Half a decade ago, Vex'd, AKA Jamie Teasdale and Roly Porter, resided in Bristol, pre-dating the city's rise to dubstep pre-eminence. Debut album Degenerate was unleashed on an unsuspecting world in the summer of 2005, back when dubstep reviews routinely arrived with an explanatory genre caveat. A handful of subsequent 12-inches later, the trail went cold, the pair eventually going separate ways.
Comprising a collection of cuts created circa 2006/2007 originally destined for their sophomore album, plus a clutch of remixes, Cloud Seed isn't the follow-up proper that Degenerate's industrial big bore exhaust explosion demanded. It is, in fact, an entirely different beast; tamed, but in its own standalone context, amongst the most beguiling full-lengths in the broad dubstep bracket since Burial's Untrue.
While Untrue represented the view from a South London nightbus window, Cloud Seed takes the same route through tower blocks and cold concrete ravaged by a chilling nuclear winter, at points orchestral to the point of classically trained compositions. "Remains of the Day" backs that notion early on, an ambient Terminator franchise-worthy soundscape as eerie as post-blast wave dust settling. Closing epic "Nails" is a steampunk nightmare machine so invasive that it heightens awareness of the very blood pumping in your veins, apparent black metal-sampling epilogue included. Similarly, there's a tangible malevolence at the heart of "Out of the Hills," riffing off patented space-dub vibrations versus disorientatingly thick weaves of peripheral bass.
It follows that as a retrospective collation that a certain coherency would be lacking, flitting from subtleties to, in the case of "Killing Floor" (Mah Mix)—the original the flip of 2006 single Bombardment of Saturn—tangible links to Degenerate's muscular darkstep. Yet it remains tempting to ponder where Teasdale and Porter would be now if Cloud Seed had emerged immediately after its creation at the height of Burial fever in 2007, or even beaten the anonymous one to the punch. Perhaps it's just as well that it didn't, though: remaining perfectly of the moment three years later, back then chances are that Vex'd would have disappeared over the horizon of dubstep's ever-evolving curve where few ears could keep pace.
Wed / 24 Mar 2010
01. Take Time Out feat. Warrior Queen
02. Remains of the Day
03. Heart Space feat. Anneka
04. Out of the Hills
05. Shinju Bridge
06. Slug Trawl Depths
07. Plaid - Bar Kimura (Jamie Vex'd Remix)
08. Disposition feat. Jest
09. John Richards - Suite for Piano & Electronics (Vex'd Remix)
10. Killing Floor (Mah Mix)
11. Gabriel Prokofiev - String Quartet No. 2 (Vex'd Remix)
12. Distance - Fallen (Vex'd Remix)