All of the sudden, Dubbel Dutch is everywhere. Sure, the Austin-based producer's name has been bandied about for a couple of years as one of the leading US producers turning out what's now being referred to as bass music, but, until recently, there weren't many official Dubbel Dutch releases to be found. Nevertheless, anyone who follows the blogosphere could easily see that the man is an incredibly prolific producer; his tunes and remixes have been littering various DJs' sets for awhile, so it was just a matter of time until the floodgates opened. Earlier this year, he dropped a double white-label 12" on Dutty Artz, which was followed by the stellar "B Leave" single on UTTU. Now, he's offering up the Hymn EP, a four-track effort and his first release for Dre Skull's Mixpak label, which recently added Dubbel Dutch to its official artist roster.
Dubbel Dutch's strength has always lain in his drum work, and Hymn does not disappoint on that front. While the drum patterns may not mirror those of UK funky, the producer has certainly cribbed notes from the percussion-heavy genre, insofar that his drums always sound big and clean while riding high in the mix. Part of what makes Dubbel Dutch so interesting is that he filters this approach through an obvious love for hip-hop, dancehall, and various Latin/African rhythms, all of which gives his production a uniquely propulsive sound. This is especially true on "Darq," the clear highlight of the EP and a song that largely eschews melody in favor of pounding drums, ominous chords, and a dark synth pulse that recalls Untold's best work. Similarly successful is the EP's first track, "Open Up," a subtly hyperactive tune that employs multiple layers of percussion while pulling heavily from grime's sound palette. The track also manages to utilize a sample of a barking dog without seeming trite or annoying; in fact, the sound only adds to the song's eerie feel.
More upbeat is the EP's latter half, as "Heartbruk" and "Hymn" both find Dubbel Dutch experimenting with more overt melodies. Unfortunately, the results are mixed. The former features some absolutely stellar and complex percussion, but also rolls out a questionable synth that's somewhere between an '80s movie soundtrack and a dancehall slow jam. While it doesn't derail "Heartbruk" completely—the drums are too good for that—the melodic interludes detract from the song's momentum and might have been better left on the cutting room floor. "Hymn" suffers a similar fate, although its upbeat synths are even more prominent. While the track's synthesized horns and airy primary melody were likely meant as some kind of hook, they ultimately sound a bit saccharine and, yes, cheesy.
That being said, the Hymn EP is an effort with far more strengths than weaknesses, and although its second half does sputter, it's clear that Dubbel Dutch is an immensely talented producer. With that arsenal of drums in his pocket and more Mixpak releases planned for 2012, it's a safe bet that Dubbel Dutch will right the ship the next time around.