After a few years of dominating the "post-dubstep" conversation, it seems that the collective appetite for chopped and pitched R&B vocals, twinkling melodies, and waves of cooing synths has finally begun to subside in recent months. Rectors of the style, like Joy Orbison and James Blake, have moved on to other forms, leaving others to take the reigns, including San Francisco producer Kastle. The bass obsessive continues to dismantle 2-step and dubstep, not only with his own productions, but also via the output of his Symbols label. The imprint's latest release, a three-track EP from Jaw Jam (a.k.a. Will DiMaggio) titled No Sleep, continues in that vein, tinkering with clicking beats, cute bleeps, and distorted vocal blips—but it feels a little too familiar.
The shadow of James Blake's early tunes has loomed large over all of Jaw Jam's releases to date, and No Sleep fails to break away from that mold. The surging, buzzing synths, swaggering beat, and clipped vocal samples on "Long Night" are lovely, but strongly reminiscent of Blake records like the Bell Sketch EP. Jaw Jam definitely has a knack for crafting interesting, cascading broken rhythms punctuated by pockets of silence, a skill best demonstrated by the happy-go-lucky title track, which breaks up a bubbling house clomp into an off-kilter rhythm. "Can't Recall" is another standout, as it exhibits DiMaggio's penchant for dynamic productions that build, ripple, and break down into captivating beats. Still, the palette of sounds he uses on both songs is a bit predictable. Each track on the record is built from the same kit Jaw Jam used on his past EPs, The Truth and Untitled—off-kilter, rimshot-laden percussion, cut-up vocals, and chirping keys abound. These are all pretty and inviting sounds, but it's hard to shake the notion that perhaps Jaw Jam's sonic limitations are starting to cage him in.