Dubstep in Australia has gone off on a tangent. Like any culture that spreads beyond its origin, pockets develop differently from region-to-region. Berlin, for instance, has applied dubstep to techno's aesthetic, while US producers have further amplified the genre's emphasis on bass. In Australia, by and large, dubstep has been merged with hip-hop's beat-driven sensibilities. The country, however, has always had a strong dub pedigree. The ever-present "hippie factor"—helped in no small part by each urban centre's relative proximity to bushland so often utilized for weekend-long raves—has meant that a steady stream of bass music, dub and reggae, along with instrumental hip-hop, is steadily fed into the country via unorthodox channels, even in these "post-drum & bass" times.
Enter Westernsynthetics and May Day Radio. The Sydney-based producer, real name Rhyece O'Neill, is a beat head. Like the majority of Australia's self-described dubstep producers, it seems as though a musical diet of techno and hip-hop has led to a beats-over-bass approach. That's not to say he doesn't make dubstep, though: his debut album is thick with it. Situated two tracks in, "Workers Dub" is the album's token wobbler, five minutes stripped back to a simple bass and kick drum combination. "The Machine," which features Charles Smith on vocals, is O'Neill's nod to melodic accessibility, which he pulls off with a subtle inclusion of politically charged reggae.
But some current trends do make their way into the May Day Radio soundscape. "Apartheid Downunder" takes the dub techno route, working with a straight 4/4 signature and heavily mechanized samples. Album opener "90909" does the same, employing a shifting drum loop that weaves between analogue synth stabs and atmospheric vocals.
The best parts, though, are neither dubstep nor techno. The last couple of years have seen O'Neill fare just as well producing downtempo hip-hop, with a sound remniscent of the Brainfeeder collective. While it makes a rather limited showing in May Day Radio, on "Lost & Confused (LSDMT)" and the maximalist "80808" specifically, they stand as the album's highlights. Years of techno listening have granted O'Neill exquisite programming skills, which shine through in the aforementioned beat-centered tracks. It's just a shame there aren't more of them showcased on this LP.
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Tracklist: Westernsynthetics - May Day Radio 01. 90909
02. Workers Dub feat. Werd2Jah
03. The Machine feat. Charles Smith
04. Apartheid Downunder
05. Engine no. 999
06. Letter to Rosa (Athens is Burning!)
07. Lost & Confused (LSDMT)
08. Dance of the Philistines