Distance aka Greg Sanders has been there since dubstep’s formation, graced with a set with Vex’d on the hallowed Dubstep Warz show that included tracks from ISIS, Godflesh, Khanate and Sunn 0))). His earlier productions showed his early love of metal – deconstructing metal’s riffs through the prism of a bassbin and both his albums “My Demons” and “Repercussions” laid down the paint-by-numbers template for brostep almost as much any single Coki track did. Sanders spent his new found fame devoted to running his Chestplate imprint, breaking newer artists like Sleeper and District on his Rinse FM show and has stayed throughly 140 through dubstep’s ups and downs as hosts of producers to fled to slower bpms. But almost a decade has passed since Repercussions was released on Planet Mu (which at the time was the home to Pinch and Vex’d and not known as the label that broke footwork over in Europe), but here we are in 2016 with “Dynamis” the newest LP from Distance.
With 11 total tracks and clocking in at 47 minutes flat, Dynamis is a long album full of gun metal textures, neon Bladerunner synths, blends of bio-mechanical beat structures, and the omni-present sub-bass detonations and while its part of the albums strength in terms of cohesion, it is also one of its draw backs. While songs like “Instruction to Survive”, “Kingdoms Fall” and “Talk to Me” expertly demonstrate Sander’s craft at creating emotive synth chorals much in the vein of Vangelis, the album suffers far too much from a stubbornness to make the tracks functional for the dance floor, leaving the album to feel more like a compilation of potential singles more so than a true album.
Softer, introspective moments could not be found between Killa P machine gun fun patois on “Badman” or Beezy’s ode to a cheating girlfriend on “Betrayal” and after seven tracks in I found myself (and my sore neck) having to pause the record as the near constant barrage of Dynamis felt over-whelming. After catching my breath, I finished the rest of the album only after applying a health glob of icy-hot to loosen up my sore neck. That being said, Dynamis shows Sanders playing more with genre form, running the gambit from grime, dubstep, trap and drum & bass in his own immutable style. Between you and me “Badman” is the better tune than “Topper Top” (I know blasphemy, but whatever), but in particular southern hip-hop and trap motifs and aesthetic DNA is all over the LP. Tracks like “Kingdoms Fall”, “Collide”, and “Unite” in particular sound like something that Future (or any other mumbly pill head US rapper) would spit over.
And while yes there is the one truly dubstep moment, which unfortunately “Fear Change” which its metal riffage and brittle melody coming off sounding like a caricature of Distance himself (that is until the second drop), but for the majority of the listening experience Dynamis is indebted to the perennial and quintessential British genre of drum & bass. For example, “Fiya” with its neon shimmers of color and almost juke like flavors shines and is contrasted with “Paradigm” in ruff neck, take no prisoners sound design that wouldn’t be out of place in a Loxy, Icicle, or Rockwell set. Even “Talk to Me” with its beautiful and emotive synth work can’t help itself without splicing some good ol’ Amen breaks into the equation.
At the end of the day, its the biggest thing Distance has put out, his production skills have grown by leaps and bounds since the early days of dubstep and rightly so. Where as his early tracks where thin sound in the percussion department and the riffs were more guitar than computer, but here Dynamis feels hyper-real, almost tactile in how meticulous Sanders’s sound design is. I can’t fault him for his attention to detail. However, the major issue for Dynamis is not sound design, but rather pacing. Too often, tracks bleed together into one giant mass and only when Distance engulfs you with his Vangelis synth work do you find yourself pricking up your ears. That being said, if you’re in attendance for the floor bangers, look no further.