Son Raw is dreader than dread.
Of all of Keysound Records’ qualities, and there are many, perhaps the most notable is the label’s hunger for progression. While artists and labels on both sides of Dubstep’s noise/dance divide have responded to larger audiences by smoothing out their rough edges and generally becoming more accessible, the house that Dusk & Blackdown built remains committed to London circa 2004’s spirit of experimentation, without ever sounding stuck in 2004 itself. Whether LHF’s sprawling transmissions, Gremino, Kowton and Balastiq Beats’ angular and cerebral Grime or Dusk and Blackdown’s own experimentations, the label has neither sat still nor fallen prey to the allure of easy categorization, be it roided-up Dubstep or effete continental grooves. Recently however, they’ve championed a particularly interesting set of producers including Wen, Visionist and Beneath, all developing variations on a dark, unstable 130BPM sound that asks more questions than it provides answers. But while it’s still too early to play trend-spotter in an era that spits out more new subgenres than it does ideas, Beneath’s Illusions EP proves that at the very least, the movement has already generated one fascinating producer worthy of attention.
At first glance, you might confuse Illusions with Techno and while there’s certainly a pulse here, Beneath rarely treats it with the minimalist reserve you might get in Berlin, subtracting beats, throwing in counter-rhythms and generally doing a fine job of avoiding the traps that have neutered so many Dubstep-influenced producers in recent memory. While Blonde sports a steady-beat skeleton festooned with soca-snares, creating a dark mirror image of London’s funky house, the rest of Illusions goes a step further echoing DMZ’s most percussive dread. This is only amplified by the flesh on those tribal bones – dubbed out voices of long forgotten emcees, atmospheric synth washes thick with skunk smoke, gut-rumbling sub-frequencies and only the slightest hint of melody. Compared to the clinical cleanliness currently in vogue amongst both America and Europe’s electronic elite, it’s a thrilling voyage. Like Pangaea’s recent Release, there’s a thrill in figuring out where this EP goes next and if Beneath is slightly more restrained by tempo, he counters with a more explicit reconfiguration of London’s Jamaican DNA. His closing remix of Balistiq Beats’ Yardman Riddim is a particularly thrilling moment, a rollicking seven and a half minute journey through the concrete jungle set to soundtrack the grimiest of basement bashes.
Perhaps the best thing about Illusions and this dark 130BPM movement in general is its current sense of flux and the uncertainty on where the boundaries should be drawn: is this UK Funky? Is it Funky Techno? Is it something else? If so, how do we keep it from being swallowed up and assimilated? Do the producers even want that? Beneath isn’t telling, releasing precious few words, but I’d wager that by emphasizing these beats’ brokenness, their sound system legacy and their overpowering bass, he’ll do just fine. In the meantime, those curious about this sound would do well to check out Dusk & Blackdown’s Resident Advisor mix below: it’s chock-full of the weird mutations mentioned above, including more than a few Beneath tunes.
MP3: RA.336 Dusk and Blackdown (left click)