Clubroot has softened his sound, but the new LP boasts welcome variation in style.
The dark dubstep of Dan Richmond's 2009 debut as Clubroot rarely escalated past a slow simmer -- the guttural synths and deep, powerful drum sounds were (with good reason) probably called "brooding" by more than one listener. Field noise and looped Eastern stringed instruments on the producer's sometimes-sinister follow-up will garner the same response, but faster-swinging kicks break up drowsier segments on II - MMX. Evening strolls in Richmond's mediaeval British hometown of St. Albans likely offer ample source material for his album's rustling field recordings, and as far as visual stimuli goes, the nearby centuries-old cathedrals don't hinder the creative process.
Over the course of II - MMX's compelling jungle- and ambient techno-guided set, Richmond revisits a musical past steeped in drum & bass. Tunneling, wheezing bass stabs are cooled with textures that are much softer than those on the debut -- when played alongside Clubroot, the second album is overall considerably cleaner, and "Waterways" even feels a bit sterile against 2009's "Embryo", for example. But the improvements in a year's time are noticeable. Richmond pitches-up all of the diced vocals on his hard drive for dazzling, ethereal effect on II - MMX, and while some of the washes that pad "Running on Empty" and "Orbiting" are of the choral brand, this is a wordless outing, minus some curt film dialogue. "Dry Cured" is a must-hear, with the UK producer resorting to a minimal garage sound that has garnered past comparisons to dubstep luminaries -- shuffling hi hats, an understated synth progression, with little else at work. It's gripping, and arranged so that the payoff is far less pronounced but still satisfying. You can even call it "brooding."