Calenda - The Forever EP (Heavy Artillery 12")
First unveiled on Kode 9's "Dubstep Allstars Vol.3" mix cd way back in early '06, Calenda's enchanting "Forever" finally gets a full release courtesy of Rossi B.'s Heavy Artillery imprint. Better known as Rinse FM stalwart Jason H, Calenda blends a grime-tinged halfstep riddim and grinding lo-end pressure with soaring, plangent orchestral string samples on the title track, whilst "Exploration" features a more complex, frenetic arrangement of rhythmic loops and ticks offset by mellow jazzy chord swirls, that could be simply described as experimental post-UKG, rather than dubstep in its current definition . Both tracks have a warm, personal charm, yet might not suit all dancefloors. Perhaps with this is mind, Rossi B has commissioned remixes from the label's production mainstays 2nd 2 None and Dubchild, who coat the original tracks in tungsten-strength battle armour, loaded with razor sharp beats and glutinous wobble-bass gymnastics, designed for maximum impact.
Kuma - Dawn Stepped Outside (Immerse 12")
Vancouver-based Kuma launches his debut release for Immerse, with what might well be the most impressive offering from the label so far. Cushioned on a bed of syrupy junglist sub-bass, "Dawn Stepped Outside" is an elegantly understated excursion into atmospheric post-breakstep territory, augmented by eerie, distant pads, hushed vocal samples and a woozy jazz-inflected refrain. "Lost In Translation" follows a similar path, with added rythmic complexity and heavily reverberated piano and trumpet fanfares. In a major coup, Immerse have drafted in Benny Ill's Horsepower Productions to remix the title track, and the results are predictably huge. His first released work in four years, Benny's version is loaded with heavily modulated, scientifically precise bassline manuevers and a tightly-coiled steppers riddim with skanky dubbed-out chords, that could almost be mistaken for a Skream production. Quality assured throughout.
EL-B & Roxy - 2 Bad/Endorse (Ghost 12")
El-B reactivates his long-dormant Ghost imprint, though anyone expecting to hear more of the dark garage that inspired Burial's muse might be a little surprised. His "2 Bad" is a straight-ahead slice of breakbeat garage loaded with classic samples and vocal hits that evoke memories of early nineties 'ardcore (perhaps the title is a homage to original badboy producers 2 Bad Mice?). All good fun, yet the end result comes across as a little dated, with no obvious sign of contemporary stylistic plot-twists. Less celebrated as a producer, but of similar pedigree, Roxy delivers a far more satisfying track on the flip. Driven by a tense one-drop breakbeat shuffle and steered by a melodically evolving bassline, "Endorse" features an array of carefully arranged elements including a bright, ringing guitar chord, police sirens and MC chatter. Even better is the "Bump Mix", which ratchets up the pressure by several notches with it's militant snare pattern, morphed bass texture and bleepy synth riff.
Appleblim & Peverelist - Circling/Over Here (Skull Disco 12")
When two of Bristol's most visionary producers get together, you can (and should) expect the results to be awesome, and I'm pleased to report that your expectations will be totally fulfilled with this latest release from the unstoppable Skull Disco imprint. Appleblim's infatuation with the cloudy, austere atmospheres emanating from Berlin's post-Basic Channel dub techno mileu combine with Peverelist's assured production skills for what must surely be the most profound statement to emerge from the Bristol underground in recent times. Clocking-in at nearly nine minutes, "Circling" is a passionate call for extended, meditative spacial exploration in an era of masculine, tweak-headed brutality. Built on a solid electro-flavoured riddim 'n' bass loop, the track evolves gradually, introducing soft-focus shafts of reverberated texture that rise and decay in the mix, teasing out stereo-panned dapples of echo from the snare along the way. On the flip, "Over Here" is propelled by a more urgent steppers riddim, punctuated by chasmic bass drops, chord stabs and droning harmonics, yet still the effect is one of contemplation and hazy, restrained ambiance that lies somewhere in the middle-distant terrain between Mala and Detroit's Deepchord/Echospace collective. Totally stunning.
Shackleton - Death Is Not Final (Skull Disco 12")
Following the Villalobos remix of "Blood On My Hands" and his own remarkable remix of Simian Mobile Disco's "Hustler", Sam Shackleton offers further evidence of his continued distance from the dubstep establishment and increasing affinity with the more dubbed-out and experimental end of the techno spectrum with this stately 120bpm excursion. All the usual Shackleton elements are in place - the complex strands of ethno-percussion, undulating waves of pure subsonic bass frequency, cryptic arcs of melodic counterpoint and pitched-down vocal incantations that made "Blood On My Hands" so memorable, yet now anchored to a 4/4 pulse well below the threshold of mixability with dubstep's more typical 138+ bpm tempo. The techno connection is made even more implicate on the flip, with legendary German producer Torsten Pröfrock drafted in on remix duties under his T++ alias, though conversely Pröfrock chooses to up the tempo nearer the 140bpm range with a staggered and convoluted rythmic shake-up typical of the originality and fluidity of his recent work. All told this is an intriguing release that finds Shackleton, the perennial outsider, poised in some kind of connecting anti-chamber between genres...it'll be fascinating to see which way he goes from here...