Largely credited with inventing the genre, after seven years in the wilderness Horsepower Productions have returned at a crucial time for dubstep. With ‘purple’ wobble-step heading pop-wards into sluggish, slurred rave-pop, and the ‘artistic’ factions dividing and sub-dividing into a multitude of sounds—both sides of the spectrum being equally unrecognizable from Horsepower Production’s incipient garage noir—there’s a risk the long awaited (and hugely anticipated) Quest for the Sonic Bounty could find the Londoners left behind.
The outcome is an eclectic production, working in sequence through the post-punk feel of Untold’s percussive techno on “Rain”, shamanistic house on “Poison Wine”, abrasive digi-dub on “Damn It” and several innovations within their own patent territory. The much-maligned wobble bass modulator is re-appropriated elegantly, distorting the cinematic half-step of “Water” and “Kingstep”. The effect, as was the device’s original purpose, is mesmeric submergence, with garish drill ‘n’ blam drops of the ‘bro-step’ variety few and far between.
A traditionalist’s dubstep record, Quest for the Sonic Bounty is meticulously and at times audaciously constructed. It’s tight and airless with ill intent, all pressure in the urban sub-terrain, with a premium set on atmosphere and dub techniques. In spite of the post-dubstep era, it sticks resolutely to Horsepower Production’s own terms—headphones music with a commitment to the LP format. At its most formidable it’s a blow for intelligent bass music. Seen less flatteringly, Quest for the Sonic Bounty is a throwback. The film sampling, most of all, seems dated, and the second side benefits hugely from the inclusion of current dubstep muse Katy B on “Open Up You Eyes”. Nonetheless, it’s a seductive and enchanting outing, which even two years ago would have been right on the money.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.