Although Mala is, in practical terms, something of a journeyman — playing myriad global club and festival gigs each year — his music is perhaps not quite so worldly. Steadfastly focused on the roots-inflected dubstep he has pioneered over the past eight years, his own productions (and much of the music he releases on Deep Medi) are often purist joints, exploring variations on broadly similar themes. And while many of his OD (original dubstep) contemporaries — not least DMZ partner, Loefah — have since moved into wildly eclectic areas, Mala has remained faithful to the original vibe — a sound inexorably tied to the organic sound-system culture he has spent his whole musical life immersed in. All of which makes the prospect of the “Mala in Cuba” LP — of which this 12″ is an early sample — on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood imprint rather intriguing. Traveling to Havana with Peterson as part of the wider “Havana Cultura” project, Mala has extensively sampled local musicians, realigning complex Havana rhythms with his warm boom.
“Cuba Electronic,” is a sprightly affair, utilizing a veritable cacophony of sampled hits — tinny rimshots, rat-a-tat snares, walloping kicks, and bristling hats. These rolling rhythmic tricks amalgamate beautifully with some pleasingly (in Mala terms) subtle sub touches. The overall effect is joyful, summery, and tribal; but it is also decayed and hauntingly romantic, perfectly evoking the sultry grandeur of old Havana. Turning over, “Calle F” is a more relaxed joint — trumpet blasts, piano chords, and skittering snares give it a mid-90s jazzy DnB vibe, something one could comfortably picture on a Good Looking Records’ Earth compilation. And while this 12″ is not a sonic revolution, it represents a comfortable coup for Mala — realigning his trademark warm bludgeon in sunnier climes without diluting his essence.