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DJ Hatcha Dubstep Allstars Vol. 1

Just the other day I saw DJ Storm of Metalheadz play at Brooklyn's Halycon Caf?, a hip little lounge known for its impeccable soundsystem, and was immediately struck: Storm in a lounge-cafe? A veteran from one of the roughest drum & bass crews gets to rinse dubplates to hipsters on couches? Barely anyone wanted to dance, and it wasn't cause they weren't hip to Storm. What's going on here? Something's missing. When I heard Dubstep Allstars, a mix-CD of tunes by the small producer clan from the newest mutant genre from London' realized what's missing-or rather, what's needed. When dub is too lethargic, drum & bass too aggressive, garage too shimmery, and commercial hip-hop too cluttered with dumb vocals, dubstep-around a cool 150 bpm-finds the balance. Twitchy hi-hats and two-step snares are snagged from the vacuous garage/Timbaland ether by the oozingest bass, just when you thought bass could get no more concrete. The result is so solid and visceral that only the subtlest hint of soundboy violence exists. DJ Hatcha gathers as well-rounded a group of producers as could be expected in such a young genre, focusing on Benny Ill, Horsepower, Benga and himself to present a laid-back, danceable journey into the space between. Running the range of cutty breaks and militant mash-ups, it's the minimal tunes that stand out. Less is more on Benga's "Hatcha-du" an isolated, rugged break that furiously snaps the ragged bass into place. Foreshadowing "Hatcha-dub," Benga & Skream distort some heavy wah-wah bass reminiscent of hardstep drum & bass moved by heaving snares on "The Judgment." The largest bass-and that's saying a lot here-rumbles strongest on Benga's "Amber," while Menta's "Rubba" bass lurches from left to psychedelic right. Midway through the mix, a curious flute flutters through several tracks, surreal in its organic isolation, highlighting the strange playfulness of this genre. Hatcha closes things with his doom-laden, bombastic "Conga Therapy," as congas bounce between digital crashes. Dubstep is conspicuously, perhaps blissfully, without chatter. It rolls and feints effortlessly along the rhythms with very occassional samples, going beyond dub in its quiet spaciousness. Sometimes, like on Horsepower's "Sholay," even the drum and bass combination relies on poignant spaces, while distant wails waver and echo. "Sholay" is followed by El-B's "Amazon," which similarly duets bass and drums to knockin' garage-style syncopation while an eerie horn reaches for infinity. In fact, the whole mix feels like an extended dub version of an A-side vocal track, bass purity guided by gentle 150 bpm drum two-stepping. DJ Hatcha's Dubstep does the two-step march on Babylon, a patient cyborg, blissfully twitchy and confidently deliberate. Bold, almost painterly strokes of bass streak across the space, indelibly marking the post-future with sparks of snares, nestled satisfyingly between the hardcore, the yardcore, and the blingcore, just when Chuck Chillout needs a dire kick in the ass.

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