Reviewed by Robert Rowlands Source: (The Milk Factory)
iTAL tEK might well have chosen a daft name for himself, but the music here suggests he is a man who means serious business. The doleful atmospherics of Cyclical are undercarried by many of the same rhythms as the staples of the dubstep sound, but that is largely where the similarity with that work ends. Where others might veer towards rude boy dance hall bass-bins, Alan Myson, the man behind iTAL tEK, is working in a different direction entirely. Infusing his tracks with a depth often rare to the genre, he manages to lift his music well above the basic common denominators of the scene.
Burial might have won the garlands for this kind of sad-eyed examination of urban desolation already, but too often dubstep has found itself rooted in the sound of the club, leaving little to take away when the kick wears off. Planet Mu have done as much as anyone to develop the scene, but the sort of reflectiveness that Cyclical allows for here has been frustratingly rare in the scene’s infancy. Whether dubsteppers themselves will embrace this will be seen soon enough, but Myson is right to give it a go. No music can survive successfully for very long when it relies on DJ culture to maintain it, so albums like Cyclical could well mark an important turning point in dubstep’s growth as a form.
Tokyo Freeze is a case in point for that argument, with the stop-start cadence of the dubstep school used as a starting point for a study in low-key melancholy whose distant emotional sense creeps insidiously into the track. Augmented by atmospheric sighs, flickering piano brings delicacy to the brooding beat. Elsewhere, Still Shores is a perfect mix of woebegone introspectiveness and gorgeous, limpid beauty. And, after a couple of darker, bass-inflected drivers, there is time for a half-hidden nod at a Radiohead masterpiece as bookender Deep Pools emerges from the mix. It might play Pyramid Song’s plangent central piano motif in reverse, but few could fail to spot the reference - or the cleverness with which he rearranges it.
The homage is telling in what it reveals about Myson’s musical tastes. Yet it also points to what might be the crucial pull here for fans. Dubstep’s grimy urban ethos is what has made it what it is - but, with albums like Cyclical, it might also be developing that rare and necessary thing: a heart.
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