With another Deep Medi release looming, it’s a time for fans of the sound up and down the country to wait in excited anticipation for the latest concoction of sonic alchemy to emerge from the recesses of Deep Medi’s South London laboratory. It’s been a hot minute since Deep Medi’s previous release MEDI097: as the notorious Topper Top riddim saw a rude reworking by none other than fellow Bristolian partners-in-crime, Kahn and Neek. However, that was all the way back in April, and just in time for Halloween, Deep Medi is back in style for MEDI098. For those who don’t know, the label itself is curated by infamous Croydon dubstep baron Mala and the tireless efforts of the amazing Stephanie Clarke (with the duo first meeting after working together at a bar in South Norwood). Ever since, the two halves of Deep Medi have been pumping out iconic releases and devastating dancefloors since 2006, and now, the label is back with some premium sound system ordinance, delivered by none other than New Zealand trio-gone-duo Truth. Speaking of Truth, the group has demonstrated an undeniable work ethic this year; pumping out releases via their own label (Deep, Dark & Dangerous), dropping a full-length album (Wilderness of Mirrors) as well as several EPs. This time, they return with some signature stompers released under the auspiciously named “Lion” EP and aptly, the body of work is as astounding in power and dexterity as the renowned big cats of the African savannah, and I was lucky enough to get my greasy mitts all over the fresh carcass of this release before the rest of the vultures settle in to feed.
As the hunt begins, we have title track “Lion” and true to form, the production is a snarling masterclass in sound system pride; a real man-eater of a tune likely to be doing the rounds in dances up and down the country. Unfurling with a sigh of woodwind, one can imagine an ancient scene; tribes gazing out along a dusty savannah, the burning sun of an empty a sky, a translucent wall of heat rising along the horizon. Fat percs and brooding hi-hats compliment the sensations of the track’s introduction; a shot of adrenaline spiking the blood with primal clarity as a guttural snarl emerges, announcing the presence of the ultimate predator: the king of the jungle himself. As the momentum builds towards the drop, silence reigns as an ancestral voice bellows the name of the danger, just before the lion pounces. The drop unleashes a cataclysmically cold, weighty barrage of sub-driven artillery that is sure to have chestplates quaking with all the ferocity of a lion’s roar, the track engages the sub-woofer to squeeze all the air it can muster; delivering a gusto of concise and well-rounded stabs powerful enough to reach the outer plains of the savannah. One can guarantee that any audience caught in the gaping maw of its rhythm will be entranced; it’s an anthem for a sea of contorted expressions and bouncing bodies, I mean, we’ve really found ourselves in the lion’s den with this one. It’s a groove of unadulterated, gritty dubstep madness that will surely have gunfingaz waving and enough people skanking really, really low. Like, LOW. Unfortunately, the track lacks a sense of progression (an accusation that could be levelled at many dubstep releases) and would require a speedy mix n blend to potentially stay interesting for a crowd. Secondly, the beautiful ambience harnessed in the track’s introduction feels too short, it would have also been nice to see a bit more development of this section of the tune; both for the purposes of mood as well as the practical benefits when allowing a mix to breathe.
The second track “Messages” emerges from a nether land of ominous warnings, foresworn prophecies and strange echoes from beyond the veil. Discordant harmonics oscillate at distance, crawling towards the listener slowly, as Inspector Gadget-esque sirens drip and glitch; stuck in a perennial robotic loop. As the song swells into crescendo, one can also notice how Truth have lightly infused the percussion with a junglist sensibility as snares roll, saturated in arpeggio and garnished with decadent layers of delay; spicing the mix with necessary texture and flavour. The synth lead sways and swoons from background to foreground, tastefully placed industrial samples ooze and ebb at the periphery of the riddim, and rude snares begin cutting and lashing into the tune, providing an off-kilt percussive bounce to the melody. These touches really allow you feel how the tune is embellished with some incredibly realised poetics of space, with the percussion still remaining fat and clinically crisp, performing its skeletal role with that visceral weight we all crave. It is also worth noting how the production seemingly favours the kind of low-frequency stabs and growls emitted by earlier, contemporary bass shamans such as Biome, Catacombs and Knowledge; evoking a style of sound first garnered by Innamind Records (also originally based in New Zealand) in the early 2010’s.
Concluding the EP, we have “Ruffneck”, a tune immediately resonating with the tailor-made dread renowned in that deep, dark and dangerous end of the spectrum that Truth so favour. Expect the spine-tingling percussive crawl of insectoid organisms, airy gusts of sonic breath roaming in the wings, atonal pads blooming in background of the composition. This ambience steadily builds with a momentum ultimately punctuated by the delivery of a truly ruffneck vox sample: the gusto and cadence of the patois, all coated in a muddy dub effector, greets the ears with a harsh lesson in some badman mind-your-mannerisms: “All abou’ ruffneck business ay’ u kno they say ragamuffin, dem a round this *unclear*, (kisses teeth) when mi gal take me out t’ eat y’know, I just come in fresh”. The drop explodes on the last syllable into rolling sub and guttural, dripping snare, feeding the clumsy tread in rhythmic balance between bass and step (a style also cultivated and enjoyed by fellow dubstep aficionado Foamplate), all the while still preserving the pulsating drive of those beloved 140 rollers. Different samples also flourish the tune with some great patience, arriving in unholy communion behind or after the treble-heavy, restrained snares, before fading into the background with subtlety and again demonstrating Truth’s beautiful command of dynamic reverberation and space.
One might have already noticed the striking visuals of Lion EP. This beautiful design was drawn courtesy of M7 Grafiks; an artist definitely deserving of this long overdue shout-out considering the consistent and often incessant creative output of stunning visual content he does for many labels and producers all over the world within the soundsystem community. So here’s to you!