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V/A - Tectonic Plates, Vol. 2

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Artist: V/A

Album: Tectonic Plates, Vol. 2

Label: Tectonic

Review date: Jun. 12, 2009

Collecting the 12" Plates series in its entirety, this compilation from Bristol’s Tectonic label makes a surprisingly reasonable case for dubstep’s continued relevance. It’s been a bit hard recently to keep up with the genre’s output, especially if one includes the many fringe artists who don’t necessarily walk the walk, so to speak.

Tectonic brings in some pretty big guns – Benga, Martyn, 2562 – and while the comp doesn’t reach the heights of, say, 2008’s 10 Tons Heavy, it’s certainly one of the better opportunities to check out the current scene. All-instrumental, the tracks include both the heavy and the spacey sides of dubstep, but all of it sounds fresh.

The material on Vol. 2 runs the gamut from fast electro to bouncing trance to slow, dark dub. The rhythms here are mostly mid-tempo or less, though label owner Pinch closes the comp with a surprising Latin-flavored track filled with fast, bubbling percussion. The occasional spaced-out, lighter pieces feel a bit out of place amidst the distressed electronics and heavy bass push, but you could argue that they serve to clear the air. Flying Lotus’ oddly-named "Glendale Galleria" feels like a soft prelude coming just before Joker’s slowed-down and worn-out synths, while Pinch & Moving Ninja handle the dichotomy all by themselves. After an atmospheric first movement, "False Flag" kicks in a hard rhythmic pulse that carries it the rest of the way.

The variety and strength of the songs here shows there is still life in dubstep, although the variety itself demonstrates the futility of labeling the music. Everyone loves to decry genrefication, while at the same time admitting that it can be useful. Dubstep has become a brand, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The artists just have to avoid building their own wall so high that they can’t escape. So far, so good.

Note: The compilation also includes a second disc with a Pinch DJ mix and unreleased tracks from the label’s roster, with artists like MRK1, Distance and more.

By Mason Jones

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