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  • Filed under: Review
  • 10/21/2013

Deco Timescales

Timescales, the debut album by Los Angeles-based producer Deco, explores different eras and intervals of electronic music, specifically the bass-driven sounds of the past 15 years. But rather than relying on vintage gear, such as Roland synths or primitive samplers, this album is produced with current software, resulting in a sonic quality that is very much in the present tense. perhaps that's why its dozen tracks sound like a natural presentation of ideas and feelings rather than a stilted exercise in techno authenticity. The comfort level heard on Timescales is likely the result of this producer's extensive music experiences and passion for soundsystem culture in general.

Deco is the alias of Matt Rosenzweig, a former Atlanta college-radio DJ who's been residing in LA for the past seven years. As an active club DJ since 2006, he's found himself behind the decks at mega-raves such as Electric Daisy Carnival and Avalon. Thankfully, the high-profile gigs didn't skew his sense of what works best in bass music, namely richly designed but uncluttered songs with space for the listener to actually hear all the nuances, and, of course, absorb those undulating sub frequencies.

Primarily a dubstep affair, Timescales looks back to the genre's early roots, the sounds first heard in Croydon underground parties and pirate-radio broadcasts. The stripped-down, reggae- and dub-heavy influences of Scuba, Distance, Youngsta, and Horsepower Productions seem to lurk in the background on tracks like "Musical Family," which features eerie, echoing chords and fragments of Jamaican speech. What's striking is how fresh Deco makes this 12-year-old blueprint sound. The synth work is crisp, while the audio panning and percussive elements are sharp and precisely arranged. Of course there is some nostalgia involved in digging into dubstep's past, especially given its maximalist and bombastic present state, but the material on Timescales merely shows proper reverence rather than aping any earlier producers' style wholesale.

Pieces like "Skyline 3040" and "Timescales" operate on thudding half-tempo grooves, the leaden steps of a heavy kick drum augmented by delicate synth notes sprinkled in like raindrops over fog-bank-thick melodic pads. It's almost an effervescent listening experience. There's also a fair amount of club-friendly, get-you-out-dancing tracks—tear-out business that DJs will find completely useful—like "Cali Trunk Rattle," a track with a swagger reminiscent of Matty G's mid-2000s hip-hop/dubstep hybrids on Argon Records. "At Most Sphere" has an early UK garage swing, rattling rimshot hits, and a punchy bass pattern, while "Power Transfer" opts for traditional four-four drum arrangement and a dub-house feel. The latter, although structurally much different from the album's other tracks, is one of the set's strongest.

Dub effects and references are scattered throughout the album, but they're most explicit on "Trenchtown," a growling, prowling panther of a track that has the feel of walking through the tension-filled cramped back alleys of the Kingston neighborhood referenced in the title. It's an evocative piece that sounds like the work of a dubstep scene veteran rather than this LA producer's debut album. That lack of pretense, and the consistently strong compositional techniques—including well-placed samples, complex sound design elements, and interesting percussion sounds—make Timescales worthy of repeat plays. In his looking-back-to-look-forward approach, Deco has found a way to pay homage to electronic music's recent past while looking forward to a future worth hearing.

Dub effects and references are scattered throughout the album, but they're most explicit on "Trenchtown," a growling, prowling panther of a track that has the feel of walking through the tension-filled cramped back alleys of the Kingston neighborhood referenced in the title. It's an evocative piece that sounds like the work of a dubstep scene veteran rather than something from an LA producer's debut album. That lack of pretense, and the consistently strong compositional techniques—including well-placed samples, complex sound-design elements, and interesting percussion sounds—make Timescales worthy of repeat plays. In his looking-back-to-look-forward approach, Deco has found a way to pay homage to electronic music's recent past while simultaneously looking forward to a future that's worth hearing.

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