Dubstep 2010 : January Reviews

We are still only in the first month of the new decade, but already some established names and labels have released some interesting releases. A quick review of some of the early 2010 releases.

Hyetal & Shortstuff – Don’t Sleep / Ice Cream
Martyn – Hear Me / Seventy Four (remixes)
Starkey – Rain City / Beatingz
VA – Sub:Stance mixed by Scuba

Hyetal & Shortstuff – Don’t Sleep / Ice Cream (Punch Drunk)
Hyetal was one of the best new artists to emerge in 2009. Several of his releases received attention on this blog too. For Punch Drunk it was a big year as well with several big twelves and two full albums. Shortstuff had a slew of releases out last year as well on Ramp recordings and sorts. The three combine for a festive and funky kick-start to the new year. The A side, Don’t Sleep, is not one of my favourite tracks. It’s synthy riff like structure has Shortstuff written all over it. Indeed, the melodic quality of the tune is not my problem. It’s the rhythm that’s not up my alley. At 130 bpm’s it doesn’t quite persuades me into invading the dance floor. The AA side, Ice Cream is what it’s really about on this one.  The synths in this track are ridiculously infectious and the rhythm edges more towards traditional dub. Deep house subbass emerges in the background as well. This track clearly carries Hyetal’s stamp which becomes more apparent as the song evolves.  Funky and indeed a new direction for Punch Drunk.

Martyn – Hear Me ( Zomby rmx ) / Seventy four ( Redshape rmx ) (3024)
The original  Hear Me featured on Martyn’s 2K9 full length (see review on this blog). It was one of the strongest tracks on that album.  A remix of a strong track is always a risky undertaking. Indeed Zomby’s remix is not without its flaws. The track starts very recognisable with crunky sounds in the background. Trademark Zomby style.  But when the rhythm section cuts in, Zomby’s earlier rave style comes through. At first this mid pace rhythm comes off as a little awkward to me but as the song progresses I appreciated it more. An interesting remix but it doesn’t top the original for me. Redshape provides a minimal techno remix of  Seventy Four on the flip side. Some nice attention to melody here.  Both tracks handle the vocal bits of the original tracks very well.  All in All, the AA side is the more successful undertaking, if you’re into (minimal) techno that is.

Starkey – Rain City / Beatingz (rwina)
Starkey has the first major tune of the year under his belt with Rain City. It sounds like a dub and electro cross-over to me. Normally I loath electro as it is bland, cheaply produced and too repetitive. But coupled with Starkey’s melodic and glitchy approach to dub, this becomes a very solid tune. Great melody and rhythm and probably one of the better tracks of the year already. Beatingz has a trademark Starkey vibe through it with more wonky and glitchy vibes backed up by a solid bass. The only thing about this release that bothered me is the opening minute to this track which is a bit skipable.

Sub:Stance Mixed by Scuba ( Ost Gutton )
Scuba had another decent year in 2K9 with some solid releases on his own hotflush label and a remix here and there. But a lack of real standout tracks was a bit disappointing (except for maybe the Aesaunic EP). He returns early in 2K10 with this splendid mix CD on German label Ost Gutton.  The mixing is as good as it gets and the track list is excellent. It mostly consists of what I call borderline dub. With contributions from Sigha, Pangaea, Joy Orbison,  Untold and Scuba himself, he has managed to insert some highlight tracks into the mix that thus also becomes genre defying. The feel of the mix  constantly shifts  from dub techno, to house to garage and back again. In the latte part of the mix there is a little more room for anthem-style dub (the wonky goodness of Joker or the rhythmic masterpieces of Mala) but don’t expect any straight forward dub in this mix. Recommended if you want to explore the fringes of dubstep and stay away from the more straight forward dance floor wobble.

Cheerz, see you next time.

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