Sunday, 18 October 2009
PRE-ORDER: Wedge & Shadz - Running Away w/ Guido Remix & Gatekeeper - Blip/Appleblim - Vansan (Gatekeeper RMX) [If Systems Persist]
The Bristol scene has pretty much exploded into common consciousness over the past couple of years, but the majority of outside attention has been focused on Joker’s brightly coloured hip-hop motifs and the more commonly cited techno-fied hybrids from the likes of Peverelist, Appleblim and Pinch. Yet one of Bristol’s least recognized collectives outside of the city’s confines is also one of its most consistently active. The H.E.N.C.H crew, headed up by local legend Jakes, focus on some of the genre’s earliest and oft-neglected hallmarks – spaciousness, futurism and oppressive, cavernous bassweight. Stripped of the warmth and familiarity of DMZ’s dub sampling, sets from Komonazmuk, Gatekeeper and Wedge dwell on the same sense of distance and atmosphere but inhabit landscapes altogether more unsettling, more alien.
The first two plates on Wedge’s own label, If Symptoms Persist, both fit with this set precedent and strike out in new directions. Driven by soft bass pulses and drenched in guitar feedback, Wedge & Shadz’s ‘Running Away,’ released this week, is significantly warmer and more inviting than anything he’s yet put his name to. Less dancefloor-centric than considered and meditative, Shadz provides a slow-moving groove with calm vocal stanzas that builds then gradually disassembles, element by element.
Guido’s rework on the reverse, the first remix he’s yet released continues to cement his reputation as the most underrated of the purple trio. Always more concerned with conventional song forms than Gemmy and Joker, he keeps Shadz’s vocal almost entirely intact and cocoons it in lushly orchestrated synth cascades and mirror-image bass bleeps. As well as being one of the most convincing examples of the unlocked potential in applying a ‘proper’ song structure to dubstep’s primarily instrumental skeleton – moving through several distinct sections as opposed to a traditional build-drop dynamic – it’s fiendishly addictive, propelled by a delicious, broken beat that constantly teeters on the edge of collapse. When the crash finally comes everything retracts momentarily, sucking inward to a stable point for a fraction of a second before bursting outward in a supernova of noise, colour and energy. Considering how early into his production career he is it seems likely there’ll be even better to come from Guido, which is an incredibly exciting prospect.
On the label’s second 12” Gatekeeper’s contributions are closer to his recent releases on Immerse and M4 in tone, pulling off a delicate balancing act between glacially sparse low-end and intricately meshing percussion that converges to form momentary weblike structures before dissociating again. ‘Blip’ strains through several impossibly dense nets of hi-hat before a wispy, barely tangible melody swells to full strength and recedes gracefully into the distance again. His remix of Appleblim’s ‘Vansan’ conjures up memories of Skull Disco in more than just track selection, as he builds up a busy, ever shifting background of diffuse noise through which the original’s distinctive melodic arcs tease and finally appear. The Berlin influence is clearly audible as well, shot through with implied techno propulsion courtesy of a decaying cymbal rush that flits past in an instant, like oncoming traffic down the autobahn.
What really impresses about these first two releases from If Symptoms Persist is how far they’re willing to push the ‘dubstep’ template in markedly different directions from the majority of current producers. As much as anything else there’s a sense of vibrancy that comes from considered composition. All these tracks are already fully formed listening experiences - a club system merely happens to be their most efficient means of delivery.
Words: Rory Gibb