Silkie: The Lost Tapes Vol 1

[25 August 2013]

By Al Kennedy

Jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, straight after the magnificent $pace Cash EP by Commodo, comes Silkie’s immense Lost Tapes Vol 1 on Mala’s prolific and varied DEEP MEDi imprint.

With eight singles and his two City Limits albums released on the label to date, Silkie is truly a stalwart in Mala’s army of bass pressure junkies. The Lost Tape Vol 1—like Swindles’ recent album—is a genre bending mashup of smooth jazz licks, retro ‘80s style synth leads and dirty, nasty bass lines designed to move bowels as well as feet.

There has obviously been a lot of furor about the longevity of the dubstep genre over the past few months. Skream’s misquoted comment in UK tabloid muck-raker, The Daily Star, about the death of dubstep caused panic over the interweb. Those waves lead top UK fashion behemoth Primark to create a T-shirt proclaiming its death, and for less than £10 plenty of smug house-heads and general dubstep detractors have been proudly wearing them around the town centers of cities all over the UK. Perhaps as a result, but more probably a coincidence, the output from DEEP MEDi seems to have ramped up considerably recently (although they have always been prolific), releasing more experimental fare than the eyes-down, heaving meditative darkness the imprint was first known for.

Obviously Silkie’s The Lost Tapes Vol 1 contains moments of this traditional, almost dungeon-type of sound, but it is all the more effective due to the seemingly mismatched juxtaposition of its smooth jazz refrains with the EP’s meaty, aggressive, reesey bass wobbles. Grime and garage have always been staples of Silkie’s sound, and unsurprisingly the ghosts of those genres haunt and shroud the EP like a rude boy invisibility cloak. The half-step drums shuffle around, rolling the tunes along in a definite head-nod fashion whilst grimy whomps punctuate the beats and smooth licks with a modern urban flavor.

Apparently the tunes were culled and reworked from a large back catalog of unreleased music that even his close circle of friends had not heard—maybe the time wasn’t right for them to be unleashed onto the unsuspecting public until now, a time when dubstep is rapidly reinventing itself in the UK so as to distinguish its sound from the frat-boy orientated tones that dominate the American market. The omnipresent template of deep bass and half-time drums are employed throughout, but like Commodo’s recent EP, The Lost Tapes Vol 1 is definitely not an exercise in restraint. Multiple melody lines play against arpeggiated synth lines and harmonic pads creating fairly dense but extremely focused musical mixes. Like E.M.M.A’s recent album on Keysound it also does not rely on extreme sound effects or sound design to impress, instead focusing on the emotion derived from the mishmash of organic and synthetic sound sources, that although loop based, dip and dive out of focus creating organic sounding arrangements that live and breathe a life of their own—a great feat to have achieved.

One stand out here is the meaty almost Vex’d sounding “Time Delay”. The song unites a hard, stop start riddim with acid twangs, grime squares, and an unbelievably tough bassline before dissolving into a retro ‘80s style melodic synth break down, before returning in full force with the EP’s ubiquitous Rhodes style organ vamps combined with the deep sounds seen at the beginning of the track. Its big and I’m pretty sure this is the tune that will get dropped the most on dancefloors around the world.

The chilled vibes of “Jazz Dub”, for me, make for the best tune on a fantastic EP. As intimated in the title, it heavily samples jazzy pianos, Rhodes organs, sexy-yet-morose horns and all other manners of Miles Davis inspired instruments,deftly combining them with a relentless 4x4 rhythm and a deep walking bass line. It is dubstep for LA’s experimental beat scene and is sure to find fans outside of traditional bass music circles.

Every track could be mentioned for its individual brilliance. The EP is very varied in its use of sounds, but at the same time, each track is very much a home with each other. The pervasive vibe of the EP is that of a soulful kind of nostalgia—which it manages to embody without being cheesy, derivative or predictable, again, no mean feat.

As you can imagine I really like this EP, all the sounds for a modern day dubstep classic are there: grimey bass, reesey bass, neon colored, portamento infused synth lines and warm, crusty samples. Another massive release from the DEEP MEDi camp.

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