May 7, 2012

Son Raw
is the dream within the dream within the potential Inception sequel.

No, I haven’t abandoned beats and bass lines for the sensitive sounds of the singer songwriter. Despite a name befitting a James Blake successor alongside a baby face and EP title to match, Joss Ryan provides the latest incarnation of the UK’s ever-evolving Bass music machine rather than lyrical paeans to love or sparkly vampires or whatever it is that gets Indie rags to pay attention to electronic music producers. His new EP easily leaps ahead of the rest of the Boomkat brigade, grabbing the listener’s attention through its unusually up-front instrumentation but keeping it through strong composition and a swagger that’s too often been absent from UK music in recent times.

With enough towering orchestration to warrant a Guido comparisons, “Melancholy Dreams” barrels past its morose song title with confidence and boldness, effortlessly switching from propulsive string arrangements to half-step maximalism on the drop of a dime. Whereas so much energy around UK innovations seems to have dissipated to the benefit of more traditional dance music styles, this one smacks you with the shock of the new, or at least the shock of the newly remembered: it had been a while since Grime had been this chilled out and reflective or Dubstep this expansive and unafraid to ignore cliches. By gravitating towards London’s rhythmic lurches and filling the gaps with enough colorful flourishes for a generation far removed from dub minimalism, the track finds a way forward instead of calmly retreating or clutching for the status quo.

“Drop Off” reigns things in a bit but nevertheless finds a way to combine underused elements in new ways: synthesized arps collide with piano runs, jazzy chords and prominent bass without overcrowding the track, instead climbing ever higher without ever resolving. Final track “Trust You To” gets a little dirtier with driving percussion and darker atmospheres but still retains Ryan’s knack for organic instrumentation amidst the digital clatter: horn blasts and muted piano chords accompany the shuffling drums and ping-pong melodies at every turn. A bold new addition to the list of Bass music producers to watch, Joss Ryan’s combination of icy grandiosity and syncopated rudeness is just what the doctor ordered for a year in which the best in bass music increasingly seemed to be the domain of grizzled veterans rather than up and comers.

MP3: Joss Ryan – Melancholy Dreams

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