For anyone remotely involved in bass music or dubstep, the last few years have no doubt been something of a challenge. Faced with your favorite genre falling out of fashion, you can either carry on regardless, follow the masses back towards straight 4/4, or try something entirely different. Low-key U.K. artist Spatial (a.k.a Matt Spendlove)—who wasn’t strictly dubstep, but certainly operated on its fringes—did none of those things. Instead he slowed his release rate to a crawl, and in two years has put out just one EP on Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic label and an experimental 12"/DVD offering on Broken20.
Now that the dust has settled on the dubstep fallout, though, both he and his Infrasonics label are back from hiatus. And for that we should be thankful, because what the occasional Well Rounded and West Norwood Cassette Library alumnus offers up on Emergence #1 (the first of a triptych of new EPs lined up for this year) sounds fresh and compelling. Though his discography is indebted to techno and the so called hardcore continuum, this brace of tracks comes off as punchy, cavernous and floaty-light as the best bass hybrids you could wish to hear.
Perfectly physical opener "HeLa" is the one here: elastic, long-legged beats brush up with elegantly smeared synths to create a perfectly swelling groove that sweeps you up from the start. Every surface is buffed and metallic, which lends the whole thing a certain sense of crisp futurism—but pricks of 303 and more pixelated chords rough things up later on, reminding us that Spatial can do the minutiae as well as he can do the muscle. That is even more obvious on flip-side effort "Referent." Here, the synths are more like twisted stabs than graceful smears, as they cut in and out next to claps full of attack and above loose broken beats. Rising, falling, and threatening to collapse at any moment, barely-there sirens and spaceship reverb add depth and character to what is a zoned-out and brilliantly intergalactic affair. Spatial and his space-bass sounds, then, still offer lots to love.