Last month, I used these lines to mention a few newcomers that will most certainly deliver in 2019. Now it’s February and they have been able to meet expectations already. I was eagerly awaiting the Tubz new solo EP for Chameleon Audio, one of grime’s most reliable labels at the moment. Ya Get Me? is definitely worth the attention: Tubz provides four cuts displaying his production’s breadth, from “Amm”’s minimalism to the trap leanings of “Neutral” - and also showcases his distinct palette throughout. Sub Audio is another imprint that has often featured here for the quality of its roster. Another newcomer could be found behind their twelfth digital release this month, as Kodama stepped up with the Dastan EP. Each track portrays a different landscape within a dubstep canvas as the producer uses melody to create oneiric atmospheres. I’ll only briefly mention J-Shadow’s fantastic new Dissociations EP for Nous Disques, and Mungk’s Lion Dub on Dubstep Rotterdam, which both see their respective producer going deep into their own music universe. To conclude: expect much more from these guys in 2019.
Two young labels stepped forward this month and they are asserting their identity within crowded scenes. ESC_ was founded last month by grime artists Dunman, Vexxy and DV-US, and has already developed its own aesthetics. In two releases, with one more coming out in March, ESC_ evidenced the desire to go beyond usual grime and dubstep confines, bringing new sounds to the table. The label’s second release came this month courtesy of XOX, a.k.a. Sepia & Wölfe. Missing U features three slick tracks working in the melodic grime cannon, with added melancholy and a sense of sampling narratives that calls to mind classic-era beat making rather than UK bass music. ESC_’s aesthetics works on the visual aspect as well, with fantastic retro-futuristic artwork provided by Jordan Chappell for each release. Another new label came up with an impressive debut this month, in the form of Khanum and Bethbethbeth’s Foto. Foto Album: Volume 1. It's an eight-track compilation gathering some of the brightest talents working in dubstep and grime right now – Hypho, Cartridge or Khanum itself to name a few. The whole album is filled with original takes on these styles. Emti’s “Amnesia VIP”, which seems to follow its own logic and own course, or Ali’s intense “Lament”, whose percussion sounds like it’s running on ice, are two perfect examples – but you should check out the whole thing, really.
A few more EPs caught my attention this month. Tinky has been one of the names to follow in the French scene for a while, and his proper debut EP, Dravus, which came out this month through London’s Dubtribu Records, shows why. The track has a grainy quality to it that helps Tinky’s productions to shine, coupled with occult stylings and the required amount of weighty bass. The EP features Pharma on the remix, with a jolting flip on the original’s halfstep beat. I wrote about OUTOFTHEWIRE last month already, but their new EP on Denver’s FringeWorthy is too good not to mention – When The Shadow People Keep Trying You is more OOTW greatness and definitely lives up to its name. Three more tracks bringing 140BPM bass music to its edge, crushing beats against each other and taking cues from drone and noise music. OOTW’s unmistakable sound design is present throughout, inducing that distinct feeling of dread that permeates in all their tracks.
A couple more for February, the first one courtesy of dubstep veteran Distance on his own Chestplate Records. Awaken is everything you expect from a Distance EP – weighty, intense and dramatic. It also features tracks that rank in the top tier of his catalogue: “Settling Scores” in particular is near-perfect, with great management of tension and release. “Equate” is another landmark, and is bound to be harmful on any dancefloor. At the opposite end of the spectrum, coming from a producer making its debut on the scene, PLTO’s EP of 140BPM refixes of jungle tunes is another one you should pay attention to. Offering grime twists on classic tunes by LTJ Bukem, Foul Play, Burial and The Prodigy, the EP sits in the weird space between grime, breaks, hardcore and garage, but definitely works. One more producer to watch closely this year – he also recently self-released an EP of his own productions, so check it out.