Sach O sits alone in his four-cornered room staring at empty redbull cans.

Pinch & Shackleton is a wonderful exercise in stubbornness. Devoid of easily identifiable signifiers, it’s tempting to tag it with complex genre descriptions – post this and step that. But you’d be missing the point entirely.  This collaboration between two of Dubstep’s second-generation geniuses returns to the community’s pre-genre, pre-meme ideals of heaviness and darkness. It uses them to craft a rewarding statement that refuses all pigeonholing.

If you really need a reference point, I guess Burial and Vex’ds debuts work, but you might as well just start from a dub version Portishead’s Third. Pinch and Shackleton construct a heavily labored, suffocating collection of beats and bass that forces you take it on its own terms:  e.g. in total darkness, smoking a spliff.
It’s also an opportunity for two great producers to explore beyond their comfort zone. Shackleton’s insular auteurism pushes Pinch to move beyond half-step expectations, while Pinch’s song craft keeps Shackleton’s beat explorations from getting lost in the deep. Combining everything into massive, multi-part compositions, the record sounds more apocalypse than urban London. Album highlight “Jellybones” starts as a swirling vortex of steel clanging – trademark Shackleton – but the whole thing dissolves into prog-rock organ washes and voodoo chanting before somehow morphing into haunted techno and back. It’s tempting to describe every track this way, but suffice to say that these aren’t beats to be mixed in and out of. These tracks were composed with the listener in mind, playing tricks with your sense of space and time.

This isn’t a record for the faint of heart. You can’t just throw this thing in the whip and go on with your day unless you happen to be an exorcist or vampire hunter. It redirects the bass away from giant, gnarling metal riffs, and back towards impeccable sound design.

Every carefully programmed drum hit contributes to the creation of a complex sonic space. I can’t imagine how long the drums on “Torn and Submerged” took to get right, but hat’s off, this is undoubtedly the best technically produced record of the year. Give this baby the good pair of headphones it deserves and I swear it’ll trick you into believing you’re hearing it in surround sound. It demands attention. Each sonic twist crafts an illusion of an impossible three-dimensional space, like an MC Esher painting on dust. No, really.

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