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The Bug: Angels & Devils (Ninja Tune)

Kevin Martin is a man of many talents, having explored a variety of sounds within and peripheral to industrial, free jazz, experimental metal, and ambient music since the early 90s. The Bug is the unlikely project that seems to have become Martin’s focus post-2000, and while I respect his enthusiasm and willingness to try different things, his releases as The Bug had never particularly inspired me. I usually found his combination of spastic breakcore and aggressive MC vocalists to just be too much. With Angels & Devils, Martin has divided the album roughly into halves, and as cliche as its contrasting titular subject matter may be, it’s made for interesting contrast in his productions and collaborations with vocalists. Not every song on the album is vocal, but many are, starting off with the supremely deep, buoyant throb of “Void,” featuring Liz Harris (Grouper) on vocals. It’s a sultry contrast to the more abrasive sounds I’ve usually associated with The Bug, and it sets the tone for the more soothing and seductive sounds that follow for the albums front half. Copeland’s vocal on “Fall” is a real highlight, with a deep delay and reverb to it intensifies the depth of Martin’s production. It’s also in this front half that Martin’s instrumental cuts feature more prominently, including the industrial sheen of “Ascension” (built around syncopated white noise stabs that would make Trent Reznor envious) and the giallo organ menace of “Pandi,” tracks that work well to complement surrounding vocal cuts to give the front end of the album a sense of both lushness and the feeling that something could go wrong at any moment.

That’s where the back half (the “Devils,” ostensibly) comes in as a rather harsh point of contrast. And yet sounds that might have not resonated with me personally seem to work perfectly here, nailing the concept of contrast that Martin was clearly going for. Flowdan features most heavily as a male MC, appearing on three different tracks. His vocals work best for me, with a deep clarity to the timbre of his voice. It’s nice to hear Warrior Queen included in the lineup of “Devils,” adding a bit of female energy to an otherwise predominantly male set. Not every collaboration works for me, though; Gonjasufi’s vocals derail “Save Me,” making the last of the album’s more languid, “angel” tracks misfire as a dud, and Death Grips’ rage on “Fuck a Bitch” (a typically endearing title) feels played out and a little inane. Martin’s ability to reclaim dubstep and to emphasize the DUB, his keen understanding of mood and production, and his sense of adventure and willingness to work with interesting peers all make Angels & Devils a surprisingly captivating listen for me from start to finish.

Buy it: Ninja Tune | Boomkat | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon