Review: Tempa Allstars Vol. 7 [TEMPA094]

After a four year hiatus, founding label Tempa bestows the goodies to a slavering public with the seventh installment of their scene-scanning Allstars series. Volume Seven doesn’t disappoint, dropping six big tracks that follow the thread that labels like Swamp, Keysound, Cold and Livity Sound have mined in wake of dubstep’s retreat back towards murkier territory where the scrap parts and leftover DNA of dubstep litter the highway. Focusing more towards that interzone, Volume Seven features the wunderkind Wen, Cold Recordings Batu, and Livity Sound agitator Alex Coulton which deliver rolling, dread infused tribalist workouts that, in all frankness, have blown the past couple Tempa releases clear out of the water. True to their roots, Tempa also delivers three spacious, sub-loaded halfsteppers inna Yunx style that thud and stomp with rude authority by Innasound, New Zealand’s Peverse and one of the few US producers doing dubstep justice, AxH.

Starting us off right is Wen’s surprisingly delicate and touching ‘Push Back’. Taking a side step from his more grime influenced LP ‘Signals’, ‘Push Back’ with scene-setting synth work that soar and swell like a piece of classical music. However, what emerges is a loose and jittery garage framework that is almost too bone-dry for Wen, that is until the latter portion of ‘Push Back’ in which the teary eyed, 4 AM synths engulf the soundscape. Dubby sonic magick is applied with a surgeon’s hand to the the garage skeleton, while underneath the bass heaves and pulses in tandem that is both system shaking but slinky enough to wriggle your booty. Second to the plate is Alex Coulton’s ‘Equilibrium’. The Livity Sound cohort mines that familiar vein that LS follows – careful attention to sound design, cool poise and thundering bassweight. Icy symbols and dub sirens crack the veil to set us up for those deliciously hip syncing conga hits that’ll will drive any floor into a slobbering mass in seconds. The voices of the elder rastas scan the night sky bringing Old Testament brimstone and fire. In contrast to his releases on Livity Sound’s sister/sub label Dnous Ytivil, ‘Equilibrium’ adopts a much more conservative rhythmic structure, or rather a more house/techno template, utilizing eye-ball vibrating 4×4 detonations to bludgeon anyone into dancing.

Recent Yunx and J:Kenzo favorite Innasound ups the tempo to 140bpm with ‘Step Fourth’ as we reach the halfway point in Allstars Volume Seven. Tunes like the aforementioned track, ‘Reach Out’, and ‘Elliptic’ have cropped up in sets by Yunx and Kenzo alike. It’s not hard to see why they draw for Innasound’s riddims. Molded by Tempa’s classicist modus operandi, ‘Step Fourth’ roars and snarls with crisp like Sprite percussion and lumbering Brontosaurus bassweight. Rasta prayers float through the warm, saccharine Jamaican air, while clipped 808 percs bob and weave in between dungeon growls that are standard operating procedure for any track that Yunx rinses. That being said, there is this latent techy-ness to ‘Step Fourth’ that makes it stand-out a tad more in the sea of these kinda riddims. I can see it becoming a favorite DJ of mine (and hopefully yours as well) in the near future. Meanwhile, Batu’s ‘Ghosted’ returns us towards that swamp. Give attention towards the humid and slightly dissonant micro tonal atmospheres that swirl around the head, making clear thinking harder. Wasting now time, ‘Ghosted’ rolls with a garage like swing built upon off set shoulder rolling bass pulses and crisp slap-back snares that pops like bubbles that appear to be made out of rebar. Horns, or what sound like horns, great sepulchral omens swell and crawl from the crypt just as the the Old Gods will do someday. Watch out for the second drop, with the wriggling worm-like quivers in the second half, which strangely come off like mutant Pulse-X lazer blasts.

Upping the last breathes of Volume Seven to 140 is AxH’s ‘Nano’. Alongside the Elk Shaman EshOne, AxH is the amongst the few US producers who are doing dubstep justice here in the states. His simultaneously future primitive style – a blend of Blade Runner melodies and penchant for hard hitting tribal flourishes. Here in ‘Nano’ leans more towards the gritty world-cities of Gibson’s Neuromancer and the impending singularity of Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. Armed with bio-mechanical bass rushes, ‘Nano’ is large and in-charge. A cyber melody swims around the soundfield as the sample speaks of “tiny, mysterious organisms”, perhaps the voice foretells the coming ubiquity of nano bio-mechanical technology. Tastefully poised percs dance around the heaving mass of nano-robots that form ‘Nano’. Last but not least, New Zealand’s other great 140 export, Perverse round off Allstars Seven with ‘Jacobin’. Opened with cowbells, bass growls from dubspace, and arcing star gazing synth work, a utterance commands us to have “faith within the future”. Dismal sub-bass tunnels it’s way towards the center of the Earth. Slowly emerging into a steppa inna Yunx style that bounces with a chip on it’s shoulder. The mid-range distortion adds a nice touch that really fills out the soundfield while the synths become gases and pour themselves between the gaps and spaces in between the sub blows. Much like Innasound’s ‘Step Fourth’, there is this implicit techy-ness that underlies ‘Jacobin’ with its quick silver flourishes of interesting percussion, and like ‘Step Fourth’ I can seeing this becoming a favorite DJ tool that will offer countless mixing possibilities and interesting bass permutations in a three deck blend context.

I can simply conclude with one word. Instabag. That’s it. Just do it. Go to your local record store, or Juno, or Redeye Records and buy it. Seriously, if you don’t you must be mad. I cannot urge you enough to snag these slabs of wax. Go, now! I say this because of the strength of all these tunes, they all could stand as singles, not one track in here is lacking or found wanting with this critic. Hell buy two copies so you can mix all the tunes together uninterrupted. I’m done trying to convince you otherwise.

Tempa Allstars Vol. 7 is out now and available from Unearthed Sounds, Redeye and Juno Download.

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