Mala's Deep Medi label has stubbornly persisted at the classic 140 BPM dubstep tempo, recently releasing mostly predictable tracks from producers like Tunnidge, Skream, and Silkie, but it has a secret weapon in Japan's Goth-Trad, whose early, pre-2007 work was dubstep when it still barely existed outside of Croydon and Shoreditch. The grandiosely-titled New Epoch is his debut full-length for Deep Medi—and first in seven years—and it seems to reignite that old spirit. It's the freshest-sounding thing on Deep Medi in ages and a reminder of what's still possible even in the constraints of "traditional" dubstep.
The album starts off in audacious fashion with the string-led "Man in the Maze," which only develops that familiar staggered lurch halfway through. This time, though, it's presented in pitter-patter rather than with the usual muscle. Therein lies New Epoch's greatest strength: Goth-Trad uses unfamiliar textures and playful palettes to make dubstep that's divorced from any number of recent soundalike Deep Medi singles. "Departure" is a tribal rhythm on a foundation of captured thermal updrafts, and "Cosmos" throws in Zomby-esque synth filaments amid the usual array of brick-and-mortar chest-beating. These little touches spice up a tired formula, and it goes a long way.
Of course, those details only come through on account of Goth-Trad's painstaking sound design: where older tracks like "Cut Hand" showed a unique voice drowned out by dubstep clichés, almost every track on New Epoch is texturally supple and multi-layered. Even the more aggressive dubstep tracks are fascinating: the short-and-spiky "Airbreaker" wrings some seriously weird sounds out of the usual LFO writhing, while "Seeker" is a rubbery contortionist take on dubstep. Other tracks are coated with synths ("Mirage") to the point of saturation, or accented with unfamiliar elements like fiery guitar loops ("Strangers") that seamlessly slot in rather than feeling out of place.
It all comes to head on the title track, which takes the sweeping grandeur of the opener and lays it on a more assertive framework chugging with the clockwork regularity of techno and an aerodynamic efficiency that feels about 1000 years ahead of the Stonehenge primitivity of some of the other material that Deep Medi has released. Sleek, confident and totally captivating, New Epoch is bound to attract interest and even incite excitement in those who might have thought the 140 BPM form outmoded and uninteresting. For those dubstep denizens still faithful to the format, well, they're probably foaming at the mouth.
Buy Goth-Trad - New Epoch at
Tracklist: Goth-Trad - New Epoch 01. Man In the Maze
05. Walking Together
07. Babylon Fall feat. Max Romeo
11. New Epoch