Though Pinch's immensely important Tectonic label helped to define last decade's dance music landscape, some of its founder's most trailblazing work was released on other labels. To wit, take "136 Trek" on Punch Drunk or "Punisher" on Planet Mu, even if our collective selective memory might allocate them to Tectonic. MIA is a compilation that collects the Bristol producer's work for other imprints from 2006-2010, one that incidentally also serves to remind what an innovator Rob Ellis was during dubstep's underground years.
Like any such collection, there's not much rhyme or reason behind the tracklisting, aside from the roughly chronological order. What does render the compilation somewhat coherent is its most obvious factor: Pinch. A master producer, he possesses a gift for percussion—some of the heaviest but also most nimble in the dubstep sphere—a skill which allowed him to create both tracks like the stirring "Qawwali" (here in its VIP form) and the frantic "Attack of the Giant Killer Robot Spiders." No matter what he's experimenting with, it always sounds like him—one or two extra drums squeezed into each bar, or at least it feels that way.
The LP contains a few surprises, including excellent remixes of 30Hz and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the latter of which is a wonderfully restrained 115 BPM crawl underlining the unusual meditativeness of Ellis' steadily repetitive rhythms. There are other tracks that are forgotten gems in the Pinch catalogue, like the atmospheric lurch of "Cave Dream." Even better, tucked away on track 99 is "Deserted Island," reportedly Pinch's first-ever dubstep production. It's a hesitant track that lacks some of the detail of his later work, but still sounds recognizable with its slow-burn chord progression, a neat little look at his origins.
MIA suffers from a few baffling omissions. 2010's "Croydon House," an early defining release for Swamp81, was a more recent highlight for Ellis and one that signaled he could do more than just traditional dubstep—but instead of the flagship cut we get its (still solid) flipside "Elements." This compilation also presented an opportunity to shed light on even more lesser-known material, such as his work with Pavel Ambiont. It may have been better served by simply collecting every track that Pinch had released on other labels into a bigger package; after all, it's not as if a second disc would have interrupted any cohesion.
But those are rather privileged complaints for a disc that rounds up some hard-to-find or out of print rarities and puts them in one simple, digitally-available package. It's one of those things that you don't really know you need until you have it; and though you'll still have to go hunting for old Punch Drunk and Swamp81 to really get the best of Ellis' career, this isn't a bad place to start. MIA is a perfectly decent way to re-investigate the history of one of dubstep's originators, and likely discover some new favourites in the process.
Tracklist: Pinch - MIA 2006-201001. Pinch - Qawwali VIP
02. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Ghaudi - Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mali (Pinch Remix)
03. Pinch - Chamber Dub
04. Pinch - Cave dream
05. Pinch - 136 Trek
06. 30Hz - Mutate(d) (Pinch Re-work)
07. Pinch - E.motive
08. Pinch - Motion Sickness
09. Pinch - Attack Of The Giant Killer Robot Spiders
10. Henry & Louis feat. Steve Harper - Rise Up (Pinch Remix)
11. Pinch - Elements
12. Emika - Double Edge (Pinch Remix)
--. Pinch - Deserted Island