Various Artists: Future Bass (Soul Jazz)
I’m always thrown off slightly when Soul Jazz gets its feet wet with electronic trends. The first time I noticed it was in 2002 or so, when they unveiled their vinyl series Microsolutions to Megaproblems, focusing primarily on glitchy minimal techno from the likes of Sutekh, Kit Clayton, and others. Since then the label has also made forays into dubstep, with this Future Bass comp being somewhat of a cross-section of the current trend of fusing dubstep, 2-step and other jerky R&B tinged club tracks into a vague subgenre. On the harder end of the spectrum, there are tracks by Coki and LD, the former of which is my personal least favorite with its insistent machine gun bass sputters. There are also rather full tracks that are not quite as aggressive, such as the strident “Talking Shadows” by Vivek, but in many instances these cuts defy easy categorization. They all share one thing in common, a heavy low-end that borrows liberally from dub without fully indulging the reference. Mala’s opening number “Don’t Let Me Go” smartly combines the halfbeat with dubby melodica, firmly emphasizing the genre’s roots in traditional dub. Four Tet’s “Nothing To See” is perhaps the odd man out here, with a four-to-the-floor kick that would fit snugly next to most of the material on his last full-length. It’s a really nice track, brimming with his usual percussive flourishes, some heady snare rushes before dropping a gorgeous melodic hook and bassline midway through. It’s one of the best tracks here, although sort of a red herring for everything to follow. Black Chow’s “Air” is wonderfully eerie, full of the reverb and delay of dub but with a disembodied chanteuse who carries the track with a forlorn vocal, all moved forward with a deep, throbbing undercurrent. Untold throws us a curveball with one of his more dancefloor-focused tracks, taking inspiration from the robotic electro of Kraftwerk et. al, making “Fly Girls” another standout for me. It’s nice that Soul Jazz has managed to cull a varied selection of what’s happening with current bass music, hitting the snarly side of things as well as the more subtle downtempo leanings and flirtations with traditional techno- and electro-derived dance music. Definitely recommended for those curious about this stuff as well as the more seasoned listener.
Watch/listen: Black Chow “Air”