UK label Meanwhile have been releasing 12-inches since 2004, most of them from Murmur, but also one from Sven Weissmann (‘Shade’) last year. The label has had dub techno associations from the outset, and Murmur’s earliest releases already had touches of a distinctive sound palette, albeit contained within fairly tight structures. 2005’s Boundry EP employed the reverby metallics in a quirky, referential way. It was light and sweet, and though it lacked a bottom end to speak of, its strength was in the overall airiness, and it seemed to have a sound that could develop in an interesting direction. Instead, Murmur dove deeper into dub techno, as revealed in the dominant synth waves and metallic reverb on the 2006 EP Sections.
On Undertone, these dub techno tropes have almost subsumed Murmur. What were previously references are now the totality, and this eclectic collection of thirteen tracks comes across as a dub techno sound effects sampler that lacks depth and cohesiveness. The percussion sits annoyingly high in the mix in tracks like ‘Pansula’ and ‘Shift’, while the chords are sunk in murky, indistinct depths. `Mesh’ has bigger beats, but nothing substantial or meaty. ‘Invasion’ has the bubbles.
The most successful tracks are the least dub techno like: the lyric ‘Flex’, the beatless `Veld’. When all the Basic Channel/Deepchord flourishes drop away, a glimmer of something interesting pops up, first in the light rhythms of ‘Flex’, and in ‘Veld’, a short, atmospheric sound piece with sampled voices. The other tracks lack emotional weight, with only an empty, albeit odd, formalism keeping them together—an accusation usually reserved for dub techno’s standard bearers.