Monday, October 8, 2007

This month in Grime/ Dupstep

It's been a long time coming, but finally one of the most feverishly anticipated albums in dubstep is complete. Pinch's Underwater Dancehall drops on November 2nd on his own Tectonic imprint.

Pinch occupies a special place in dubstep history. After a visit to Forward>> in late 2003 he returned to his native Bristol with missionary zeal. He began DJing and promoting the city's dubstep first night, Subloaded, that matched London's DMZ or Forward>> in spirit and in soundsystem bass weight. After work helping Vex'd on their path to album success, Pinch founded the Tectonic imprint and made a name for himself as a DJ that combined bass impact with deep melodic subtleties. With a deep love of Basic Channel, he did much to pioneer the Berlin/Bristol dubstep/dub techno love affair we see today.

But the turning point for Pinch was surely as a producer, in particular his unlikely anthem "Qawaali". Named after the Sufi Muslim form of devotional singing and released on electronica's Planet Mu, the track crossed barriers, proving a hit with music fans of all musical persuasions. In many ways, Underwater Dancehall continues where "Qawaali" left off.

In fact "Qawaali" opens both disks of the album, as if his old favourite is there to lead Pinch into a new chapter. This chapter begins with an interesting approach to the artist album. Many producers choose to use this moment to work with vocalists, a decision that can divide this audience into those that are excited about the new, listening direction and those who preferred the instrumental old course. Underwater Dancehall, however, is two CDs, one completely instrumental, the other the same tracks but mostly vocalled. It's either an interesting artistic choice or an attempt to please everyone.

Given dubstep's fixation with the instrumental, the album's vocal tracks make for its main focus. Firstly "Qawaali" gets a vocal from Juakali, dread host MC at NYC's Dub War party. It's an unlikely choice, given the obvious feminine nature of the instrumental's melodies. The highlight is the line "Yes I/ Fall forever on this one…", yet in truth it's difficult to top the majesty of the instrumental.

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