[3 November 2009]
Dutch producer Dave Huismans flew in from out of nowhere to change the tenor of dubstep in the late 2000s. Beginning in 2007, Huismans released a string of 12” singles and one full-length album under the name 2562, which rejected the oily skank and amateurish techniques of the reigning South London dubsteppers (excluding Burial, naturally) for a sleek, intensely professional design. Initial recordings were spare affairs without much in the way of melody, but 2562 could knock a person out with a beat, forming bits of detritus into artful constructions and then pumping them so full of muscle that they shot like ammunition. As he began to incorporate jungle-inspired melodies into his beat maneuvers, the music became more appealing. His latest singles, Embrace / Hijack and Love in Outer Space, indicated not only that he’d made significant strides forward since his career’s inception, but also that his best material was still to come.
Unbalance delivers on this promise and establishes 2562 as the unequivocal front-runner of dubstep’s movement toward technical precision and aesthetic allure. On a basic level, Huismans simply married the beatwork from the full-length Aerial (2008) with the gooey jazz licks and spectral synths of his irregular second project, A Made Up Sound. Yet the record is much more than a summation of the producer’s history. It improves upon earlier releases’ sophisticated rhythms and makes them sing, their strength and agility balanced out so masterfully that they sound closer to poetry than the emissions of a hot laptop. It blurs the line between jackknifing two-step cadences and the double-time beat, rendering the tracks’ actual speed an enigma. It utilizes a maddening array of instruments and textures in the service of this artist’s newly realized melodic gifts, and mindfully welds them into song structures novel enough from each other to provide constant stimulation.
And then, as if it weren’t enough to pen some of the sickest dubstep tunes imaginable, Huismans edits them into a breathtakingly wide-screen whole that is as much about bringing us on an adventure as it is about creating electricity through nuance. Nowhere is this clearer than the title track, which distills the record to seven transfixing minutes. Synth-strings and hazy sci-fi sound effects meld with the rich chimes of a grandfather clock, setting a cozy mood. The beat arrives two minutes in, and it’s one of Huismans’ best, a seductive, tensile groove that lightly pushes the air around it, as though he were actually playing it with four arms on an electric drum set. It’s a panoramic piece at the center of a larger panorama, where characters like Slam, 4hero, Lawrence, Burial, and Larry Heard float and feint through the highly conceptual expanse. Unbalance offers a view into a future we might want to see, in which past musical loves are reimagined and rejuvenated, spoken in a new language that reveals something profound about what has already been said. Standing on the shoulders of giants, 2562 becomes one himself.