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Martyn - Great Lengths

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Artist: Martyn

Album: Great Lengths

Label: 3024

Review date: Mar. 30, 2009

Coming out of 2008, the general sentiment surrounding Dutch producer/DJ Martyn seemed to be that “the man can do no wrong.” I saw it written on message boards, heard it from friends, and honestly felt that way myself after giving constant spins to his 12” that came out on Appleblim’s Applepips imprint last year. The brilliant, bobbing flashes of “All I Have Is Memories” and the toppling melodies of “Suburbia” sounded refreshing and new, accelerating past the bevy of electronic sub-genres that Martyn so effortlessly incorporated and transformed. He may have been lumped in with the burgeoning dubstep craze, but the depth and diversity of his debut long-player, Great Lengths, makes it clear that Martyn’s music shouldn’t be so easily pigeonholed.

Though he’d been an active DJ for over a decade, Martyn’s deserved rise to international hype quickly materialized over the last two years. The “Broken” b/w “Shadowcasting” 12” on Marcus Intalex’s Revolve:r label in 2007 was the first release to really turn heads, projecting his music outside the drum ‘n’ bass arena he previously occupied and into something more dynamic and funky. As dubstep’s influence proliferated rapidly outside South London in 2006 and 2007, Martyn’s powerful, breathing bass lines and fluorescent riddims found welcome audiences among the genre’s faithful, further enriching dubstep’s pool of influences and expanding its definitions.

But if restricting Martyn’s music by tagging it as dubstep was uncomfortable before, Great Lengths makes the label even less accurate. Drawing on everything from minimal house, drum ‘n’ bass, Detroit techno, hip hop, and reggae, the album feels more vibrant and welcoming than the aggression and darkness conveyed by dubstep’s camps in London and Bristol. When juxtaposed with fellow Dutch producer 2562’s 2007 full-length, Aerial, Great Lengths highlights the extremes that dubstep has grown to include under its international umbrella: where Aerial explored minimal dub techniques, emphasizing space and silence, Great Lengths fills in the gaps with an effervescent array of rave anthems, removing the rigidness associated with the techno/dub amalgam and inserting a more fluid, less pretentious vibe.

With so much buzz already surrounding his 12”s and remixes, it would have been easy for Martyn to stick to his guns and play it safe on Great Lengths, but a true sense of exploration can be heard throughout the record’s 14 tracks. He repeatedly steps outside his past material, significantly broadening his production palette and even employing both dBridge and Spaceape to contribute original vocal work. Combined with a bass line so infectious that it borders on clinical, dBridge’s whispers on “These Words” would fit right in among Geeneus’ Volume 1 mix for Rinse, providing one of the album’s most surprising highlights. The breathtaking ingenuity of Martyn’s bass melodies remain his strongest suit, pounding out a hypnotic path for the complex blitz of percussion and sequenced synths overhead. Spaceape’s contribution on “Is This Insanity?” is less successful, though it’s more because the emcee’s paranoid mystic shtick lacks the same chilling effect it had on Kode9’s Memories of the Future. But one can’t fault Martyn for molding his grooves to complement Spaceape’s growling rant — his efforts only reinforce the refreshing experimentation that Great Lengths embraces.

From the accompanying artwork of 3024 co-founder Erosie to the atmospheric interludes sprinkled within, it’s obvious that Martyn has approached the record from a more artistic, “start-to-finish” standpoint. Just like the other well-conceived long-players from dubstep affiliates such as Dusk & Blackdown, Burial, Scuba, and the aforementioned 2562, the creativity exhibited on Great Lengths highlights the innovation and progress that can result from DJs who account for the disconnect between the dancefloor and the iPod.

By Cole Goins

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