Friday, 30 October 2009

PRE-ORDER: Untold - Gonna Work Out Fine EP [Hemlock]

In what has been a vintage year for dubstep and its closely related siblings, Untold’s rapid progression throughout 2009 has still been shocking in its sheer, raw consistency. Even as recently as January there were only the slightest hints of the heights Jack Dunning would reach ten months later. Organic seems an appropriate word to describe his evolution - as there has been no genetic fuckery, no strange laboratory modification to profoundly change his music’s base properties. With the benefit of hindsight, the clues were there all the time in the industrial moans of ‘Discipline,’ the Berlin-inspired melodicism of ‘Dante’ and ‘Can’t Stop This Feeling’'s hyperactive grime swing. Yet somehow nothing quite set the tone for his latest Hemlock release.

Like all great pieces of music, I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard the impact of Untold’s frustratingly brilliant ‘Stop What You’re Doing’ on Dusk & Blackdown’s Rinse FM show. With ‘Anaconda’ standing as the tracks only precedent – still a freakishly inventive anomaly in his production career at that point – it was still possible to immediately tell from the opening grind that it was the work of one Mr. Dunning. Even so, when it hit with all the force of a head-on motorway collision the reason for its title became pretty obvious. Less of a mere attention grabber and more a one-two punch in the gut, ‘Stop What You’re Doing’’s descending tonal bass and distinctive woodblocks have a shockingly physical effect, even on a pair of headphones.

The music on Dunning’s ‘Gonna Work Out Fine EP’ is so tightly wound it’s a wonder the vinyl it’s cut on doesn’t snap under the sheer pressure of its own tension. The EP’s swift gestation period – all the tracks were crafted over the course of a few weeks with a simple set of tools – has gifted it with a remarkable consistency and a sense of breathless excitement that remains long after EP closer ‘Never Went Away’ fades out of earshot. It also takes us closer to where Untold’s head is at right now: he’s trimmed off all the unnecessary excess to leave a set of sparse, skeletal instrumentals that successfully meld the muscular bass aggression of early grime to dubstep’s considered sense of atmosphere and sudden melodic breakdowns closer to the spirit of Chicago house.

The result is a Dr. Moreau-like hybrid, with useful parts of other creatures fused to its central chassis – unnatural perhaps, but strangely beautiful nonetheless. The title track is an aberration of elastic bass tones, airy chimes and the roar of a toy dinosaur, and despite the schizophrenic dynamics at play ‘Don’t Know, Don’t Care’ still manages to sound sultry, swinging its hips over a classic piano break like UK funky’s somewhat troubled cousin. Like his close contemporaries at Hessle Audio Dunning is rapidly re-configuring an entire genre, moving ever further from the generic half-step template into a blurred area that’s both dancefloor-ready and startlingly musically inventive. And as if there was any more evidence needed ‘Gonna Work Out Fine’’s centerpiece ‘Palamino’ provides it, a midnight waterfall of glassy bleeps that rushes from speaker to speaker, the rhythm catching in tiny eddies and sudden rips as it heads toward the sea.

Words: Rory Gibb
Out: 2nd November (digital out 16/11)


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