Various Artists, Tectonic Plates Vol. 2

looptemporallight

[Tectonic]


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As I loaded Tectonic Plates Vol. 2 into my playlist, the artists who appeared one by one were a “who’s who” of dubstep producers who have made waves and splashes in the scene this year. Joker’s inclusion immediately caught my attention, and may do so for many people because of his recent Hyperdub debut. Also gracing the tracklist are heavyweights Benga and Skream, as well as a couple of LWE favorites, 2562 and Martyn kicking things off. Rounding out the compilation are Flying Lotus, Moving Ninja, Peverelist, Shed and RSD. Last but not least and the one who facilitated this impressive lineup is Pinch, whose Tectonic label the compilation appears on.

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As for the music, much of it is syncopated and steppy, dark but danceable, and sonically cohesive as a whole. With dubstep moving in a number of directions, captured here is the genre’s deep, introspective, and sometimes experimental side. “Yet,” the opener by Martyn, sets the tone with it’s elating up-tempo shuffle and his signature stabs. 2562 then takes a rare, but forgettable venture into halfstep territory with “Kontrol.” On what is arguably the strongest track, “Trapped In A Dark Bubble,” Skream builds some really killer tension with a bass line of blippy triplets. Benga’s “Technocal,” on the other hand, almost feels like filler compared to his work on Tempa, but is catchy if repetitive and employs some interestingly disorienting drum programming. The first major departure, “Glendale Galleria,” is from Flying Lotus (no surprise there) whose creepy sound is an acquired taste for this junglist turned grown up grime kid. It seems to be going for a profundity that unfortunately comes off as meaninglessly random.

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Then there’s Joker (ah, Joker), whose “Untitled_Rsn” sneaks up with an ordinary DJ-friendly intro that drops into some head bobbing badness that’ heavy in spite of its quirkiness. “False Flag” by Pinch and Moving Ninja could do without the whole two and a half minute ambient intro thing, complete with cliché sampled movie dialogue. When the beat finally drops, tiny robotic gunshots and miniature smart bombs start going off while an epic power chord slowly fades in and out. Shed’s remix of Peverelist’s “Junktion” reminds me of Gush Collective (coincidence? Beide sind aus Deutschland). A clean rimshot snare and shaker are accompanied by an organ grinder and ambient synths, but not muddied by reverb. A well-composed “Greyscale” from 2562 develops slowly but surely for a few minutes before winding back down in the last minute. Skream’s “Percression” veers back to the dance floor with a fun 4×4 beat while still fitting the echo-laden dissonant theme. RSD’s “Forward Youth” offers up a dubbed out stepper that brings the energy up another notch and Pinch closes with another tension builder, “Joyride,” that might work better in the mix than on it’s own.

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All considered, the first few tracks were pretty great, but one of this compilation’s strengths is also its weakness. The sound is consistent throughout and makes for an even vibe, but the energy level never really reaches beyond a drone. At the same time, I must admit some of the only dubstep releases I’ve been excited about in the last few months were the promo twelves for this double CD. These tracks also happen to be the ones that made it onto the excellent second disc mixed by Pinch. To be fair, making a compilation is a dying art, and Tectonic has put a pretty decent one together. If taken as a collection of singles and a bonus mix CD, I really don’t have much to criticize.

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