Photo by Peter Nidzgorski
It sometimes feels as if dubstep never quite caught up with Pinch. Responsible for some of the oddest, most queasy and compelling plates to grace the 140 tempo range, Rob Ellis delivered one of the genres most fulsome LPs in the shape of 2007′s Underwater Dancehall, while last year’s creaking, low-slung collaboration Pinch & Shackleton was an astonishing achievement — a masterpiece of obtuse sound design, still revealing dark whispers a year on. On MIA, Ellis presents a selection of original tracks and remixes that have appeared outside of his own Tectonic imprint, a chronological journey that charts some of his most questing work from 2006 through 2010. But while Tectonic has long been a bastion of adventurously heavy-lidded dubstep — and one that has, if anything, only grown more headstrong and belligerent as the years have passed — many of Ellis’ more skewed moments have been betrothed to other labels.
“Qawwali VIP” will be familiar to many, given its heavy rotation around ’06 and ’07, a half-step roller that delivers a crisp and succinctly bracing delivery. Indeed, given today’s proliferation of moronic, mid-range whomp-athons, it’s interesting, and sad, to note that this lesson in understatement was once something of an anthem. His remix of “Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mali” provides a high point. A poignant vocal track unwinding at a relatively sedate 116 bpm, it features the world-weary delivery of legendary Qawwali vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan underpinning subtle sub flourishes. Techno provides a notably strong accent on certain tracks, as well. “136 Trek,” originally released in 2008 on Punch Drunk, retains a heady moonshine stagger, ambling along a muddy midnight path with fuggy-headed intensity. The “mutated” remix of the 30Hz original “Mutate(d),” meanwhile, perfectly encapsulates the spirit of cross-pollination between techno and dubstep that was taking place over 2008 and 2009 — low-lit 4/4, muted stabs, and the cavernous abyss of sub pressure. Pinch has delved deeper than most into the world of musical possibilities in dubstep. This compilation serves as a timely reminder of the beauty, strangeness, funk, and internal space inherent in his music. There is a purity of intent and execution at play here; this is serious music that stands up tall, now more than ever.