"The Talisman" makes for a surprising move for a label that's been mostly moving away from dubstep, but it reflects label head Pinch's unique "bass music" purview. Tectonic Plates number three is absolutely loaded with dubstep. Sometimes it's the familiar brand of the stuff, like Pinch's own blackened contribution "Blow out the Candle" or fellow Bristol producer Ginz's "Chrome," but he's also got people like Kevin McPhee making utterly strange 140 BPM music here. McPhee's "Outs" is a definite highlight, mixing his intricately dusty breakbeats and recent penchant for piano lines with good ol' lurch and ominous chords, sounding dark yet euphoric all at once. Roska is another unexpected star: the way his hand percussion spills out at the end of each bar is a thrilling little trick, like UK Funky nailed down in painful contortions, all supported by the disc's heaviest blasts of sub-bass.
Just as we've seen in recent efforts from producers like Goth-Trad, there's plenty of room left to experiment within a more comfortable dubstep template as well. The Japanese producer appears here with "Mach," an ultra-dubby track where every element is in a constant state of shudder, while Monky makes a prominent Tectonic debut with a dubstep banger melded out of ironed-out junglisms.
But if Pinch has shown us anything, particularly with his recent Fabriclive mix, it's that he's not afraid to colour outside of the lines: following Kryptic Mind's slice-o-dubstep is the skeletal hyper-funk of Addison Groove's "Phantom," and the latter end of the album features music too mutant to fit in any genre boxes. Turning the growling LFOs of Distance inside-out, Om Unit's "Preshah" violently mangles and filters a typical dubstep midrange bassline to alien resonance, and Illum Sphere makes a lopsided house track that renders melancholia into accidental grandiosity through its broken flurry of string samples and inhuman singing.
After the triumvirate of oddity that almost closes out the album, we're left with 2562's "Rogue State," ten minutes of slow-burning broken techno that never quite takes off. In its technoid lope it sounds like something that might have been on Volume 2, and so in a weird way we end where we were three years ago. Tectonic Plates Volume 3 isn't trying to show off the future of dubstep, nor is it trying to cling to some desperately purist view of the genre. What it does is show us what's going on right now in the world of bass music: some of it's exciting and experimental, some of it we've heard before, and some of it's just kind of boring (sorry, Clue Kid). What's most remarkable here is how everything sounds so comfortable in one place: if nothing else, Tectonic Plates Volume 3 makes for a solid listen, unlike so many other label compilations.