Zhou Locust Tree
Although Bristol's Young Echo collective counts leftfield artists like Vessel and Kahn among its ranks, their counterpart Zhou has so far presented a more traditional approach. While the duo's peers have lately released everything from gloomy, dissociative atmospherics to scrambled mixtapes of pirate-radio grime, Zhou has appeared rooted in the city's take on dubstep, predominantly focusing on dubwise space and depth. As such, it's fitting that the pair has been snapped up by Peverelist's venerable Punch Drunk, for which Locust Tree is the outfit's second effort.
The title track is a haunted steppers' tune in the vein of vintage Skull Disco, or indeed Peverelist himself. Zhou is adept at developing pre-drop tension, and there is a palpable sense of anticipation in the song's early minutes, prior to the entry of the obligatory subs. The duo underlines the track with ominous, Middle Eastern-flavored synthetics, which gain a droning feel as they're swathed in delay. At points, they're searingly filtered upwards, heightening the already imposing arrangement's sense of dread. While Zhou expertly cultivates this feeling, the lack of percussive development keeps the piece somewhat inert. The track's dub, meanwhile, is punctuated by a descending pattern of metallic bleeps. The stark, pad-like atmospherics are intact, but the drums are lent a tumbling step. It's a shorter track, lasting only four minutes, but in a way, it feels like the drop that never fully comes on the original. Zhou offers as solid a take on true-school dubstep as anyone, but the pair might do well to absorb some of its friends' experimentalism in coaxing that drop.
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