Vakula, Dub As Always

Artwork by Atelier Olschinsky


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Vakula is having quite a year. He’s started two labels and, according to Discogs, put his name to 10 original releases, the vast majority of which have been exceptional. One of those labels is the boutique hand-stamped outlet Shevchenko, and Dub As Always is its third 12″. Its two tracks show the Ukrainian producer in the experimental mode releasing on one’s own label affords, but neither is self-indulgent – on the contrary, this is deeply engrossing material.

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On the title track, Vakula approximates dub house, if that term wasn’t loaded with connotations about so much sluggish, overwrought music. The track uses a couple of its signifiers — a pitch-shifted, echoing “BRUP!” and taught, humid chords — but the true achievement here is the rhythm, low slung and sprightly at once. Vakula’s drums are slippery and bracing, constantly moving across the stereo field; clusters of hi-hats on the right pan to a deflected rimshot on the left, and the track stays locked in this movement for its far-too-short duration. A wispy, Legowelt-esque melody briefly enters in the second half; its sudden exit belies the track’s live immediacy, and the sense that Vakula could throw pretty much anything atop that groove and it would stick. The untitled flip seems to consist of 13 minutes of bonus beats, undercut with a dulled, swirling low-end. Its first half is a mostly unnavigable frenzy of cowbell and toms, but most of the percussion drops out as it progresses, revealing a narcotic, disintegrating, pseudo-locked groove. Simply put, Dub As Always captures one of contemporary house’s highest talents at the top of his game.

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