Rhythm Nation Part 4: Pinch & Distance

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Deep, dubby, cheeky, metallic. For the next several weeks, XLR8R will profile eight young DJ/producers exploring different facets of dubstep, the low-end sound of the London underground. Up this week, a London metalhead and a Bristolian dub dude issue the scene’s most surprising bass monsters.

Both Pinch and Distance are dubstep iconoclasts, making deep contributions to the bass-powered scene while standing just outside the spotlight that’s fallen on Skream, Digital Mystikz, and Kode 9. Distance (a.k.a. Greg Sanders of London) has a Jekyll and Hyde nature to his productions, balancing propulsive dance tear-outs like “Traffic” and “Taipan” with tightly wound, highly controlled creations like “Cyclops” and “Feel Me.” The world got a taste of his metal influences and apocalyptic atmospheres on last year’s My Demons, released on Planet Mu, and they’ll get even more with the recent launch of his Chestplate label.

About two hours west of London, Bristol’s Rob “Pinch” Ellis is busy running his Tectonic label, as well as producing some of dubstep’s most distinctive records, including 2006’s “Qawwali” (Planet Mu). While Tectonic releases from the likes of Skream, Loefah, Moving Ninja, and Hijak often show the influences of techno on the dubstep sound, Ellis stunned the scene with the November ’07 release of Underwater Dancehall. Influenced by Bristol’s deep Jamaican music traditions, the record is 10 stunning tracks (eight of them with original vocals) of slinky beats and deep, dubby bass. It’s as close as dubstep has come to producing a dancehall album, and its unique songs landed it on many a year-end top 10 list. “It’s one of the only albums I can listen to the whole way through,” offers Distance.

These two producers’ tastes for the more leftfield and boundary-pushing sides of the genre means they often DJ together, pulling off a mini-tour of the U.S. last May, with dates in New Zealand, Japan, and the Ukraine (“I didn’t know what to expect,” says Distance, “but the reception was mindblowing.”) Despite the world traveling, their favorite gig of last year was the two tag-team sets they played at the second birthday party of London’s DMZ night. “They had to open downstairs in [London club] Mass to accommodate all the people who’d turned up and couldn’t get in,” says Pinch. With the sound expanding rapidly–and Pinch and Distance unafraid to take risks with their records–it won’t be the last time.

Rhythm Nation
Part 1: Skream
Part 2: Benga
Part 3: Caspa & Rusko
Part 5: Cluekid & Cotti