. Cold.
Review: YES! We'd been waiting on this collaboration from UK start vocalist Wiley and shadowy electronic pioneer Zomby for a long time now, and it's about time it's landed on our shelves. "Step 2001" is a straight-up grime piece, a clicking, twisted groove made up of darting hi-hats and pacman sounds; you know when they say "they don't make them like they used to!"? Well, this doesn't apply here, as it's a serious head-dive back into the early noughties scene. There's also an instrumental version for maximum damage.
Review: It's been another banger of a year for Ricky Kalsi with a string of releases on his own Nebula imprint plus the likes of Dream Eater, Rotpot and Green King Cuts. Here he makes a very rare appearance on N-Type's Wheel & Deal with two more dark juggernauts. "Bad Trip" cracks open the heavens before the melted bassline oozes out and rains pure prang. "Rolling Skies" continues the theme of heavy weather as Kromey and the bossman go toe-to-toe in an intense game of militant funk. Bad to the bone.
Review: Since launching in 2014, Portland's ZamZam Sounds imprint has offered up a string of beautifully packaged seven-inch singles from a mixture of big hitters and rising stars from the global bass music scene. Their latest missive comes from Dayzero, a Japanese dubstep producer best known for his outings on Wheel & Deal, Sentry and, most recently, Vomitspit. The two tracks here are weighty, intergalactic and otherworldly, mixing dub style rhythms with the kind of angular, razor-sharp sub-bass motifs more often associated with dancefloor dubstep. Both cuts are quality, though it's rolling A-side "Orbit Dub" - all lolloping dub beats, wobble bass, metallic effects and paranoid aural textures - that really stands out.
Review: It's hard to think of a DJ with the global profile of Nina Kraviz who runs a label as underground and innovative as trip. The latest comes from Shadowax, who has previously contributed to the label's compilations but now makes her full label debut. Unlike much of the frantic and frenetic material trip has dealt with in the past, this EP slows the tempos and explores more moody and hypnotic techno. Opener "Nikolai Reptile" is a super slow motion and dub rhythm with searching synth lines gently riding up and down the scale, while "Ochen" recalls the icy minimal perfection of Daniel Bell. "What About Me" has spoken word mutterings and paranoid, pressurised kicks that hurry you along and lastly "Mortal Talking" is a flurry of hyper-speed drums and synth loops to fully flip you out.
Review: Perez reveals his shadowy 140 underbelly and once again knocks our heads clear off. Tapping back into that classic late 2000s deep space droney immersion vibe, each cut wounds with signature 1985 heaviness. "Last Rites" is all prang and high voltage bass fangs, "Deep Six" plunges us deep into the sub abyss, "Spooked" takes us for a slo-mo skank in the cemetery before "Melodrama" subverts dubstep's UKG influences in suitably swampy style. Rite on.
Review: At long last. While world events have left his last certy gold bangers like "Rikers", "Jungle Kitchen" and "Dyrge" seem like they're now from a whole other age, the enigmatic Commodo returns with more essential dark dreams. Each cut hits with that uneasy sense of mystique and soul; "Loan Shark" flings out strange but strong rays of light so it can skulk along in its own deep shadows, "Contraband" lures us deeper into the shadows with a fantastical narrative. Part Orient, part theatrical, there's a power in these unhurried, restrained hooks. Finally the heavier piece of the set; "Hot Pursuit". Much more brazen in its kicks and scattered industrial percussion shots, there's an off-grid funk rumbling away here and a western guitar twang strong enough to have you demanding duels with your nearest and dearest.
Review: Peng Sound revisit their highly sought after debut release. Just shy of two years old, it still rattles and hums with authentic dub warmth and drama. Gorgon Sound's original bubbles with bouncy heat as the bass modulations spring off the double-up kicks. Dubkasm's version is equally alluring as we're invited into a much wider space where guitar shots and other melodic elements are entwined into the mix. One timeless composition, two killer versions, if you weren't lucky enough to grab this first time round, you know what to do!
Jahdan Blakkamoore - "Liberation Over Liberace" (3:36)
Pupajim - "Open Mindedness" (3:12)
Jonah Freed - "Santa Muerte Riddim" (3:36)
Review: One riddim track, three hugely distinctive voices; Dub-Stuy continue their riddim series with "Santa Muerte Riddim". Loose, spacious, mystic and led by cold steel string twangs, Jonah Freed's beat sings on its own merits but each vocalist adds their own touch. Rider Shafique takes the lead with his signature smoky tones and poetics, Jahdan Blakkamoore contrasts between his gravelly spoken word and musicality on the chorus before Pupajim lets the beat breathe a little more before going full harmonic ham. Holy moly.
Review: Bristol-based badman Borai has been quietly issuing some of the city's most immense club wreckers for many years now, sometimes in partnership with October, and sometimes flying solo (as on the crucial Anybody From London for Hotline Recordings). Here he's inaugurating Higher Level with some absolute dance slayers, kicking off with the mammoth pitched-down drum funk and gut-wrenching bass of "Razor" before switching stance for the dreamier but no less rowdy "Predators." Both cuts are a masterclass in classic breakbeat science, delivering the foundational UK sound with panache that sets these weapons far apart from the rest of the pack.
Review: Let the "Games" begin! MOREOFUS returns to juice us up with his long-awaited return on White Peach. Four future-focused instrumentals, all brittle, bruising and abstract, if you were lucky to be at Outlook this year then you'll know all about these ones. "Games" takes the lead with a broken glass riff that's comprised of multiple lines all Q&Aing each in quick back-chat mode. "Runnin'" continues the chaos with a trip through a maze of eastern flutes and pipes while "Thieves" gives us a breather with a deeper vibe and a bassline that sounds like it came from 2007. Finally "Do You Know" closes with another uncompromising sound palette. Cold-yet-dramatic and set somewhere far far in the future. Game over.
Review: New gen dubsmith Sabab is making a serious impression with his current slew of breakthrough Artikal releases. First came the crucial "Guidance" EP in November 2019, then came the equally essential "New Dawn" 12" in May 2020. Now, our heads fully turned and all eyes locked, comes another massive EP: "System Skank" takes us back to the original science while "Piercing White Light" is the late night bulldozer of the bunch. Meanwhile on the B: "Fittest Of The Fittest" flips between a big sample splash and the sizzliest bassline you'll find all month while "Unity" closes on a deep space dub voyage, skittering breaks breezing in the background and all. Fit.
Review: Versa on System; it's a match made in dub heaven. Slower than the usual club-ready output V.I.V.E.K's label has often been known for, these are perfect home listening for the current lockdown era as Versa goes in deep; "Temple Song" is all about the subtle loopy insistencies while "Breakthrough" sinks us even deeper into our chair with its minimal ingredients providing maximum immersion. Finally "Biosphere" ushers in the kicks for a warm and rolling dub techno escapade. Stunning.
Review: It was only a matter of time before Boylan landed on Youngsta's Sentry. A master of dark subby funk, usually found more around the grime and breaks corners, his sound has always lent itself to the more traditional dubstep vibe. As proved by these two savage collaborations. "Orders" sees him teaming up with old mate Logos for a hammering halftime vibe that pays respect to the traditions but does with a slight techno twist. Flip for "The Mould" where the breaks come out in full force. A proper swinging jam with wild drums and an elasticated bassline, there's nice nod to the turn of the century dark garage and early Bingo feel as we're pushed and shunted into bassy parts unknown. Sentry just keep on smashing it.
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