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Distance - Dubstep Allstars, Vol. 8

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Artist: Distance

Album: Dubstep Allstars, Vol. 8

Label: Tempa

Review date: Aug. 9, 2011

One of the most solid purveyors of dubstep, Distance has been a Rinse FM regular for years, and has also contributed via his own releases and his label, Chestplate. His volume of Tempa’s Dubstep Allstars series, the eighth, follows mixes by other stars like Appleblim and Ramadanman, but Distance — a.k.a. Greg Sanders — has no trouble meeting and exceeding expectations.

While Vol. 8 is divided into 25 tracks, the transitions are smooth enough that it flows like a single 63-minute song. A large portion of the proceedings consist of Distance’s own production work, whether under his own name, as Deleted Scenes (with can’t-lose associate Pinch), in partnership with Tunnidge, or remixing others. One could quibble with his inclusion of so many of his own tracks if they weren’t so damn good. From the distressed bass of "Mean Streak" and the piston-beats of "Bazurk" to the propulsive synth and percussive thwack that pushes "Troubles" forward, he provides a heavy, no-holds-barred ride through visions of decay and isolation.

Some of the more muscular, aggressive tracks include the two from Cyrus (bass and beats don’t get much heavier than "Soul Seeker"), the intensely fuzzed-out synth in "Titania" by The Others, and Distance’s own aforementioned "Troubles." In general it’s all pretty heavy, but more dread than density.

Claustrophobic atmospheres and clanking percussion predominate, with ever-present, massive synth work throughout. Groaning, buzzing, doppler’d as it soars past, the distressed electro-bass is the hallmark element of these classic tracks. The spirit of decay, the feel of abandoned factories and deserted quarries — that’s what it’s all about. The siren-like sounds in J:Kenzo’s "The Roteks," emanating as they do from within a slow, spacious framework of booming kick and splashy snare hits, feel like forlorn warnings of long-ago disaster.

When bits of melody shine through, they can be like the sun glimpsed briefly through gathering storm clouds. It’s notable and appreciated, but you know it can’t stay. The closing example, Truth’s "Puppets" mixed by Tunnidge, is a slammer, made more remarkable by such quiet passages and hints of melody. Similarly, the stressed-sounding synth melody in Commodo’s "Surveillance" beautifully balances the song’s fast, intricate rhythms, and Tunnidge & Distance’s "Blame" tops its clanking beat with a shimmering, angelic voice.

Lord knows there are many sides to dubstep in 2011, and Dubstep Allstars, Vol. 8 is but one of them. But it’s a killer example, and one I hope newcomers to the genre take time to seek out.

By Mason Jones

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