Newcomer Etch is the latest artist to be signed to the UK's Keysound label, which has had a strong showing so far this year with the release of Wen's XLR8R Pick'd Commotion EP, E.m.m.a.'s Blue Gardens LP, and the second volume of its Keysound Allstars compilation. The 21-year-old Brighton native's Keysound debut, the Old School Methods EP, operates in the murky space between grime, dubstep, jungle, and UK funky. As the EP's title suggests, Etch's production involves a fair bit of looking back to the mid-'90s era of jungle and pirate radio, but at its best moments, Old School Methods offers an interesting recontextualization of these sounds, rather than simply recapitulating them.
Opening track "Hybrid" asserts a dub-heavy jungle flavor from the track's beginning, with heavily reverbed chords that give way to scattered breakbeats, rave-echoing stabs, and pitched-up vocals. "Sounds" is a collaboration with Wen mentor J-One, and the track adopts a loose, stop-start 2-step beat. On the flipside, "Sphynx" delivers hardened tech-step beats, which are paired with an anthem-baiting vocal sample, while "Lost Methods" deploys a similarly vintage-sounding sample intoning, "This is what I'm talking about, old school methods," which Etch accompanies with cavernous bass and liquid breakbeats. Old School Methods is an undeniably promising release from a young artist; Etch knows his way around a vocal sample, and the producer's appeal to the dubbier strains of the hardcore continuum is especially welcome in a climate where the UK underground is currently dominated by increasingly generic-sounding house. Yet too often Etch's evocation of a lost era of London sounds feels too obvious, and with the exception of stellar opener "Hybrid," the EP tends to fall prey to mere nostalgia.