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Martyn - Ghost People

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Artist: Martyn

Album: Ghost People

Label: Brainfeeder

Review date: Oct. 19, 2011

In 2009, when Martijn Deykers talked up his full-length Great Lengths, he described it somewhat apologetically as “Martyn Music.” In doing so, he was trying to escape getting slotted too neatly in any electronic music category. Hell, his MySpace handle “martyndnb” may have seemed a burden by then, a legacy of having to find an unused login name and claim a spot on the drum ‘n’ bass menu. Such things were important and annoying necessities of self-promoting music when Deykers released his first 12” in 2005. At least he didn’t label himself Christian/Salsa/Black Metal.

Six years on, MySpace is rubble, and Martyn’s style has become so trans-Euro that he can safely operate from Washington D.C. The Great Lengths album holds up as a strong long-player from the greater Hyperdub scene. “These Words,” its crossover track, is a precursor to the grey-skies pop that James Blake wrestled out of dubstep, and the song remains more rhythmically enticing than anything Blake has cooked up so far.

Two years hence, Deykers ducks under dubstep’s ascension with Ghost People, a dance record unconcerned with pop songs or headphone dynamics. Hyperdub regular Spaceape delivers the opening Kwesi Johnson-styled stanzas on “Love and Machines,” but Deykers’s canvas is full of tenor arpeggios instead of a tsunami of bass. He doesn’t just arrange loops — he actually riffs alongside his collaborator. While what follows isn’t quite as spontaneous, Deykers never plays it safe, either.

Ghost People brightens as it unfolds, as Deykers’s rhythmic games float alongside the current textures in bass, techno and space disco without subscribing to any of them. Strip the title track down to just the beat, and it’s still hard to say if it’s 2-step or four on the floor. “Popgun” is smooth and slippery hypnosis featuring coy Public Enemy samples. You’d expect Chuck D’s grunt and the screech from “Don’t Believe the Hype” to break things up more than they do.

While the key tracks here could all hold up as singles, they’re joined with interludes that make Ghost People an uninterrupted flow. “We Are You in the Future” can be parsed into half-a-dozen sections as it undulates through sweet chord progressions and glassy flute stops —deep in the ruffles, there’s even some old drum ‘n’ bass stop-start at work. The extra bridges could easily be spun off, were Deykers at a loss for what to do next. But this guy has developed a broad vocabulary, and speaks it all fluently.

All of these liberties are indicative of a producer who’s already made it. Rising from obscurity means being more minimal or more bass or more cleverly referential than your fellow unknowns. Ghost People isn’t more of anything — not even “Martyn Music.” It’s something else.

By Ben Donnelly

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