Headhunter, Nomad


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I have to admit that it took me a while to warm to dubstep. The spare hypnotics of Shackleton and the inimitable, tinder dry soundscapes sculpted by Burial immediately appealed but then their interpretations on the medium are truly unique. It wasn’t until hearing the likes of TRG and Martyn that I opened up more to the genre as a whole, the elements of techno influence being a major reckoner with my senses. 2008 has seen a handful of artists from both camps blur the lines between techno and dubstep. Perhaps the best exponent of this cross over of the two genres right now is Headhunter with his debut album, Nomad.

Hailing from Bristol, Headhunter has been hotting up the outer edges of dubstep over the course of the past two years and a fistful of devastating EPs. This full length album, made in several different cities around Europe (thus the name) marks his transition from up-and-coming producer to serious operator at the fore of his field. Opener, “Lifeform” is a wash of textural techno akin to Convextion and other Basic Channel affiliates, though equally a nod to Mancunian label Modern Love and their own take on periscopic, dubby 4/4 sensuality. In stark contrast, “Prototypes,” which follows on, plummets to subterranean depths to chalk out a burrowing bass line at once statically charged and acidic, worming its way through an underworld labyrinth towards sci-fi ascendancy.

True to its name, Nomad embraces a journeyman’s spirit, exploring at times the slightly harder bass stepping frequencies with mechanical fervor, as on “Technopolis,” “Physics Impulse” and “Baseflow.” At other times (“Grounded” and “Your Say”) ventures are made into more ethereal realms where the pads and chords are allowed to work their way to the fore, the bass and drums stripped away to shuffling, skeletal markers of time. “Birks Range,” another 4/4 cut with plump bass stabs underpinning broad brush strokes of chords firing around an echo chamber, brings the album to a close.

Clocking in at just under and hour, Nomad is an album easily digested in one sitting and one that does not tire with continuous listening. Headhunter, weaving together elements from varying realms of jungle, dubstep, breakbeat and techno, has created a dazzling debut album, one that regardless of genre will sit right up near the top of many best-of lists for the year.

Will C.  on October 22, 2008 at 7:57 AM

I like Burial’s stuff a lot, but overall I’ve found a lot of dubstep pretty tiresome. These tracks really grab me, though – I’ll have to look out for this album.

james kartsaklis  on October 22, 2008 at 10:44 AM

just judging from these three tracks, i don’t know that the textures on their own really do it for me. i get the spirit and direction, but i feel that something like 2562’s “aerial” collection from earlier in the year did it all a little better. totally just my opinion, though.

hutlock  on October 22, 2008 at 12:57 PM

I’m still stuck in that “warming to dubstep” stage myself. I like most Shackleton stuff and Burial and a few things here and there, but I think this whole movement might be going the way of Speed Garage in a few months, really.

That said, these samples do sound interesting.

sam500  on October 22, 2008 at 6:49 PM

Those samples sound good to me. Also need to catch up with 2562’s Aerial collection. I find Burial utterly tedious to be honest but I realise I’m in the minority there (big time).

I like what DJ Oneman has been doing this year, mixing dubstep with old 2-step garage. They really compliment each other very well. The first half of Appleblim’s RA mix from ealier this year was also great (not convinced by the minimal / dubstep crossover selection in the 2nd half though).

chris  on October 22, 2008 at 7:34 PM

with this and deadbeat’s “roots and wire” my appetite for dubby techno has been wonderfully satiated this month.

a little surprising from tempa, which has been less of a front line in the techno/dubstep hybrid scene and more straight dubstep, but a quality mix of the two nonetheless.

tom  on October 24, 2008 at 6:11 AM

first track reminds me heavily of old omni trio work.

Adamm  on October 24, 2008 at 6:21 AM

I’d have to lump myself in the same category of “warming to dubstep.” It’s more and more inticing as I hear more interesting takes on the sound. Shed’s LP has a few dubstep hybrids I was quite fond of. Also, I see that alot of the uk grime/hip-hop (minus the lyrics) is getting lumped with dubstep on the digital retailers which confuses me a bit. Stuff like the Aardvarck LP and and some of the Flying Lotus stuff, weird.

harpomarx42  on October 28, 2008 at 2:12 PM

This is a fantastic album, and, depending on a few more listens, may knock Shed off my list for album of the year. It did take me a while to ‘get’ dubstep, and I do feel more at ease with the likes of Shackleton, Martyn, Burial, and Appleblim than with the likes of DJ Pinch, Caspa & Rusko, Tes La Rock, and Skream for style.

What I want to know is…is dubstepno just going to be a trend that we will look on with malice in 5 or 10 years time (like shoegaze, eurotrance, or meepyfloop), or will it be hailed as an all time classic (garage house, minimal, or liquid funk)? Your thoughts, plz.

Will be getting repeated listens and inclusion in mixes. Stay tuned!

littlewhiteearbuds  on October 28, 2008 at 3:00 PM

In what universe is shoegaze looked upon with malice? It’s been pretty much one of the more enduring and developing genres since its birth.

hutlock  on October 28, 2008 at 6:31 PM

I was just gonna say! Shoegaze still hasn’t died!

harpomarx42  on October 29, 2008 at 10:13 AM

Not saying that ALL shoegaze is bad, but there have just been a wrath of copycat artists out there churning out weak songs to appeal to the mass emo generation that insult the classic shoegaze bands (Cocteau Twins, MBV, the Verve, etc.) under the auspices of a ‘tribute’ or ‘influence’.

Some, like Silversun Pickups, M83 or Sigur Ros, at least sound good. At least there is something in this sea of depressing drones which the educated public* looks on with malice…

My 2 cents.

*Not saying that shoegazers aren’t educated, of course. I just couldn’t think of a better term at the moment.

rubin  on October 30, 2008 at 3:42 AM

dubstep is here to stay, one of the most forward looking and innovative genres in dance music right now. albums like this only go to show the wealth of talent in the scene. This is not uk garage, it’s sound system music, times beats and basslines for your body and your mind.

silverbeat  on October 30, 2008 at 4:17 PM

I think this particular brand of dubstep has more of a chance of sticking around than that based around the uk garage sound like your skream’s and that bunch. some of the uk garage and grime kids are now making dubstep after the wheels to their wagon fell off. there doesn’t seem to be anything fadish about this deeper stuff. and if so, i don’t care, i’m still happy listening to old shut up & dance twenty years on.

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