Review: Promise One (feat. Sparkz & Geode) – See We Roll EP [EARZ004]

It’s been a hot minute since Syte’s OpenEarz has released, and now see itself relaunching with the powerful and sonically mongrel stylings of Promise One. The tunes themselves are interesting as they seem to be indebted to Wen’s “everything and the kitchen sink approach” of crafting tunes out of the aesthetic data of the last 20 years or so of the hardcore continuum, to borrow Simon Reynolds’s concept of purely ‘British music’. Promise One merges and melds the dark flavors of garage/early dubstep, grime’s lyrical gun-fights, and the hefty appreciation of the power of bass weight into something that reminds you of Wen, except heavier and without the ghoulish EVP of grime MC’s.

The title track features MC Sparkz who lays down bars on the percussion salad of ‘See We Roll’. Detailing the soundbwoy’s dream of making tunes with your mates, going to dances, getting your skank on, and generally living that DJ/producer lifestyle, it’s nothing to right home about, but again shows how specifically Promise One combines the aesthetic data of the last 20 years of the hardcore continuum into this EP – using elements of garage’s skip, grime’s MC focus and at dubstep’s resting heart-rate of 140. Finding a balance between the slick dub chords of ‘Chroma’ and the ruff swing of ‘Ghost Note’, ‘See We Roll’ cuts with razor precision in the drum department, and would make Benny Ill or El-B cry happy tears. It doesn’t hurt ‘See We Roll’ is armed with those early dark garage abysmal bass dives that give your already ugly mug an uglier screwface.

‘Chroma’, it seems is the only riddim that doesn’t follow the Wen-indebted sonic ideology of the rest of the EP. ‘Chroma’ sees Promise One and Geode fighting pitched street battles over turf in the ghettos/housing estates/favelas of the world cities. Slick with lavender, crisp percussion lends a much need snap to the dub techno stabs and the ripe with summer mist rhodes organ caresses. Building over these melodic – rhythmic components, RnB flourishes resolves the hanging melody, tricking your ears and performing alchemy that you didn’t know that was occurring right in front of you – it works at such a deadly level, activating the smaller, more ancient, reptilian parts of our brains. High flexing sub weight bounces and sways to and fro and we in turn follow, circling, parrying, diving, arms-raised, feathers sprawled in the sun.

In the digital exclusive ‘Ghost Note’, dubspace cracks and oozes the matter that compromises time, washes of stardust trickle over the skin. Synthetic growls permeate the atmosphere creating shimmers of light and heat the way a fire does of the air above it, or hot concrete smoldering, looking like a grey sea, with the consistency of a runny egg yolk, or Dali clock and in the shimmer itself, shades of barely there bongos, slivers of hi-hats made of mercury, and rim-shots that break apart, revealing the colors that make them in fractals of polyhedrons. Over a rough-hewn garage chassis, Promise One deploys pit bull bass snarls, barely containing the bruk-out aggression of ‘Ghost Note’. Some quick vocal science turns the snippets of a grime bar into some form of mantra on the important of non-being. It’s all a ruff and tumble riddim that contains the best of Wen’s unique UK-based mongrel music at 140bpm.

In conclusion, it’s a strong and well-balanced relaunch of the label. Promise One’s fusion of garage and grime into dubstep’s devotion to all things bass that really allows the tunes to speak for themselves – that’s how strong they are. It’s also interesting to see how far Wen’s influence reaches, especially for the amount of time Wen has been producing/releasing tunes. I hope to see more of this early garage-influenced dubstep come back. It only seems naturally as many nu-skool producers such as LAS, Mikael and Gantz repurposed those smoky DMZ vibes. It’s takes the whole ‘foundational sound’ to it’s logical endpoint.

EARZ004 is out now and available from all good record stores.

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