Deadbeat's Eight Steps to Understated but Notable Dubstep
A genre which rises out of an underground scene and begins to see mass market appeal usually has a champion. Those who are breaking down the walls for dubstep in particular (often in spite of criticism by purists) arguably have more in common with electro-house than the genre they’re promoting. in some ways they are still representing the dubstep values and the optimist will note that this could be a great thing for the genre if you consider the number of people who will be introduced to a more accessible brand of the sound and later have their appetites wet to start exploring the truly inspirational innovators who lurk beneath the surface. One of those innovators is Canada’s Scott Monteith.
The Berlin-born producer now calls Montreal home and has been releasing records on various labels since 1995, the last two being released under his own moniker, BLKRTZ. His is a more minimalist brand of electronic music that blows minds at huge electronic music festivals all over the globe but is not quite accessible enough to reach the mainstream. Living in Canada, while being otherwise enjoyed by Canadians, can be a challenge for artists with respect to support of their art from media or government. Deadbeats brand might catch your attention unfurling tentacles of sub-bass from a smoky stage at a Montreal music festival, but it would be less likely to find its way to commercial radio or for that matter, college radio. Like its film industry, Canada’s contribution to the electronic music scene is understated despite the quality. But if you go mining, you’ll find diamonds. There’s a very authentic punk-like merit to the practitioners of bass music coming out of places like Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Producers like The Librarian, or Deadbeat make roots electronic music for its own sake within the comforts of their own regional scene and seemingly have no interest or perhaps ability to shortcut to wide distribution. And often as a result, they’re growing cult-like followings all over the globe. It’s refreshing—and so are albums like Eight.
It’s not exclusively a dubstep record, though Eight definitely shows an influence from the English roots of the genre. Every track swaggers confidently between subtle tribal poly-rhythms to the dub-influenced echo of drum hits. Monteith also borrows from the playbook of Amon Tobin and injects the warped sawtooth stabs of machine monsters and eerie harmony of never-before-heard synthetic voices. Unlike many current North American dubstep artists it’s presented as accent rather than hook. In fact most of these tracks are void of any hook at all - preferring instead to take you on a journey from the minimal DJ-friendly beginnings, through multiple progressive layers of echoing synths before finally shimmering to silence.
The first of the eight tracks that make up Eight is a very literal “The Elephant in the Pool”, a low frequency rumble contrasted with high pitched splashes which rain down on hi hat taps. It’s all a trail for your to follow into the deep end of the record. Before you get too far you’re surrounded by subtle elephant-like groans of bass placed arhythmically throughout. It all eventually falls into a groove which is where Monteith really shows a form rooting in a UK-style of dubstep music which borrows elements of house grooves to carry it along.
“Lazy Jane” is very reminiscent of Skream’s “Where You Should Be” in construction but without ever attempting to appear pop in intent. The minimal but copious bass punches along to the robotic sound of harmonically filtered vocals which never really succeed in hooking. Again, this track just seems to move right along.
“Alamut” will appeal to the true bass head—particularly those who like their synth lines dipped in acid and left out to blow dry in the echos. “Wolves and Angels” invites Vancouver jazz and deep house fusion artist Mike Jonson onto the guest list and the influence here is obvious. This track feels like a deep house track more than any other on the record. Though made up the signature minimal bass range that Deadbeat has already introduced it clips along at a dance floor friendly 4-4 deep bass thump.
Things get very dark and washed in reverb for “Punta De Chorros” which never quite reaches anything approaching a groove. Though all the pieces are present the complexity of the sound seem to keep it just out of reach of the listener and made the track less interesting. Those who have an ear more tuned to the extremely deep and chilled out atmospherics may appreciate it more. Those same folks will be disappointed by its follow-up, “May Rotten Roots”, which is a fairly straight-forward house track. This is exactly the stereotypical sound you might expect to hear from a Montreal DJ but given the strength of the record so far it comes off here like an after-thought. It doesn’t seem to fit.
“Yard” and “Horns of Jericho” with Dandy Jack close the record with that same strength it opened and you’re inclined to forgive the mid-album misstep. Both are extremely enjoyable sonically and build upon a very unique dub-style groove which borders but never completely indulges in house music. The “horns” mentioned here actually sound like strangely altered human voices which lend a creepy element to the proceedings. It all works very well.
This record is a must for the collection of any fans of minimal electronic music or the sparse sounds of Eastern-Canadian dubstep and if Deadbeat isn’t a name you recognized it’s time to pay attention—he’s earned it with this release.
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 where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
// Notes from the Road
"Saul Williams played a free, powerful Summerstage show ahead of his appearance at Afropunk this weekend.READ the article