Review: Commodo – How What Time LP [ACRELP007]

One release at a time, Commodo steadily rose to become one of the essential producers of the current dubstep scene. Though this obviously has to do with him lining up bangers on Deep Medi Musik, as well as Hotline and Black Box, culminating with the release of his remix of Gantz’ Free Focus a few months ago, Commodo’s unique production style also helped him stand out. Early on in his discography, Commodo showcased a personal sound palette which distinguishes his tracks, and asserted himself as unafraid of trying different things, for instance experimenting with different tempos and track structures, as well as taking part in last year’s joint effort with fellow producers Kahn and Gantz.

This ability to go further than usual dubstep templates while keeping a distinct style made the announcement of a solo full-length promising, as Commodo, who relocated to Black Acre for the occasion, appeared as one of the artists who would be able to master this form, creating a cohesive statement and experimenting with new things at the same time. De facto, this is exactly what he achieves throughout How What Time. Opening track “Hej” sets the tone for the rest of the record: though Commodo’s style can be identified, with wide, grainy kick drums and blurred chimes, other sounds immediately emerge within the mix. Though the track firmly sticks to a 140BPM tempo, it also clearly displays instrumental hip-hop influences, as a more playful swing seems to drive the rhythm. These cues taken from hip-hop are evidenced most clearly by “Itchin”, an early standout featuring Trim, who spits with his usual, distinct flow over a conducting breakbeat.

Don’t be mistaken though: even though those hip-hop influences shine throughout the record, How What Time is at core a dubstep album. It isn’t, however, a mere collection of dubstep tracks that could have been released on their own but were agglomerated in a single project. Here, each of the tracks seems to take place within a greater whole. This is emphasised by the rather short duration of the tunes, which builds what seems like a constant flow of troubled synths, distant yet heavy bass and pounding beats: less than 3-minute long, “Russian Glass” for instance seems to fade in this flow after the baroque stabs of “My Liege”, instilling cinematic atmospheres through its soft melody and quieter drums, before quickly giving way to the scintillating sounds of “Floods”.

This isn’t to say, though, that there aren’t tracks that could stand out alone here. This is perhaps How What Time’s greatest achievement: though each track seems to perfectly fit in its own place within the album, forming a cohesive whole, most of them also have a specific character which maintains the listener’s attention. With its sharp drums and menacing synths calling Commodo’s classic “$pace Cash” to mind, “How Dare You” for example appears as one of the record’s highlights: bubbling sounds loosely fade in and out around the track’s main thread, twisting it and leading it into unexpected directions, yet maintaining a constant feeling of threat. The following track, “Sleepwave”, is another apex: the same looseness guides the track through the different parts of its superb leads, replacing How Dare You’s threatening atmospheres with full-blown melancholy. Obviously, the first single “Set It Straight”, which features Black Acre’s own Rocks FOE’s feverish words, is another compulsory mention: evidencing Commodo’s ability to cross styles and introduce grime elements in his sound, “Set It Straight” is an impressive track, where Commodo’s sparse stabs leave space for Rocks FOE to fill, intertwining beats and vocals into what seems like a perfect tune.

These are just a few examples of what How What Time is packed with: tracks that possess that specific Commodo character, yet introduce new elements to his style and fit perfectly within the frame of the album. How What Time is exactly what one could have hoped a Commodo album would be: a coherent suite of tracks that are part of a greater whole but still shine on their own, showing an artist that seems confident with his style, yet willing to experiment and play with new elements. Add to that incredible sound design which punctuates the tracks throughout the record and you’ll find an album which feels like one of the best dubstep full-lengths in a while.

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How What Time is released April 8th and available from the Black Acre Store, Unearthed Sounds, Redeye, White Peach, Bleep and Intense Records

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