You can always count on Keysound to instil some renewed vigour in the dubstep and grime scene with their signings and releases. From the LHF collective to Beneath, Dusk + Blackdown’s recent discoveries have been as exciting as the first strands of musical DNA that came trickling through from the bosom of FWD>> and DMZ.
While the attention around them grows ever stronger, the LHF collective drop their debut album with a minimum of fuss, and in something of a bold move give everyone a whopping 26 tracks to digest. If anything it’ll silence all those speculating and analysing while they just try to catch up and process this incredible body of work. As the name of the album and the singles that preceded this long player ably demonstrate, the combined forces of Amen Ra, Double Helix, Low Density Matter and No Fixed Abode (whoever they might be) are carrying the torch for the original principles of dubstep, and in turn UK rave music as a whole. This is no more evident than in the irreverence with which they use samples. Nothing is off limits, from Kill Bill and The Matrix through to Happy Mondays and 808 State, in a world where everything can be sampled and obscurity is king, it’s this wry innocence which informs the rest of the music, but the real joy is that it doesn’t hamper the sheer brilliance of the production.
Contrary to what you might think, Sully has been making steady movements for a slew of quality labels for some four years now, emitting a distinct brand of refigured 2-step styles laced with creative ingenuity. As such, he’s forged his sound amply to make the leap to long player, delivering the goods for Keysound no less.
“It’s Your Love” (named, as so many modern garage tracks are, after the vocal hook that permeates the music), kicks things off on a decidedly sparse tip, as a gently rolling swing dances with sparse globules of melody. Without so much as a segue or an intro, “2Hearts” abruptly switches the vibe up to a much more uptempo kind of funk, replete with organ pads, metallic beats and junglist dial tones. While the execution may be somewhat militant, the overall effect is still as intriguing and deep as Sully has been in the past.
Things get even cheekier on the broken beat flex of “In Some Pattern”, where the hyperventilating synths drop in and out to maximum effect. “Encona” opts for a more housey temperament through which to run a whole heap of samples, while “Let You Know” has echoes of the very early dubstep tracks from the likes of Mark One and Plasticman, on a darkcore stance that carried the torch from ’93.
That sinister vibe gets carried on in “Scram”, which also ups the rhythmic action with a distinctly juke flavour in the pogoing toms and trickling hats. As that initial track by track breakdown no doubt indicates, the primary theme with Carrier is that there really isn’t a theme. Sully adeptly flirts with a wide variety of styles, letting the long player format server as a portfolio for his many tastes and influences.
Interestingly, the last section of the album serves as something of a juke workout, but Sully chooses to place degraded, VHS quality samples of detuned pianos and warbling synths amidst the drum machine madness for a convoluted but addictive melee. It would be easy for a producer to get lost along the way tackling so many kinds of beats, but there is still an underlying consistency. In the end, Sully’s unique character, manifested in his penchant for rich melodies, reigns supreme.
When their album bowled out on Keysound earlier in the year, LV displayed the rich tapestry of moods and styles they’re capable of tackling, dousing their funk with glossy synth flourishes and consistently unconventional edits and tweaks. However, for all the subtle moods and contemplative moments they conjured up with poet–turned-vocalist Joshua Idehen, there were two tracks destined to get the masses grinning and raving. Sure enough, they’ve committed those two tracks to a single package.
“Northern Line” is inarguably jovial when it first hits, as Idehen’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to a section of the London Underground reels off all those memorable stops such as High Barnet, Edgware and, erm, Moorgate (“I don’t know anything about Moorgate!” he proclaims incredulously). It’s a track that could almost be written off as pure novelty, were the production behind it not so sharp and addictive. The bouncy rhythm employs a sumptuous range of duelling percussion, while the synth stabs through the mix to keep things skipping forwards. The toms take on an almost musical tone as they ripple and tumble behind Idehen’s chant-along hook, “get on the Northern Line!” If this track doesn’t explode into everyone’s sets it’ll be a miracle.
On the flip, a track that garnered merely two minutes airtime on the album gets fleshed out into a fully formed party monster. “Primary Colours” is somewhat divisive, as the original synth takes a stabbing rave hook so familiar it could almost be tiresome. In stretching the track out, the hook gets bolstered by yet more familiar signifiers; a rolling hardcore break and plenty of classic “yeah, whoop!” samples. It’s not as unusual as LV are normally celebrated for, but the saving grace is the seductive sub swells that ride under the mix, grounding the kitsch nature of the surface elements. It’s no bad thing to see LV showing their unabashed knack for making fun tracks, and one suspects there’s no danger of them eschewing their more adventurous tendencies permanently.
As any Londoner will be only too aware of, travel is central to living in this great metropolis. We’re wrapped up in a tangle of tube routes, bus routes, rail lines, flight pathways, cycle lanes and roads. So it is all the more fitting that London trio LV team up with Joshua Idehen and release their long player on Martin Clark’s Keysound label, with its LDN catalogue numbers, and prescribe it with the title Routes. Navigating us through the post-dubstep landscape, LV build on their past releases on Hyperdub – “Globetrotting” (2007), “CCTV” (2008), “Hylo” and “Boomslang” (2010) – and take us deeper into London’s collective consciousness than ever before.
Starting the journey with UKF-meets-garage style “I Know”, with its caressing beats, tinkling SFX and lilting rhythms, we are taken through the more meditative, reverberating soundscape of “Tough” to “Northern Line”. This track epitomizes the sentiment of the album, with its cheeky, chopped up, stretched and rough street poet lyrics urging “Get on the Northern Line…What you know about Bank?…What you know about Angel?….You get girls in Kings Cross…What you know about Old Street?….Morden, Modern, High Barnet…”
Elsewhere, “Talk Talk” sits resplendent in synth washes, peppered with vocal snippets in a quasi-footwork style. Tracks like “Past Tense” and “Deleted Scene” really strip things back to the bone, stark and sultry in tone, they ponder on the moment poignantly before moving onwards, ever onwards. “Murkish Delights” is another resounding highlight from the LP, with its brooding, spine-tingling intro, we are lulled into a false sense of security, before Joshua Idehen’s voice interrupts the calm with another social commentary on 21st century life in Hackney. Concluding the album is the melancholy malaise of Burial-like crackling “Last Night” which simmers away and concludes the 12-track package beautifully. Taking us across the wide and vivid modern musical landscape, LV and Joshua Idehden together succeed in building a new route of their own and trust us, it’s worth the ride.
All the latest news, reviews and features from Juno Plus straight into your inbox