Son Raw has no inner peace. Or outter peace for that matter.
Quiet as kept, Deep Medi creeped up to become my label of the year singles-wise. That will probably make me an exception to the rule as their tempo of choice is out of fashion amongst the trend-spotters and their groove is too broken, too sullen and too alien to ever find a home in most parties no matter the level of sophistication. Hell, their releases are ideally heard on one single hand-crafted sound system in North-London – hardly crossover material. But whatever the label lacks in cool, it made up for this year in daring choices. Expanding Dubstep’s formula without ever losing sight of the genre’s roots, Mala A&Red a murderers row of releases to keep the steppers on their toes and the DJs reloading. Here are few.
Goth-Trad – Airbreaker
Like a subterranean alien or those weird fish that live at the bottom of the ocean, Cosmos is the kind of bizarre mutant that hasn’t seen the sun in a loooong time. Powered by an ultra-low rumbling sub, the drop is physically bracing without ever resorting to frat-boy histrionics. Bonus points for the DJs who let it run long only to discover a synthesized pan-flute refrain on the back end.
Dark Tantrums – Unborn
Tempering the darkness with mournful melodies and rolling hi-hats, newcomer Dark Tantrum’s Unborn is twilight Dubstep at its finest. Though perhaps a little too dire for even the darkest of dances, this stomping funeral-procession of a tune was a favorite of pirate DJs and home listeners everywhere thanks to its minor key piano refrain and synthesized leads. Plus the B-side (Storm) was one of the year’s best wobblers.
Dub Mechanics – The Highest Strain
Taking half-step to its logical conclusion, the Dub Mechanics enter full-on chillout mode on this B-side, settling into a 70 BPM groove made for strong sativas and sunny days. But while the organic instrumentation and relaxed vibrations scream “lounge music,” the ultra heavy bassweight counters with enough force to move the crowd. An opening set favorite and a perfect last tune all in one.
V.I.V.E.K – Kismet
Eastern-tinged melodies in Dubstep should be old hat but in V.I.V.E.K’s hands, a formulaic approach becomes a devastating slice of heavyweight growls and junglist atmospheres. Think Colonel Kurtz’ hideout crossed with rave and you’ve got a half-decent idea of what this sounds like.
Swindle – If I was a Super Hero
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, this tune tucked in the back of Swindle’s “Do the Jazz” is perfect music for driving around with the top down on a sunny day…so much so that I still have a hard time believing it came out of London. Bearing a closer resemblance to the work of Dam Funk than anything on in Dubstep or Grime scenes, this track marked the moment where Swindle transcended his dance music roots in favor of something more idiosyncratic.
Jack Sparrow – Good Old Days
A dusty, jazzy slice of meditative soul, “Good Old Days” could have been instrumental Hip-Hop had it not been for its shifting drums and thunderous low-end. Nevertheless, fans of DJ Shadow, RJD2 and other cinematic crate diggers would fare well to check out the single, best, saxophone led single of 2012. And if anyone knows where the vocal sample’s from, holla in the comments.
Kromestar & Jay5 – Words
A constant presence in Anti-Social sets for over a year before dropping commercially, Words is the kind of dubplate special that DJs were fiending for so long that its release was almost anti-climactic. Nevertheless, the relaxing vibe and melodic new age samples come together so organically that it’s almost guaranteed a presence in sophisticated crates for years to come. Plus the Knowledge EP came with devastating bangers like “Clearly Distorted” making the entire package a must have.
Commodo – Buckwild
Crazy space shit that don’t even make no sense. What starts off as a functionalist DJ tool with plenty of empty space turns inside out as soon as that buzzing killer bee refrain comes in. Oh and the sickest Prodigy sample this side of Shook Ones. Well played Commodo.
Swindle – Mischief
C-side wins again for Swindle! While opening numbers Forest Funk and Belfast have been in heavy rotation with Grime DJs for the past year, this absolutely bizarre slice of jazz at the end of Swindle’s second single for Medi is the real gem. Assembling a a full band’s worth of samples and virtual instruments, the Butterz vet lets his inner Herbie-Hancock loose for a full on rare groove jam. A “what-you-call-it” moment of the highest order, cuz this sure ain’t Dubstep.
Kahn – Dread
Finally, what better way to end the year than a full on revival of the classic dub sound? Kahn has made a name for himself dropping everything from delicate house to roughneck Grime to pop-tinged garage so it was no surprise to see him tackle heavy duty Dubstep for the house that Mala built. What is surprising? That it’s perhaps the best thing the label has released in one of its strongest years to date. Lets hope theres plenty more to come, both from Kahn and Deep Medi as a whole.