Proxima: Lie Detection/Brainstem (Tempa)
I wonder how many electronic music fans have experienced the same love affair I have had with dubstep. When I first started to hear it in 2005 or so (admittedly behind the curve compared to it growing en vogue in the UK), it sounded fresh and cool. However, I wondered if it would have the same pitfall of drum & bass and jungle in the 90s, where it seemed to progress to a point and then just stay its own course ad tedium. Since dubstep got commoditized by pop culture with shitty breakdowns in Britney and Madonna tracks, it officially annoys me to hear that cliched wobble/snarl bassline and halfbeat. But I realize it’s completely unfair to the underground and to the myriad of talented and varied producers out there making stuff that remains true to some of dubstep’s underpinnings without merely retreading or commercializing them. (Lest it seem like I’m a complete snob about pop music, I actually like both Britney AND Madonna sometimes, but the shameless genre tokenization wears on me quickly.) Proxima’s 2-track EP, released this fall on one of the UK dubstep heavweight labels, Tempa, is a handsome combo of typical dubstep tropes with a keen attention to detail and some chilly atmosphere. “Lie Detection” is built around a crisp halfbeat with dark sci-fi space and intricate detailing. Its wub-wub-wub bassline is filtered low just enough to provide momentum without being obvious, and the syncopated vocal stutters that are sprinkled throughout as fills are a nice touch. On the flipside, “Brainstem” has a more aggressive rhythm section, with a more syncopated uptempo workout. Its dropouts are the best part, though — letting a dense fog of drones and atmosphere roll in to fill in the missing beats. A handsome reminder that while dubstep’s initial splash has come and gone, there are still quality tunes to be made and heard from skilled producers like Proxima. It’s not likely to win over anyone who has a contempt for the halfbeat, but I think it’s pretty tight.