Debate over the future of dubstep remains a contentious thing no matter where you turn, in evidence everywhere from schizophrenic Brainfeeder experiments to the recent debate on The Quietus over what’s going on with the British scene. For Dutchman Dave Huismans, the opportunity to put together another full-length is just another opportunity to recalibrate his own mutant strain. Fever retains the cheeky humor of other dubstep artists, but its vivacity makes it his most immediate, and compelling, release yet.
It’s taken a relatively brief time to cover such extensive ground. His debut LP. Aerial, was dark, heady dubstep that divided audiences in its unrelenting adherence to the minimal template of the time – you either loved it for its commitment or you found it boring. Hi follow-up, 2009’s Unbalance, took more chances by incorporating two-step and garage rhythms, which were augmented in his music under the A Made Up Sound alias (“Rear Window” in particular), and which have now bounced back to the 2562 name. Fever beams with the light of uptempo nightlife.
The idea behind this is simple, spelled out right on the cover with a kid (maybe Huismans himself) reaching for a shelf of records: limit the samples to golden age disco cuts. What he does with these samples renders them beyond the point of recognition, however. It’s only the muted roar and bongos of “Intermission” or the brisk hi-hat of “Brasil Deadwalker” that connect Fever to a Walter Gibbons production. Often, the mental maps draw themselves unconsciously. It’s hard to tell what exactly sounds so familiar about many of Fever’s tracks, but you just know you’ve heard these songs before.
Part of the reason it takes so long to realize what’s happening is that Fever exhausts itself over the course of its 11-song, nearly hour-long runtime. Huismans starts aggressively with “Winamp Melodrama,” broken beats falling all over themselves like an early copy of Com Lag to sound closer to the out-and-out party mode of Drop the Lime than anything else. “Cheater” sets listeners at ease with a slightly more insular track, “Juxtapose” channels Detroit techno, and “Aquatic Family Affair” finally hits the dubstep sweet spot he generated ad infinitum on Aerial. It’s a truly mixed bag, one that demonstrates Huismans has a handle on many things electronic.
The back half of the record, however, paves over any rough patches the first half suggests. “Aquatic Family Affair” is the first real acknowledgment that his old habits die hard. The stretch run throws in some neat tricks – Detroit again makes its influence known on “Brasil Deadwalker” and Berlin has a cameo on “Final Frenzy” – but it is mostly a reminder that this is still a 2562 record and the guy can still deliver the dubstep goods. The scattershot early tracks are red herrings as everything coagulates with a hissing unity by the time the title track ends.
I want to like Fever more than I do, but like the nagging feeling of having heard much of this before, something tugs at the sleeves to whisper that what I thought was enjoyable is really just the persistence of a memory of something else being more enjoyable. Whether that’s Walter Gibbons or Drop the Lime or Anthony Shakir or, more often here, FaultyDL and Scuba, it doesn’t matter as much as the underlying point: As dubstep continues to splinter in new and exciting ways at an ever-accelerating rate, here is Dave Huismans grasping at the broken fragments to try and recover as much as possible in an effort to piece it all back together. That his music is an ongoing debate between the once-was of Aerial and the what-will-be of whatever comes next makes him continually relevant (and interesting) by accident. He may be a strict reactionary, but that burden carries a cheeky humor all its own.