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Terror Danjah - Undeniable

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Artist: Terror Danjah

Album: Undeniable

Label: Hyperdub

Review date: Oct. 26, 2010

Terror Danjah knows how to impress. New to the rarefied ranks of dubstep bastion Hyperdub, he immediately renders his label mates shrinking violets by comparison. His outsized, garishly melodic productions sharply contrast with their tendency towards the introspective and crestfallen. He pummels, they pussyfoot. The bombast alone of a title like Undeniable is a far cry from the vulnerability and self-doubt of something like Untrue.

Perhaps the key factor separating Terror Danjah is his grime roots. Not so much England’s answer to hip-hop but a standalone, native invention risen from the underground and occasionally charting, it slings a breathless flow over a cataclysmic jumble of juddering beats that stumble on each other, niggling synth timbres circling like fluorescent nats and warped bass bobbles that burst at random. Desperate, synthetic, overloaded, it’s bold where much U.S. hip hop is merely brash, savage and cheap instead of slick and sterile.

Terror’s first foray outside the grime scene and his own Aftershock imprint came last year when Planet Mu, bulwark of brainy beat scientists like Venetian Snares, issued Gremlinz, a compilation of instrumentals, some of which date back to 2003. Clearly, Planet Mu’s scramblers and busybodies found in Terror’s crammed, mischievous productions some common ground. They’ll likely swoon for much of Undeniable.

MCs are in full force for much of Undeniable. “Grand Opening” is just that, a thunderous curtain raiser that also doubles as a grime call-to-arms. Sweepingly cinematic, it lurches along a densely pressurized bass riff, punctured by Dream McLean’s gasping couplets. D Double E’s slurred flow sluices through Terror’s fidgety polyrhythms on the poppy title track, while Bruza is gruff and deliberate on the snarling “Leave me Alone.”

It doesn’t take a manic microphone fiend to amp things up. (Though oddly enough, it seems Terror’s at his most effusive when competing for air time). “Acid” careens to a seesawing laser stab, its hesitant syncopations drawn from pads of vastly different volumes and textures. Terror’s penchant for pervasive vocal tropes remains; a menacing chortle befitting a ragga Mortal Kombat combatant surfaces on track after track like the sonic equivalent of a sheep’s ear-tag or a painter’s scribbled signature. But it’s hard to think anyone mistaking a massive track like “Breaking Bad” as the work of anyone else.

It may take some time to positively ID “I’m Feelin’ U.” A brief and diaphanous flirtation with tastefulness, its housey clatter and lightly-dappled chords border on metronomic regularity — a recurring tendency throughout Undeniable as Terror toys with 4/4 thump in place of dubstep’s stutter-shudder. Twice as long as most of the album’s tracks, “S.O.S.” finds Terror stretching his metier, switching tempos at random over eight minutes. And on “Breaking Bad,” Terror throws a few city blocks’ worth of sinks into a fissured mix that suggests he might be exactly what techno needs: a bull in the china shop.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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