July 21, 2011

Sach O chant down Babylon.

Dubstep’s worldwide ascension has no doubt been aided by the fact that it can be all things to all people. From its original expression of London’s urban dread, the genre has morphed into everything from guitar-free metal for the Facebook generation to neo-reggae to indie-approved gentility to proper electronica. The strand that’s dearest to scene stalwarts however is undoubtedly the dark, spiritual dread originating in the Digital Mystikz camp, a sound that’s proven to be a perfect fit for North-America’s long established cybernetics and ecology inspired rave scene. Montreal DJ Living~Stone has been putting in dues in this world for a minute without ever losing sight of Dubstep’s original London sound and with the Root Up EP, he comes into his own as a producer, exploring both thematic and musical themes befitting the original Croydon crew and North-America’s rapidly expanding Bass massive.

The banging “May this Battle Be Your Last” illustrates his approach nicely: while packing significant firepower in the club (believe me, it goes off) the track refrains from cranking it up to 11 or toying with juvenile gross-out imagery, instead morphing and rebuilding itself over the kind of shaolin vocal sample that’ll never go out of style. The meditative “Warrior Path” and “Suffering” push this even further, respectively reimagining Bruce Lee’s musings as the basis for a major subwoofer workout and an unknown philosopher’s thoughts on suffering as a Loefah-esque slice of darkest dread. These vocal samples imbue the Root Up EP with personality too often missing from Dubstep, whispering a deeper message through music that’s too often derided as “just beats.”

The EP succeeds rhythmically as well, avoiding the all too common trap of staying locked within the same tempo. “Ancient Method” is a particularly strong cut re-assembling Dubstep’s basic elements into a faster, Hip-Hop inspired groove. Meanwhile, the title track merges a Brainfeeder bump to glitched up roots-reggae chants proclaiming “one love”. To be fair, it’s a little TOO earnest, yelling out a message of consciousness that was better left hinted at. If Living~Stone’s heart-on-his-sleave concern for justice and revolution piss off a few hipster ironists however, that’s their loss:  at a time where every other producer wants to wear dayglo clothes and stupid sunglasses, it’s refreshing to hear from someone who cares about more than swag.

Though The Root Up EP doesn’t quite expand Dubstep’s limits, it stays faithful to the high standards set by the genre’s best producers without falling pray to prefab “deepness”. Like fellow North-American bass scientists DJG and XI, Living~Stone’s sound is inspired by the UK genre he operates in but feels just as linked to local concerns: it’s hard to disconnect the EP’s dread from the fact that politics are particularly fucked up around here right now and that every day feels like the prelude to Armageddon. It’s then to his credit that Root Up remains compulsively listenable regardless of circumstances, a powerful slice of Dubstep reminding listeners of the genre’s possibilities without getting bogged down by conventions.

MP3: Living~Stone – Root Up (Ft Liz Rogers & Jah Faith)

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