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Ben UFO - Rinse 16

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Artist: Ben UFO

Album: Rinse 16

Label: Rinse

Review date: Nov. 8, 2011

A few weeks ago on Twitter, Ben UFO retweeted the following:

    “blueprint for @BenUFO interview q1: bringing genres together - good/bad? q2: do you/will you make a beat, please? q3: tell me about the hair”

Discussing Hessle Audio co-founder Ben UFO’s two defining attributes (genre-blender and DJ, not producer) has become a ritual, to the point where you’d probably rather read a review of his hair, if only for novelty’s sake. His innovations are quickly digested and analyzed to death since underground trends now spread at a staggering speed. Rinse is no longer a pirate broadcasting from Wiley’s kitchen; it’s a bona-fide FM station that streams online and podcasts every show to the world.

The upshot is that the innovators need to move even faster. Ben UFO has drifted far from Hessle’s skeletal, percussive dubstep origins. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but when I heard him drop Norma Jean Bell’s “I Like the Things You Do for Me” on his Rinse show over the summer, something clicked: “He’s a house DJ.” That statement certainly deserves qualification, and this odd, qualified house DJ status has a unique place on the Rinse grid. As of late, he seems to fit in more with the Hardwax camp of old school worshipers and anonymous techno heads.

Rinse 16 is a reminder that Ben UFO is a major part of the U.K. bass scene. He wasn’t selected to represent 2011 at FWD’s 10-year anniversary to simply play old house cuts. He does manage to sneak in a Carl Craig remix of Mister Monday’s “Future” and Ordinary People’s 1997 track “Keep Your Love,” but Rinse 16 is dominated by U.K. contemporaries: Bok Bok, Kode9, Pangaea, Jam City, Pearson Sound, Boddika and Joy O. Also included are those on the outer edges of the sound, like 2562, STL, Karenn and Kassem Mosse. As such, the mix feels less like a step forward or the latest from Ben UFO HQ and more like a scene snapshot.

Fortunately, Ben UFO is really, really good at this. It takes skill and brains to bridge Ordinary People to Pangaea with one track, but Ben UFO finds the one: General Levy toasting over a remix of Fierce’s version of Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love.” Yes, he hits all of those bases in less than four minutes. He could do this in his sleep, and I mean that as a compliment. The rush continues through Helix and Shackleton, delivered into a rugged near-half-step monster called “Curbside.” He then uses Bassboy’s “Pump it Up” as a lead-in to the aggressive one-two punch of Kode9’s “Ice” and Bok Bok’s “Silo Pass,” after which Pearson Sound’s “Sicko Cell” remix skitters the mix into a beatless conclusion.

The first 50 minutes of Rinse 16 are a great presentation of how outré house and techno sounds fit into Hessle Audio’s M.O., but that final stretch, starting with the Ordinary People track, is as good as the post-whatever scene in 2011 gets. And with Ben UFO continuing to expand his musical horizons, the best is probably yet to come.

By Brad LaBonte

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