Together as Dusky, Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman have formed an uncommonly dependable partnership. With each Dusky record that has surfaced since 2011, listeners and—perhaps more importantly—DJs have learned that the London pair could be counted on for at least one effective (and usually rather catchy) garage/bass/house hybrid per effort. With its first release of 2014, Dusky has come up with another piece of well-mannered club music, taking only the smallest steps outside of its comfort zone in the process. The outfit's dependability may be unshaken as a result, but "9T8" is ultimately far from exciting.
"Painting by numbers" is a criticism thrown at dance music a bit too often, especially when one considers that house and techno are largely formulaic to begin with, having their basic rhythmic structure and bpm range determined simply by the nature of the genre. Still, something about the charge rings true for Dusky here. Although there are a few aspects of "9T8" that sound new to the group's palette—the track is a touch more rugged and aggressive than "Nobody Else" or "Flo Jam"—the tune is nonetheless still largely devoid of spontaneity. Even with its charming set of airy chords and occasional rhythmic flairs, "9T8" is just too easy and predictable of a ride; a quality to be lauded in some spheres of electronic production perhaps, but certainly not when it comes to underground club music. "9T8" can even teeter on being monotonous, especially with the overuse of the song's titular vocal sample, the irrelevance of which is hammered home by unnecessary repetition and its prevalence in the mix.
At the same time, "9T8" is not going to scare anyone off the dancefloor, and futhermore, the pair of accompanying reworks (one for the vinyl and another for the record's digital release) from Horsepower Productions affiliate Benny Ill actually do manage to inject a bit character into the track. Still, it's hard to view Dusky's first record of the new year as anything especially remarkable. When one considers that the brand of clean-cut garage hybrids Dusky helped shape is becoming more and more commonplace by the day, records like this are not doing the duo any favors when it comes to standing out from the growing fray.
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