October 24, 2012

Son Raw suggests walking around to this at 1:00AM on a windy night

“Do Your thing, just make sure you’re ahead of the game…”

The opening words to Pangaea’s Release come courtesy of a Missy Elliot sample and seems awfully apropos in London circa 2012. After years of relentless evolution and transformation, the UK Bass scene’s forward momentum has slowed down dramatically, at least from the outside looking in. Gone are the days of new genres popping up every few years and many a producer has succumbed to the siren-song of House music’s unadventurous 4X4 groove.

American Dubstep’s mutation into brolectro-EDM has been well documented, but equally distressing have been moves by England’s avant-garde towards steadier beats and commercially minded sounds. In such a climate, it’s hard not to hear this opening as part warning, part threat and part mission statement: Pangaea laying down a gauntlet.


Thankfully, the Hessle Audio founder can back his claims up: Release is one of the finest dance plates of the year, bristling with creativity and the kind of rudeboy energy London’s rep was built on. While artists such as Burial eulogize the rave, mourning its loss, Pangaea seems determined to graft the ghosts of Jungle, Garage and Dubstep to vital new forms – to continue the hardcore continuum if you will. As a result, Release is just that much rougher than anything you’ll find on labels such as Swamp81 or Hotflush this year and much more unpredictable than anything on Deep Medi – there’s a real desire to break new ground here but also a desire to remain true to the multi-culturalism of what makes UK dance culture so much more fun than self-serious German funk or velvet-rope House exclusiveness.

Even when he plays it safe, Pangaea insists on upending the formula. Majestic 12’s steady stomp comes closest to standard dance music but the haunted atmosphere and high-powered tempo recall nothing if not the speedy sensation of an amphetamine rush, daring DJs to leave the safe confines of standard tempos. Middleman’s half-step stomp might inspire 2006 era skanking from purists but it’s of a particularly murky vintage – the kind Dubstep Tom Waits might consider as backing for spoken word in an alternate Universe. A potent reminder of how weird half-speed rhythms can be if done right.

The heart of the EP however, lies in the tracks where Pangaea completely abandons rhythmic templates and goes off into the deep end, crafting shadowy pirate sounds to entirely new skeletons. Opener “Game” and the penultimate “Aware,” bounce and tick like dark Garage’s demented cousins with no discernible center or pulse, demanding you twist and flex until you truly feel the groove. The title track chugs along like an evil train, reclaiming wobbling bass for it’s rightful owners and ignoring trends of all sorts in favor of a murky, pirate aesthetic that’s as familiar as it is foreign – you’ve heard this before…or have you?It’s a thrilling shell game between old and new.

Finally, “Time Bomb” and “Trouble” both reshape darkness and shadow into shapes as unconventional as they are danceable: with so many producers copy-pasting standard patterns into their sequencers, these tracks feel like a bucket of water on our collective heads: THIS is what innovation sounds like – not last year’s Ibiza leftovers or whatever heavy-metal electronica hippies are shocking out to in campsites come summer. Of course Pangaea probably doesn’t care about that – he’s nothing it not ahead of the game.

Stream:

Download:
MP3: Pangaea – RA Podcast 333

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