Various Artists – Crucial EP Vol 1 [CRUCIAL014]

Since founding Crucial Recordings in 2015 Sleeper has grown his label at a break neck speed, incorporated new artistic voices like Causa, Oxóssi, and Moonstones, and in the process fostered a label that has gone from just another imprint to one where each release almost demands an immediate buy. Having grown a stable of incredible artists with their own unique visions, Sleeper has created a truly remarkable label that is both exploratory yet firmly rooted in what makes dubstep great; space and weight. For Crucial’s fourteenth release, Sleeper and his cohorts have put together a four track EP that is full of spooky atmospheres, lurching rhythmic shambles, and dismal sub pressure in time for the yearly Samhain ritual.

First up is a collaboration with US dubstepper (and GourmetBeats alumni) Saule and Moonstones for “Triple Threat”. What starts off like a lot of Crucial tunes, all arpeggiated melody and staggering rhythmic skeleton, quickly morphs into something else entirely with air raid sirens and brass infused low-end. It has that Mala skip and swing going on but Moonstones and Saule make it their own thing with dry and brittle percussion that doesn’t have an ounce of ital vibes on it. Punctuated with a strange sample that speaks of the low end and it subsides into the void. Mesck summons his evil carnival with “Johnny, Are You a Ghost?”. Strapped with his ever present Artia micro brute and horror movie samples, Mesck constructs a Frankstein beat around the lurid purring of the synths. In the minds eye, “Johnny, Are You a Ghost?” would make a dope score to another weird Rob Zombie film (think The Lords of Salem) about the haunted rooms of Barton Mansion. But digressions aside, Mesck does what he does best, creating a frightening track filled with gothic sonic embellishments and sepulchral bass weight.

Flip the record over and Sleeper rips a sample from what I think is the Youtube Channel Ras Kitchen where Mokko is talking about pears. I have no idea why except to give the intro the appropriate ital vibes, considering a loose connection between Mokko’s culinary skills and the track “Holy Guacamole”. That aside, “Holy Guacamole” is the pick of the litter and a favorite of Vivek. If I remember correctly Viv dropped this on the Grand Ancestor system back in April. But the track is rude; galloping reggae hi-hats and an updated gritty wobble that harkens back to DMZ without the sycophantic worship that other producers tend to recreate. Real top stuff and worth the price of admission alone. Lastly, Oxóssi and Samba hit the studio together for the interstellar weirdness of “Orbitals”. Focused around a pensive 8-bit Rhodes piano flourish until it gets swallowed up by some sort of inter-dimensional horror. Gritty low end, echoing percussion, the bleeping of a heart monitor, and a warbling theremin all coalesce into an updated score for a 1960’s alien invasion b-film about asteroid fragments that fall to earth causing huge wildfires, and in the process, create the conditions for invasive alien life on planet earth. At least that’s why I see in my mind’s eye.

In total, Sleeper and his compatriots here have created a real landmark of a release for Crucial Recordings, drawing multiple lines in the sand for all challengers. The quality and uniqueness of each track makes the release an insta-bag for most dubsteppers, both old and new. Each track here is guaranteed to do damage in the dance, and while that it is the main strength here, it is also its main weakness. With such a focus towards the dance, Sleeper and cohorts missed a rare opportunity to explore untapped facets that have thus far not been highlighted from their releases. That is a minor quibble though, after all, we just want to play this music loud.

Volume One is released November 17th and available from Unearthed Sounds, Redeye, White Peach, Juno, Intense Records and the Crucial Recordings Store.

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