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V/A - Dark Matter: Multiverse, 2004-2009

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Artist: V/A

Album: Dark Matter: Multiverse, 2004-2009

Label: Multiverse Music

Review date: Oct. 21, 2010

Dubstep, at its best, is a genre engaged in bringing opposites together. Resolutely electronic, the best practitioners imbue it with organic textures. It’s built on simple rhythmic foundations, yet the most interesting tracks toy with sparse yet constantly-shifting polyrhythms. While the approach is artificial and mechanical, some of the most fascinating artists manage to immerse the sounds in palpable atmospheres. Initially dance-floor-friendly, some have taken the style far into realms of noisy aggression that are far from friendly.

The double-disc Dark Matter makes no claim to being an overview of dubstep’s state of the art. Far from it: the tracks here are collected from the past five years of work emerging from Bristol’s Multiverse studios, making it a snapshot of a particular place and time. And like any collection, there are inevitably some weaker links present. Nonetheless, it’s hard to overstate the impact of some of these tracks and artists.

At over two hours, the 24 pieces cover a fairly wide range. But because of the number of collaborations and the mixing pot environment of Multiverse, there’s a sense of cohesion for the most part that works to the collection’s advantage. Certainly, a song like the drum-and-bass rhythms and soulful vocals by Yolanda on Pinch’s "Get Up" stick out amidst the mainly instrumental pieces. And the dumb-as-a-rock lyrics and bleep-heavy synths of "Big Ass Miniskirt" by Body Snatchers can be quickly skipped. (The latter may be here only because Multiverse is operated by James Ginzburg a.k.a. Ginz, one of whose projects is Body Snatchers.)

There are far more highlights here than otherwise, though, including some groundbreaking tracks like Joker & Ginz’s "Purple City," "Unbalance" from 2562, and the unmissable atmospherics of "Qawwali/Brighter Day" by Pinch. The rubbery metallic beats of Moving Ninja’s "Witchdokta," the ripped and mistreated synth shrieks of "Lion" from Vex’d, the shadowy, distant echoes of Loefah’s "System" — these are among the most memorable dubstep moments of the past few years.

With such a strong lineup, this collection would make an excellent introduction for anyone wanting to delve into the darker side of electronic beats, but it’s also pretty much essential for anyone who’s already a fan. Unless you have most of the tracks elsewhere (some are exclusive), you’ll need to pick this up.

By Mason Jones

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