It’s somewhat crazy that the period many dubstep fans might refer to as the ‘Golden Age’ was over a decade ago. Yet, the music has continued to evolve and remain fresh in the ever-changing global music scene. What’s also been interesting is to see which names and labels from that period are still active and relevant today. One such name is Distance, and his imprint Chestplate is undoubtedly one such label. With his newest release ‘Awaken’ EP, the stalwart producer is perhaps aiming to show that he (as always) is keeping pace with the times. One immediate place you might get that impression from is the artwork: a far cry from the genre’s usual aesthetic and minimalist design, with what I can only describe as a demonic worm bursting Alien-style out of a dully-coloured head. I don’t really want to get too deep into art analysis, however I’d say it’s fairly clear to say from this that Distance is going for a different direction with his newest release.
‘Rotation’ certainly supports this theory, with its skippy percussion and digitised sound palette buzzing its way throughout the track. 80s synths and 8-bit licks punctuate the remaining space, showing off Distance’s lesser-known melodic side (note: if you think dungeon sounds are his one-trick: check out his 2007 track ‘Delight’). Overall the track is a nice showcase of the influences Distance is able to incorporate into his sound whilst not losing his own flavour. It feels like a grittier Joker track, becoming progressively more glitched-out as it nears the end. ‘Equate’ presents a somewhat broken, trap infused beat that seems to repeatedly fall over itself, only to regain its balance a moment later. The bassline smears itself over the track, buzzing in and out of focus. The overall effect is a tune that feels simultaneously sluggish and energetic, and it works nicely: Distorted percussion is thrown in at unexpected moments and the bass fluctuates unpredictably enough that the track doesn’t become dull after 32 bars. This one will feel very murky in the right dance.
Of the four, probably the most classically Distance track is the eponymous ‘Awaken’. This track is less experimental than the rest of the EP, but not to its disadvantage: It feels more like a refinement of the elements that Distance used to build his popularity in the scene, in particular, the metal-influenced stomping bassline is unmistakably him. That’s not to say it has nothing new: like the other tracks, its percussion has a certain degree of trap influence, though to a far lesser degree. This one as a result is sure to be a favourite with both the old and new school Distance fans. Speaking of trap, ‘Settling Scores’ is by far the most heavily influenced. Its beat is essentially straight trap. However the increasingly distorted horns and cinematic strings weaving in and out of each other help to elevate the track. Creepy pads and synths also aid in drawing you in as the separate elements increasingly combine for a crescendo in the track’s later portion. It’s a very well executed track and is certainly a departure from Distance’s usual style. However I would have preferred to see Distance’s creativity in incorporating trap into something new, as opposed to just his take on a trap beat.
Overall the EP is a well-rounded release with each track trying something a bit different, yet still covering all the bases. This means that some listeners may not love every track, but it also means that there should at least be one track for everyone. Old-school Chestplate fan? Then ‘Awaken’ should be for you. Not normally a Distance fan? Maybe give ‘Rotation’ a go. You get the idea. Either way, the content of the EP fits the artwork: it’s not your usual Distance release. While this may signal an evolution in Distance’s production, it might also signal the start of a very interesting year for Chestplate. So keep your eyes peeled for whatever’s next.