Review: Vax – Sleight / Embody [GRD054]

A couple weeks back, I was locked into Conscious Pilot’s Sub.FM show (every other Wednesday from 7-9PM EST) and Conscious Pilot played a track that struck a balance between TMSV’s congo workouts and a soundsystem indebted bassline that really resonated with me. In all honesty, I NEEDED to know who produced it immediately! Luckily, I was in the chat room and the producer happened to be locked in as well. This producer is Vax, a Philadelphia native, whose dubstep tracks are rooted in the finest DMZ tradition – all clipped percussion and Jamaican sub content, and have quickly became staples on my radio show on RWD.FM. Both myself and Vax struck up a conversation. Vax has been recently producing some really great D&B, which he has rinsed repeatedly on his mixlr sessions. I strongly believe that Vax has the potential to become inaugurated in the rising wave of American dubstep producers such as AxH and EshOne who are influencing stateside DJs to pay attention to native-born producers in the States instead of looking across the pond. Without further adieu, I present my review of Vax’s D&B transmission for Gradient Audio, ‘Sleight’ and ‘Embody’.

‘Sleight’ opens up the A-side with rhythmic woodblock strikes from deep in dubspace while white scale-like patterns shimmers around the peripheral of my vision. A feminine voice croons breathless in rhythmic fractals of glossolalia. In the foreground, the white shimmers give way to orange tetrahedrals of old hands beating cow-hide drums, sampled from a dusty old jazz-funk record found in some Philly record shop. The sub-line undulates like an ocean wave inoculating a trance-inducing state that elicits the sacred language that the digitalized woman utters. It’s all coated in an incandescent shroud of voidnoise, which slowly fades back into itself as the track closes. ‘Sleight’ is a spiritual piece of drum and bass that is both emotional and focused of sub movement to make the dancing shoes get a work out, a hard balance to pull off, but done in spades by Vax.

On the flip, ‘Embody’ doesn’t open, it crawls like a deadman crawls. A flanged drone plays tricks on the mind as a glacially paced sub worms it’s way in between sub-bass and infra-bass soundwaves. With barely any percussive elements taking precedence ‘Embody’ solely focuses your attention towards the crushing wall of sub-bass. ‘Embody’ is space itself suspended in slow-motion, it’s your body floating through space – each atom slowly becoming loosened as you approach a black hole, possessing that same hypnotic astral vibe VIVEK achieved on the seminal track ‘Asteroids’. It descends ever purposeful until silence is left. The sub onslaught continues as a particles of fractured, accordant star-light rise and fall into obscurity, barely referencing a melodic theme. It’s a perfect scene-setter or closer depending on your tastes and is sure to put a system through the paces.

Overall, Vax shows promise with his recent turn towards 170bpm. Both tracks display interesting percussive patterns, enough low end to stop a weak heart, and a measured sense of melodic phrasing that is both subtle, yet emotionally resonant. I look forward to hearing more sounds in the future (though preferably at 140 as I feel there is still more room for him to explore his sonic aesthetic in that tempo) from an up-and-coming stateside producer. Seriously DJs keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for Vax!

GRD054 is available from the official Gradient Audio Bandcamp.

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