Jakes' "Rounds" lets you know you're not in for a survey of newer trends: the digital snares are like something from a 2006 Skream record. Hearing the classic-style Guido synth that comes next ("State Of Joy"), you might think Pinch was on a retro dubstep tear. But then we get two tracks from promising newcomer Decibel and Sinistarr & Texel, both of which sound like house jacked way, way up—the 138 BPM "Talk" switches between a fleet-footed gallop and heart-in-mouth bouts of freefall. Together with Mumdance & Logos' slamming Night Slugs pastiche, it's nearly enough to forget that history lesson at the beginning.
With a few exceptions, Tectonic Plates Volume 4 manages to blend dubstep and its nameless offspring into one coherent sound driven by swing and low-end largesse. It bears a comparison to Keysound's new wave of producers, but here they're united more by a nebulous—but clearly evident—stylistic thread than a single tempo. Distal's "Kerplunk" decorates dubstep with kitchen-sink flair and blasts it with blinding synths. Somehow, it sits perfectly next to Kryptic Mind's 122 BPM writher "Convoluted," itself an exciting variation on their dead-of-night sound.
The compilation's back half gathers some lesser knowns, all of whom put forth ideas that are definitely interesting, if not as distinctive as the first half. From the sensual sludge groove of Pursuit Groooves' "Hard Beginnings" to Armour's punishing "Skylark," everyone has something to say about the state of bass music. The corker is a seven-minute beast from Beneath, who drops another slow-mo stunner full of rolling hand percussion and earthquake kicks. The crown jewel of Keysound's roster and an equally important part of the ever-morphing Tectonic family, Beneath's contribution ends the compilation on a high note—one that says that dubstep can still be every bit as exciting as it was back when the first Tectonic Plates rolled around.