Vex'd Cloud Seed
Reviewed by Tal Rosenberg Source: (Pitchfork)
Cloud Seed mostly comprises tracks the duo of Jamie Teasdale and Roly Porter recorded nearly four years ago-- and it sounds like it. If Teasdale's incarnation as either Jamie Vex'd or Kuedo indicates dubstep's present fixation on lush, sparkly textures, then the tracks on Cloud Seed represent the genre's more aggressive and haunting beginnings. One could place Kuedo's cuts in someone's hotboxed car or at the warm-up stage of a DJ set. The compositions on Cloud Seed, on the other hand, are what one would imagine playing when Skynet unleashes its army of Terminators on the unsuspecting masses.
Big-budget, dystopian, futuristic sci-fi films are not an accidental reference. In an interview with Beatportal, Jamie Vex'd acknowledged such films as Blade Runner, Aliens, and Ghost in the Shell as major influences on his work. The connection is difficult to overlook, as the alternately thunderous and calm scores of those films are recalled through Cloud Seed's monolithic beats; violent, enormous bass infestations; and echoed, scraped sound effects. On certain pieces, the drums vanish, only to be replaced with elegiac strings or low frequency, rumbling drones. Few, if any, of the songs here are galvanizing, though they can be invigorating. Cloud Seed conjures a distinct atmosphere of dread, more akin to Nine Inch Nails or the mid-1990s work of Autechre than to the melancholic work of Burial or even the turbulent and rudeboy elements of the Bug.
Vex'd's 2005 debut, Degenerate, contentiously heralded by some as the first proper dubstep album, exhibits the DNA of the genre's influences: grime, 2-step, jungle. The music on Cloud Seed sheds some of its chromosomes: Where Degenerate is often characterized by busy and condensed percussion, increasing the music's tempo and syncopation, Cloud Seed provides more space between beats, demonstrating dub's spaciousness and languor. But Cloud Seed retains Degenerate's menace, so that the music is a logical progression, though the differences between are evident.
Vex'd had little role in the assemblage of Cloud Seed-- though they were active in selecting which tracks would be included, the sequencing is almost entirely the work of Mike Paradinas, the managing director of Planet μ Records. He deserves a good deal of credit for the album's cohesion, its unity of purpose, and prominent arc. The opening track, "Take Time Out", ruggedly sets the stage, Warrior Queen spitting nails through a lurching beat, piercing digital tones and dingy echoes of percussion. The structure of the album is far from typical, as moodier, enigmatic tracks don't always necessarily follow belligerent ones. But when they do, like when the duo's eerie remix of John Richards' "Suite for Piano & Electronics" shadows the comparatively sprightly and humid "Disposition", it fits within the flow of the album.
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