ALBUM REVIEW: Various Artists – West in Dust 2012

West In Dust 2012

Written for the 405

Seemingly twinned with R&S Records, the roster of artists West In Dust dip into with this eponymous, free-to-download compilation create a similar sort of music to their London-based cousins. Drums skitter like a cat’s claws across laminated flooring, or click like a tongue striking against your inner cheek, or click-clack rhythmically like a doubles ping-pong match. The bass is down low, rumbling, shaking. The vocal samples are pitched oddly, slurred and distorted.

It’s a credit to label founders Dave Reep (of 3rd Culture Records) and Glenn Jackson (owner/operator of blog and label Mapzzz) that they have the good taste to entirely by-pass the “brostep” vein of bass music much maligned by our own James Blake, that is the most prevalent in their native America.

Instead, they champion artists from both sides of the Atlantic — with a nod across the Pacific to Melbourne’s Hugo Frederick — that produce not aggressive, macho, who-can-get-the-filthiest-bassline “pissing competitions,” but darker, more laid-back and experimental forays into two-step drum patterns and garage vocal loops.

With a lot of the featured names, comparison to the better-known progenitors of the genre does them a disservice. The likes of obvious Japanophile Ra Cailum sound to be ploughing ground that is fertile, but is actually becoming a bit depleted. That’s not to say the Missouri-based producer’s track “わかりません。”, is bad, nor is Medla’s ambient, Burial-like “Ruhl”, nor Placeholder’s “Pot Pan”, with its woozy spin on an R&B slow-jam. It’s just that these things have been done before.

In fact, one of the strengths of the compilation is how well it flows, how well the artists gel together, rather than providing a jarring assortment of differing styles as other label comps can. This does meant that, for the most part, no particular artist or song is distinct from the ones that follows or precedes it.

The tracks that stand out on the album, and the genre, are the ones that do something a little different. Yalls’ “Outerbanks”, at first, leaves an impression purely because it keeps its vocal samples intact, devoid for the most part of any chopping and/or screwing. That, and the fuzzy jazz piano line that provides the spine of the track, make it reminiscent of hip-hop producer Madlib, albeit with a more dubstep bent.

Benefits’ contribution, “Souse” recalls its musical ancestors – ambient house and two-step – more directly, as does “All I Can Say”, the final cut on the album, a collaboration between label head Dave Reep (under his Elephant and Castle moniker) and shortcircles, which is almost straight house when the up-tempo beat kicks in.

With West In Dust 2012, Reep and Jackson have curated a toe-dip into the fringes of the current electronic music scene; newbies will much appreciate the guide-map, but those already familiar could be itching to discover something new.

5/10

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