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Dusk + Blackdown vs. Grievous Angel - Margins Music: Redux

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Artist: Dusk + Blackdown vs. Grievous Angel

Album: Margins Music: Redux

Label: Keysound

Review date: Feb. 10, 2010

The end of 2008 saw the release of Dusk + Blackdown’s Margins Music, lauded by many as a strong step forward for dustup. Here on Dusted, Cole Goins called its blend of ingredients convincingly potent, which it certainly was. In many ways, the album left genre strictures behind — taking grime’s intensity, it mixed in lyrics firmly placed in the scene’s London milieu, then incorporated international sounds in a manner clearly intended to mimic that city’s multi-culti blend. Society’s margins, as referenced by the title.

Fast-forward a year, and dubstep itself has, perhaps surprisingly, showed no signs of slowing. Nonetheless, few have drawn on the internationalism of Margins Music and tried to take it farther. Instead, a slimmed-down minimalist aesthetic, a la Burial and 2562, seems to have drawn much of the critical attention, while the hard-dub of The Bug and King Cannibal stays closer to the grime roots.

Up-and-comer Grievous Angel, a.k.a. Paul Meme, got the call to remix Margins Music and recognized its role as a narrative journey through London. Taking a cinematic approach, he attempted to amplify the original album’s travelogue and, it must be said, succeeded admirably. Dusk + Blackdown offered 14 tracks, while Redux offers a non-stop experience where pieces flow seamlessly one to the next. The continuity serves to accentuate the album’s travelogue nature, as well as the cohesiveness of the aesthetic.

Grievous Angel has managed to take an album with a fairly full sound and boost it further without muddying the focus, a good trick. By cleverly selecting certain distinct sounds and re-using them, he sews the individual tracks into a whole, and he’s placed it all within a remarkably tactile atmosphere. The layering adds energy and mystery, with murmuring voices echoing into the distance, gongs and horns coming and going, and bits of sound here and there to reward careful listening.

A few of the tracks do lag a little, as they did on the original: "This is London" was a slow, gloomy collection of reverb and spoken words that lasted too long, and while the Redux version improves matters by adding more tidbits and a rhythmic framing, it still would benefit from more aggressive editing. But for the most part, this is solid listening; "The Bits," with its repeated piano motif and grooving baseline gets my attention every time, and when "Kuri Pataka" enters with its wailing vocals and huge synth push, it’s even more powerful than on the original album. It’s a dramatic, effective moment that exemplifies the strength of the original material and the skill with which Grievous Angel knitted it all together to – yes – sound even better.

By Mason Jones

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