June 10, 2009

Zomby - Where Were U In '92? (2008, Werk Discs)

Zomby started producing 12"s in '07 and came to "popular" attention with his "Mu5h/Spliff Dub" 12" in early '08 on Hyperdub, regarded as a major innovator in the dubstep genre, which is now morphing into a variety of genres that don't necessarily have agreed-upon names yet (I've heard the word "wonky", but I don't like it). Zomby's style merged futuristic reggae-inspired rhythms and effects with ultra lo-fi videogame/chiptune instrumentation. I was also blown away by his simple yet punishing "Liquid Dancehall" track on Ramp Recordings, a plodding halfsteppy track with bubbling synth sounds and '80s arcade game-esque effects. In late '08, Zomby released his first full-length CD on Werk Discs and caused a big commotion in the dubstep scene. "Where Were U In '92?" is an homage to the classic sounds of rave music in the UK in the early '90s, incorporating motifs and styles from jungle, d'n'b breaks, early hardcore and sample-heavy techno. The record is like a sonic time capsule and an insight into a scene that was before my time but whose influence I've heard in much of the best electronic music in the '90s and today. Big wobbling basslines, pitched-up vocal samples, echoing reggae toasts and airhorns all make appearances in the seamless mix, revealing the roots of the dubstep sound and just how futuristic the early UK sound really was. Based on the law of things returning to popularity every 20 years, I expect we'll hear more of this oldskool breaks-heavy sound in the near future. One example that impressed me last year was the Hyperdub 12" of Kode9 vs LD's "Bad/2 Bad", another homage to the early '90s sound, in this case a reference to the killer 2 Bad Mice. For a long time I felt like a lot of early '90s techno in particular was just too dated to really appreciate, but I am starting to appreciate the intricacies and technical limitations of the production. In fact, Zomby chose to produce "Where Were U" using only '92-era technology, specifically an Akai S-2000 and an Atari ST running Cubase, very impressive! Zomby has most recently released his second Hyperdub release, a 2x12" which typically gets priced around $20 in the US and is only about 21 minutes long, which seems a bit expensive to me, but ufortunately much of the current UK dubstep doesn't have any proper US distribution. The EP itself is really fantastic, however, and returns to Zomby's heavy videogame-influenced sound, with tracks that sound like a psychedelic Mario Brothers underground dance party, amazing! Zomby is currently on tour in the UK, and I'm really hoping more of this sound reaches the US soon...