Pretty much the only way for dub techno to sound interesting—or at least interest people—these days is to be so experimental that it barely even qualifies as "dub techno" anymore. Quite a quandary. Canadian producer Deadbeat, now based in Berlin, has always embraced this anything-goes spirit, filling last album Roots & Wire with cross-genre flirtations and presenting a stunning and canon-challenging vision of dub techno history with his Radio Rothko mix CD. Scott Monteith's sixth album is a bit daring placed against his back catalogue, then, marking the launch of his new BLKRTZ imprint by going back to basics.
Don't be disheartened: this isn't an album of Basic Channel ripoffs. Far from it, in fact. Drawn & Quartered instead pares dub techno down to its barest roots. Choosing to avoid the lumbering prehistoricism of Rhythm & Sound, Monteith's dub is sleek and chiselled with digital precision. Even the ambient passages, like the hi-definition pixel fog that opens the album, feel glossy and futuristic, shiny perforated sheets of sound rather than your usual swirling cloud of hiss. When the album settles into its beat-driven sections, Drawn & Quartered is almost cruelly dry, repeating basic progressions with only the tiniest of variations over lengths upwards of ten minutes.
It's that latter quality that lends the album its greatest strength: deep, powerful, persuasive hypnosis. Split into five massive slabs of heaving, deliberate rhythm and stretched over such lengths, the bars are allowed to mature and percolate as they repeat and repeat and repeat some more. This tension-building methodicism makes each sudden change or noise—like the delay chords on "First Quarter" or the ultra-triumphant horn riff on closer "Plateau Quarter"—feel massive and overwhelming. You might not imagine belaboured dub techno epics ripe material for fist-pumping, but just try to resist.
Each track represents a different side of Monteith's musical persona, thematically and structurally: the opener and closer are pure digital skankers, while "Second Quarter" dips into techno territory, its 4/4 pulse blinking benignly under a bevy of translucent effects and filters. At its best, Drawn & Quartered is a decidedly three-dimensional experience, fantastic sound design detailed enough to make for fascinating close listening but balanced and steady enough to cook dinner to just as easily.
Most importantly, through emphasizing the genre's roots Deadbeat has succinctly answered the "where next" question with "backwards." Monteith's backwards is far from regressive, however, and in honing in on his origins Monteith has essentially nailed what makes dub techno inherently appealing in the first place.
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Tracklist: Deadbeat - Drawn & Quartered 01. First Quarter
02. Second Quarter
03. Third Quarter (The Vampire of Mumbai)
04. Fourth Quarter (Cala's House)
05. Plateau Quarter (Hope in Numbers)
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