December is always a special month in the ecosystem of music, with the album front suddenly getting quieter following a few months of frenzy and labels sorting some of their highest-profile releases before the holiday season. The end of 2018 was no different, with a relentless assault of some of the biggest players in 140BPM music offering releases, making for a month of intense movement – unavoidable drama within the dubstep scene contributed to the picture as well. The whole panorama does not come down to these matters though, as December was also home to quality releases from trailblazing labels and up-and-coming artists: a few days into the new year, I’ll try to make sense of it all summing up some of the most interesting tracks, EPs and compilations released in the past few weeks.
· Commodo – Rikers (Deep Medi Musik)
· V/A – Crucial EP Volume 2 (Crucial)
It just wouldn’t be right to call this article a 140 Roundup without starting with “Rikers”. One of the most awaited dubplates of the year, Commodo’s track finally came to life through Deep Medi Musik and is coupled with “Daytona” to make it a cohesive two-tracker. Chances are you already have your opinion on it if you read to this point but to these ears “Rikers” is Commodo at its finest, in the direct continuity with this year’s stunning Dyrge EP. The track hasn’t lost any of its magic, still managing to retain all its impact after countless plays – just another justification for Commodo’s unique status within the scene. Crucial Recordings also went all out right before Christmas with Crucial EP Volume 2, a joint effort bringing together some of the most distinctive producers working in this sound right now. The whole EP is impressive, showcasing these artists’ creativity and sound palette. Causa comes forward with his best tune of the year with “Are We”, a killer track whose rolling bassline should do damage to any dancefloor, while Opus packs a psychedelic affair with “People”, complete with glistening synths, occult voices and jolting beat patterns.
· Muttley – Commissioner Remixes (eatmybeat)
· LSN – Systematic EP (Artikal)
Another great collaborative EP came in the form of the remix package for last year’s Commissioner release by Muttley. Eatmybeat came up with a great array of remixers on this one, with Hypho, TMSV and Kromestar all offering their take on tunes from the original EP. Hypho rounds up his year with a deep version of the title-track, stripping it down to its most esoteric elements, enhancing the mystic flavours, while TMSV delivers a driving remix of “No Time”. Kromestar closes the package with a fantastic version of “Over”, exhaussing the original track’s weight with a heavy bassline that serves as a thread upon which melodic aspects of the tune are laid. I’ll end up this recap of EPs from the bigger side of the scene with a mention for LSN’s new EP for Artikal. The LSN collective has been on the rise since 2016’s Oblivion LP on Uprise Audio, and Systematic evidences why: there is a distinct narrative element to their sound which makes any of their tunes stand out. LSN’s productions seem to exist in their own universe, addressing a dance floor from another world. The whole EP is worth your attention but the collaboration with inimitable vocalist Warrior Queen is one you definitely should lay your ears on – Warrior Queen never fails to bring her character to a track, while LSN offer a top-tier instrumental which feels both weighty and aerial.
· remnts – internet ain’t real (Simply Deep)
· V/A – Excursions (Dissident Sound)
December also had its share of promising artists and otherworldly sounds. Keeping in line with their unstoppable release schedule, the always-reliable Simply Deep displayed fresh talent with remnts’ debut EP, internet ain’t real. Drawing from grime, remnts’s productions have a specific touch that’s hard to pinpoint, sounding both weighty and reserved, urban and cybernetic, melting classic grime referents with rapid-fire arpeggios and various melodic elements. The three tracks put forward remnts as one to follow in 2019, while Simply Deep’s own Defiant provides a massive remix, reworking the title track into a grime heavy-hitter designed to slay the dance. On the abstract grime tip, London imprint Dissident Sound put together an interesting package with Excursions, which delves into the weightless sound. Definitely one to watch this year, J-Shadow displays his unique style with “MP9”, a sparse affair that brings fragments of the whole hardcore continuum to mind. Also, Fechos debuts with “Last Breath”, which pulls off a frenetic feeling through minimal use of percussion, enhancing its Capo Lee a cappella.
· V/A – Chameleon Audio Volume 3 (Chameleon Audio)
· V/A – Natural Growth vol. 3 (Sub Garden)
· V/A – Estranged Presents (Estranged Records)
I’ll end this December roundup with a few compilations that prove the vitality of those sounds and display hints of things to expect in 2019. Chameleon Audio’s third end-of-the-year compilation is one such effort, packing 27 tracks together and threading dubstep, grime and garage. It would be fair to mention all of the tracks, but the weird atmospherics of Emti’s “Old West”, the killer bassline of Beanzo’s “Wun Skank”, the immaculate trap influences of Khabs & Rakjay’s excellent “Rear View”, Aztek’s garagey number “So Real” or Tubz’ impressive “Victory”, whose melody should stay stuck in your head after the first time you hear it, are exemplary of the quality of the whole release. Sub Garden’s Natural Growth Vol. 3 compilation also clocks in at 27 tracks from rising dubstep producers. The vibe is deep, sub-focused, though it ranges from Kodama’s melodic leanings, on his Maes remix, to Epnu’s minimalistic effort to Tinky’s old-school wobbler, “The Flute Of The Birds”. B-Say provides another standout with a trappy number, “Catalysts”, while label owners Roklem & Sebalo come forward with “Murda Sound”’s heavy percussion works. The final mention goes to Manchester-based Estranged Records, with its multi-genre compilation, spanning from 130 to 170BPM. A great listen throughout, Estranged Presents features the likes of Caski or OldGold. The 140BPM segment of the spectrum gets great representation, with Khabs displaying his mastery in garage-infused grime, Hartta sounding the deeper ends of dubstep and Envelope x Sabasonik producing a magnetic take on the genre.