Sheffield's Beneath (a.k.a. Ben Walker) made major waves last year with his introductory string of EPs: two self-released on his No Symbols imprint, and one for Dusk + Blackdown's forward-facing Keysound Recordings. Like so much current British dance music, Walker's sound is difficult to pin down, though UK funky's frenetic syncopations are a clear reference point. In any case, there's an impressive, stripped-down seriousness about his work; his tracks are primarily showcases for expert drum programming and leaden sub-bass weight, and all other frills are secondary. Simply put, their rhythms tend to be adventures in themselves. "Duty" b/w "Texers," his latest 12" and first for dubstep institution Tectonic, continues Walker's brilliant run of starkly aggressive tracks.
"Duty" begins with a sound like a clock being wound, an apt beginning for a track that unfolds with the tension of a ticking time bomb. Walker's maze-like arrangement only truly begins to make sense at high volumes—its swing is deeply ingrained, and its robust subs are not simply low-end accoutrements but essential parts of the rhythm. The drum moves feel inherently spontaneous, even dipping into straightforward 4/4 at one point, while dubbed-out synth lines lend some overhead menace. Even more ferocious is "Texers," a thrill ride of punishing snare rolls and plunging basslines. Walker plays a shrill, bleeping melody on top, which would sound almost happy-go-lucky if not for the track's immense sub pressure, which drags it into derangement. As with Walker's other releases, these tracks get by on what they aren't, and their visceral construction and lack of pop concession places them in a lineage that runs back to the bluntest UK hardcore.