Horsepower Productions, and their ever present head honcho Benny ill, revered in underground music circles as among the key early innovators of dubstep, return in 2016 with their much anticipated fourth album: “Crooks, Crime & Corruption”. Continuing their working relationship, which stretches back to the early days of 2000, for the design of the “Crook, Crime & Corruption” packaging, Give Up Art drew on the visual language of law enforcement – creating rolls of custom printed ‘Police tape’. Each plain, unprinted 12″ sleeve is wrapped by hand in the tape, sealing in the discs, and making each pressing unique.
An ambitious and varied record, it finds the group expanding their horizons and broadening their sound palette, while maintaining the unparalleled production chops that first made them such a force in the scene. Their pioneering early singles sought to strip UK garage of its slickness, adopting a stripped-down, dubbed-out approach that emphasised roughness and powerful bass. This was music for real heads, not commercial dancefloors. ‘When You Hold Me / Let’s Dance’ launched the seminal Tempa label, and even the term “dubstep” was first popularised in a 2002 XLR8R cover story about Horsepower. The 2002 debut album “In Fine Style” stands as one of the finest documents to emerge from the UK underground, while “To The Rescue”, which followed in 2004, saw the group play a vital role in shaping the direction of the music they had made possible. “Quest For The Sonic Bounty” (2010) sees Benny and co. double down on their core strengths. It’s certainly the most sonically varied Horsepower album yet.
Rhythmically diverse, “Bak 2 NY” and “Kuriosity” unexpectedly draw from classic house, while “Criminally Insane” is the perfect conclusion to the album, ten minutes of breakbeat madness evoking a crazed dash through rush hour London. If previous Horsepower records were defined in part by a commitment to darkness, then the new album sees a certain amount of light emerging through the cracks. Just check the summer BBQ vibes of “Bak 2 NY”, or the balmy shuffle of “Curiosity”. At the other end of the spectrum the sticky weed paranoia and industrial clank of “Ruf Justice”, all gunfire and sirens over punishing sub-bass. Two of the tracks you might know already. “Good Ole Dayz” and “Justify” – originally released together as a 12″ back in 2011 – both appear here in new versions. “Good Ole Dayz” marries dubstep wobble with an explosion of colour, while the decidedly psychedelic “Justify” (a collaboration with guitarist Harry Keyworth) falls somewhere between Hawaiian surf and Morricone western. The group’s love of cinema has always been one of their defining stylistic traits, and it’s in full evidence on “Crooks, Crime & Corruption”, there’s a refreshing patience to these ten productions, and a stunning command of atmosphere.
Immaculately constructed and immaculately realised, “Crooks, Crime & Corruption” draws from numerous facets of the UK underground and further afield in order to take you on a compelling, wholly immersive journey.
A2. GBU (feat. Orson)
A3. Justify (feat. Harry Keyworth) [LP Version]
B1. Bak 2 NY
B3. Boardwalk Emperor 2
C2. Ruf Justice
D1. Good Ole Dayz [LP Version]
D2. Criminally Insane