Review: Alex Coulton – Ambush / Direction [TEMPA106]
Tempa darling Alex Coulton appears on the label for another installment of claustrophobic bass crawlers tailored made for the dark basements that have one red light bulb. Almost single-handedly having pulled Tempa towards swampy-er pastures over the past couple months, Alex C continues to do what he does best with “Ambush” and “Direction”.
“Ambush” opens with technoid linearity, hi hats ticking away. A rising congas pitter patterds as a Japanese voice says something appropriately dark (granted I don’t speak Japanese, but I have faith that whatever is said is fitting). The sub comes in and goose-steps a path through the dance with percs doing most of the heavy lifting. Out of nowhere, a dive-bombing sub oscillates between the void and the brown note. A cavernous kick is treated with varying degrees of reverb for a panoramic sound design that’ll echo off appropriately high ceilings and will play tricks with your mind if you have a load on. Stripped back for the DJ’s “Ambush” rolls onwards as a few Grime tropes coalesce around it for the remainder, but its the mid-point that peels back everything and lets the sub weight oppress you that’ll leave you gasping for air.
“Direction” meanwhile is more fractured and skips with a garage swing, built upon a foundation of swirling, nordic synth work and bleeps. 808 shakers loosen the shoulders upon and scuff up your white Nike air maxes, but like “Ambush” before it, midway through, “Direction” switches up the formula, for an almost acid-y growl that vacillates between acid house, dubstep, and 80’s UK steppa aesthetic data. Rolling out until the wubbles die off, “Direction” morphs back into it’s garage swing complete with blue synths until the loop is completed again.
Alex C has become a staple of Tempa’s shift from classicist half step towards the more open and “playful” territory of “bass music”. His past few releases have really defined where the label seems to be headed; outside of Appleblim’s dub house experiments. Alex Coulton’s penchant for retaining that darkness that Tempa is so fond of, yet updating the label to remain relevant has been a welcome change. That being said, after three releases and the last two Tempa Allstar offerings, more can be done to expose more producers working within that template. Put simply where is Acre, Cliques, Wen or Batu’s stand alone plate???