J Sparrow: #000000365 / Dark365 (Deep Medi Musik)

“…a carefully curated body of work showcasing the breadth of his production skill.” (Deep Medi Musik)

It’s the “carefully curated” that makes me weary – for all the implicit reasons, that surely don’t need re-hashing at this point. Might as well have ‘Made in China’ on the label. Maybe it is hard to do? Properly. Maybe not at this stage? Is there really ‘breadth’? I largely hear rather desperate wrangling – especially in these ultra-well dug-in genres. And don’t get me wrong, that can have its break-out thrills too, and be a challenge in itself for the young acolyte, but then it has to push through to darker chambers (and we’re talking way beyond the ‘Dungeon’ now). I’m talking about Speleology. Caving. Going much deeper.

Norbert Casteret is regarded by some as the modern father of this arcane pastime. He came from Saint Martory in France and between around 1920 and 1970 was one of the most active cavers of his era. Most of us have never heard of him. Why would we? He spent much of his life underground, often solo, feeling his way through unmapped passages to discover wonders we could never have imagined existed; vast underground cathedrals, raging starless rivers, cave paintings, human remains, relics from prehistoric times.

I only chanced on him myself a few years ago, in an old climbing magazine lamenting (not dissimilairly to the state-of-dance-music 2020) the safeness and lack of mystery and amateur adventure in the contemporary sport; now all big brand sponsors, urban climbing walls/gyms, kids’ parties, finger board training etc.

“He would often cave naked (except for a swimming cap) and only take a candle and matches along with him. When he came to a sump, where the water’s surface meets the roof of a tunnel or cave, he would blow out his candle, wrap it up with his matches and tuck them under his cap. Taking a deep breath, he would then submerge and with one hand keeping contact with the ceiling and one hand probing in front he would drag himself along – into the unknown.

At this point most of us would probably be in the last throes of panic at the sheer claustrophobic terror, the near freezing cold water, the absolute pitch darkness, but Norbert would be calmly counting, Un, Deux, Trois …

He may not have known where he was going, or what he would find, but he knew what he was doing. He remained cool and collected. He knew just how long he could hold his breath for, he knew how cave systems worked and he knew the way back if necessary. If he counted to half of how long he knew he could hold his breath for and then went beyond that mark, he knew he would struggle to get back the way he’d just come and possibly even drown. But…if he felt the current change, the tunnel ceiling alter somehow or the water temperature change, he pressed on.”

(Andi Turner, Climber, March 2013 edition)

CUT BACK TO:

J Sparrow. On a few of these tracks he almost dares to do this. Press on. Into the unknown. Particularly on ‘High Fidelity’ (post the cornball Rasta incantations – that’s ‘breadth’ is it?). At 00:54 there’s this utterly stark free fall into inky black, reductionism. He holds his breath; submerges; just a single kick drum every 4 beats, a sub bass pulse and an off kilter sonar, a tweak. That’s it! No generic cracking snare on the 3rd. No gooning bass blurts. (‘Un, deux, trois’…) It really could have been leading somewhere, if only he’d held his nerve.

But no. He bottles it and turns back.

That something so minimal and simple can seem so surprising, so suggestive even, is very – what? (I can’t quite put my finger on it) – 2019?

Icicle: NT (Sentry Records)

camberwell-carrot“…utilising up to twelve skins” (Withnail & I, 1987)

I really have to plumb the Dubstep depths these days to find anything worth taking home…overfished to the point of being another endangered species – and the stocks that remain seem to get genetically weaker and weaker (lack of diversity or shrinking breeding grounds? we’ll leave that to the researchers).

I’d say I currently operate a 98% harvest return rate. Over the side. Back ya go.

Occasionally Mr. Focused Plod aka Youngsta‘s label trots out a tune or two, proving the old adage that even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day (see above heh).

Icicle rolls the joint up nice and phat on “NT”. Tasty, almost Gabber hard 909 hats stutter in at 2:45 (that’s the best bit really) and the plod starts to hint at something more pounding. Wish I hadn’t looked at the swellhead’s website though;

“Jeroen Snik – aka Icicle – is recognised as one of the most technically advanced and highly-respected producers in electronic music.”

?!?

A certain Brainbombs song comes instantly to mind…

 

Malleus: We Float Like Concrete

Experimental (via Dubstep origins) 140bpm excursions with some industrial noise flavours, supported by the likes of Goth Trad, Joe Nice & The Bug.

‘Falling Through Inner Earth’ is the stand out sound system banger here, everything zeroed in to the one point of focus; a dentist’s drill incessantly and sadistically probing the same cavity as you float on a bed of opioid sub bass. Raw nerves are jagged as it starts to squeal against bone. We’ve all been there…

Fox & Hound 002

New Zealander Ebb drops some hybrid bass/dubstep sparseness on one of Outrage’s (Nomine Sound) sub-labels, Fox & Hound Recordings. At a slower 130bpm these tunes sound more aligned with a Bristol/Tectonic vibe. ‘Sun Drips’ barely has a beat at all – just a staggered, filthy, bit reduced, rave stab and a dirty bowling bass making for an interesting skeletal proposition.

Encrypted Audio – Running Tings

My go-to Dubstep label for at least the past year or so. Mainly specialising in a normally monthly and regular turnover of digital releases over the past four years and an (understandably) slower vinyl schedule, label bosses Content (UK) & Deafblind (USA) seem to have a keen A&R ear for sourcing some of the freshest, foward thinking producers around at the moment. From all over the globe too. I nearly always buy a tune or two off each release and can’t fault the quality control. They started using the term ‘Loose’ last year to describe a certain style gradually coming to the fore, or more probably one they’re trying to form (as opposed to ‘Deep’ or the now considered, old school ‘Dungeon’) – I guess they mean the more broken, staggered, wonky beat grooves, polyrhythmic wubs and bass wobbles. It’s a micro tweak really, but at least it’s incremental progress. Rather predictably, my favourites always seem to be the more brutish Grime tinged blurters! Darkraqqen (DE) & Ramsez’s (USA) ‘FLM’ is top notch filth, as is Karnage’s (JPN) ‘Death Proof’ which is about as subtle as a sledgehammer smashing up the dancefloor. Just the way we like it.