Review: Oh Benga. Where do we begin? Emerging from the depths of Croydon in the early noughties, Benga has been a pioneer and pivotal lynchpin in the ever-burgeoning dubstep movement. His previous albums, Newstep and Diary Of An Afro Warrior remain amongst the most influential long players of the genre's history, alongside commercial crossover collab with Coki, "Night" and a slew of other high profile releases on labels such as Tempa, Tectonic, Hotflush and Planet Mu. Firmly cementing his reputation as one of the scene's most pre-eminent figures, Benga brings us "Phaze One" - the first in a series of EPs on the seminal Tempa imprint. Bookmarked by the delightfully named "Baltimore Clap" and "No Bra, No Panties," the EP kicks off with jittering, dark riddims and aggressive slapstick, breathy tones. As digital bonuses, "Transform" - another bleepy bad one, and the aforementioned cheeky sampling, dancehall-esque "No Bra, No Panties" - conclude the EP with a resounding two fingers in the face. Great stuff.
Review: Oi Benga! "Transformers" is a bit rowdy! Dutch label Oi! Recordings launch their vinyl arm with a statement of intent, securing the Magnetic Man's preferred set ender. You can keep your wet blanket post dubstep with pitch shifted R&B chanteuse vocal samples, "Transformers" is all about the WMD levels of bass menace that run through the post apocalyptic half step rattle - in the Croydon don's own words it sounds horrible when he plays it out! Next up, fellow Londoner Kutz steps up to the challenge with the equal screw face thump of "Shake It". Nice work Oi Recs.
Review: Champion of dark, tough and considered dubstep, Distance provides the latest instalment in the much loved Dubstep Allstars mix series. It's fairly typical fare from the Chestplate boss man, with tough steady rhythms underpinned by that particularly distorted kind of bassline. There are a number of highlights, most notably Commodo's "Surveillance" which has a rolling break woven into the mix. Cyrus' "Looking Back" also impresses as it purrs away with a gorgeously warm, rich synth line. The biggest surprise is probably Distance's own remix of trance bods Above & Beyond. It's certainly as 'big room' as you'd ever imagine Distance getting!
Review: While Hotflush may have mutated into many different forms in recent years, most would still link Scuba's label to the heady days of experimentation that fuelled dubstep's emergence. This compilation hones in on the time when wider influences were seeping into the genre with thrilling results, from Elemental's rough drum break machinations to the seminal Vex'd remix of Toasty's "The Knowledge". Elsewhere Loefah's masterful wobble on his remix of Search And Destroy is still unparalleled while Walsh & Kromestar and Jazzsteppa brought the lighter, roots influenced vibes. As a document of dubstep in full bloom, it's a worthwhile reminder for those who were there, and a valuable insight for those who weren't.
Review: No other label can rep dubstep like Tempa. Many would argue it was the first label to truly herald and nourish the sound. Here they explore their vaults and dust off some of the most genre-defining, idiosyncratic tracks that have helped shape the phenomenon we know today. From SPMC's paranoid murker from 2008 "Trust Nobody" to a whole series of Skream sessions such as "WTF", "Wibbler" and "Vacillate", the collection is a reminder of how influential Tempa has been, how talented their roster has always been and, most importantly, how slamming and stimulating dubstep can be when nourished and developed by the right label. Recognise.
Review: As January nears its bitter end, it seems this the time to release mega compilation albums. AEI, the company behind Get Darker, UKF and D&B Arena unveil their next project: Get Darker Presents: This Is Dubstep 2012. And what an album it is. Bringing in all the flavours of contemporary dubstep, it succeeds in providing a sweeping panorama of an increasingly fractionalized scene. From the deeper sounds of Author, VIVEK, Kryptic Minds, Icicle & Distance and Phaeleh, through material from scene pioneers such as Horsepower Productions, Skream and Benga, to the more aggressive sounds of Gemini, Flux Pavillion, 16 Bit and Nero, it's all covered. A brilliant "who's who" of dubstep in 2012 - highly recommended.