Here's a bunch of quick reviews for things that have turned-up in my mailbox (both real and virtual) recently. Some are a bit overdue and a couple are a bit ahead of schedule, but I'm getting them done now while I have a bit of free time.
Narcossist - Sunblind (Mindset)
Hailing from the rural North of England but now relocated in Bristol, I'm really glad to see that Joe has finally got a release under his belt. He's one of those producers who started sending me beats ages ago when he first started out and I used to drop some of his tunes in my regular podcasts back in '06. He's been through several stylistic changes since then, and right now he seems to be exploring the still-fertile intersection between dubstep and techno, keeping the beats urgently propulsive over a very sparse yet satisfyingly complete palette of tones and vocal snatches - I particularly like that girlie giggle that crops up on the flipside "Frontier Dub". Looks like he's playing at Under_score next month. I might try and reach that one.
Mr. Messiah - The Dublab (Automation Recs)
'St. Petersburg's dubstep Christ', according to the press release. So what we have here is a Russian artist, released via an American label, purporting to make British underground music. I have no problem with that per se (in fact I would actively encourage such behaviour), but somewhere along the line the message has got a bit muddled. This 7" is nothing to do with dubstep. It's dark, minimal, downtempo breakbeat. Forensics would love this, I reckon. I quite like it too, though I think it could've done with maybe one or two more elements (a hook of some sort would've been nice). It feels like a backing track waiting for something to happen. More info at automationrecords.com.
Dissident - Society Of Silver Skeletons (Hotshore)
Also hailing from St. Petersburg, but Dissident gives us a very different take on what might loosely be called dubstep. This guy's been around for a few years and obviously knows his onions when it comes to production. It's an 8-minute epic driven by distorted kick drums (remember them?!!) glitchy, restless percussion and relentless, edgy oscillator arpeggios, which makes for a pretty pensive experience. I quite like it, though. Oh, and nearly forgot the other side is actually by Scuba. The track is called "Bruised" and it clearly gives a nod to the dubby/deep house scene, with it's comforting wash of block chords, but with much more spring in its step in the rhythm department. Pleasant, though not as good as...
Kontext - Convex Curved Mirror/Hometown Swamp (Immerse Recs)
Another Russian producer (in fact I think he's also from St. Petersburg, though I might be mistaken) releasing his second EP for Bristol's Immerse Records, coming out in March. I liked his debut record(s) and I like this one too. One of the things that caused me frustration with dub techno over the past year or two was its stubborn refusal to expand it's rhythmic horizons beyond the simple kick/hi-hat pulse of house. Such beautiful, deep textures locked in frigid rigor mortis. I pined for just a bit more detail in the drum programming, a hint of funkiness in the grooves, a slight increment in bpm rate to edge back into the 130s and a general move away from just being Basic Channel clones. And Kontext has been answering my prayers. Apparently there's an album planned for later in the year, which I have very high hopes for. Definitely one to watch. Info: immerserecords.com.
Spandex - Bermuda Triangle (Hand On The Plow)
Spunky, funky full-on techy house with a nice line in bouncy basslines and a knack for jittery, unusual vocal effects, a bit like some of the groovier stuff on M_nus, but with a bit more balls. It's not the sort of thing I'd listen to at home, but I can imagine the lead track setting a few dancefloors alight, which wouldn't be too difficult in yer average Mnml club, let's be honest. Spandex knows the power of a good hook. B side tune "Fourth Wall" is a bit more complex and experimental for those who like their shit leaning to the left, whilst "What's Wrong With You" is another straight forward banger featuring a woozy male vocal, subjected to much stuttery editing, and an unusual synth solo in the middle. If you're a jobbing house dj, you'll probably find this record very useful. Out mid-February. handontheplow.com.
Mount Kimbie - EP (Hotflush Recs)
Ummm, can't remember if I got a press release with this one, but I've lost it anyway so can't tell you much about Mount Kimbie or if and when this is coming out, or even if its actually on Hotflush or one of its sub-labels. But I really like this four-tracker. Definitely more in the area of 'home-listening electronica' than you might expect from a Hotflush EP, full of earthy clip-clop beats, making creative use of compression, reverb and delicately distressed timbres that give the whole thing a taste of the ancient and mysterious. Like an Aphex Twin b-side circa mid-90s, this stuff doesn't really fit in any particular dance genre, but it has a lot of charm, character and enough melodic thrust pack an emotional punch. Watch out for it, when and wherever it might be.
Martyn - Yet/2562 - Kontrol (Tectonic)
Yes, yes we all know Martyn can do no wrong, and here he is once again pushing all the right buttons on an irrepressibly groovy, immaculately produced tune underpinned by classy breaks and voluptuous b-line. Fellow Dutchman 2562, by contrast, offers a somewhat plodding halfstepper only slightly redeemed by the edgy 808-electro flava. I dunno, maybe I expect too much from the bloke, but this one sounds a bit old news to my jaded ears. I hear the unmistakable splosh of feet treading water. But its on Tectonic, so we'll all buy it anyway, right?
Hopefully have a couple of album reviews up soon...
UPDATE: Just had an email from a reader in the Ukraine who informs me that Dissident and Kontext are one and the same person. So now you know.
UPDATE #2: Alex from Hotflush emailed to say that the Mount Kimbie EP is released on 2nd Feb. Keep an eye out - it really is rather spiffing...