the lexicon

a writing portfolio by Alexandra Savvides

Various Artists – Steppas’ Delight (Soul Jazz)

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As with so many of the seminal dubstep releases of the past few years, the genre itself refuses to sit still; it keeps shifting by pulling apart and piecing together disparate sounds and influences. Steppas’ Delight intrinsically taps into this restless desire for innovation, a two disc collection that is aptly subtitled ‘Dubstep Present to Future’. Under compiler Emma Warren’s guidance, Steppas’ Delight is all about embracing the dynamic output of the genre’s producers, just as on Soul Jazz Records’ previous Box of Dub compilations.

Press play, and the bass of Kode9’s ‘9 Samurai’ begins to reverberate, a strand of familiarity pulsating with the momentum of a menacing steam train encroaching all the while in intensity and pace. Cuts from Benga plus The Bug and Warrior Queen follow on accordingly in a similar vein, fortunately never threatening to overwhelm the lesser known acts here. According to the premise the first ten tracks are, quite aptly, much more dubstep of the present. The latter end of disc one hints at what is to come – Martyn’s ‘Broken’ which fuses subterranean vibration with glorious, otherworldly synths, and Shackleton’s exquisite ‘Blood On My Hands’.

Considering Ricardo Villalobos’ hugely influential and much lauded remix of the Shackleton track, the original’s placement as segue to disc two seems very apt. It is dubstep’s evolutionary path towards minimal tech influences more than anything else that the second disc seeks to reinforce. From here on in, the feel begins to change; the glittery plinths of Silkie’s ‘Dam 4′ meet the bass-heavy undercurrents of the recognisable wobble, ‘Gullybrook Lane (Instrumental)’ by Joker flitters about, Quest’s ‘Hardfood’ has the feel of electronically messed up reggae, and Ikonika’s ‘Please’ has a superb introduction that plays like a video game bleeping its death throes from worn out batteries. Smatterings of soul and downbeat electronica also weave their way throughout, but the feeling is still all about space. Where this compilation succeeds is in highlighting the sheer range of sounds and frequencies that can be classified under one name without necessarily marginalising or excluding dubstep’s origins.

As with all Soul Jazz releases, the booklet accompanying the collection is almost as exciting as the tracks it documents – hinting that the music is as much for its observers as it is for its makers.

Cyclic Defrost

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Written by lexstatic

August 3, 2008 at 6:06 pm

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