Can we just go back to calling this dubstep? London's Beneath, a fixture on Martin Clark's Keysound label, makes tracks that are both dubby and steppy and even occasionally employ a bass sound approximated by "wub." Just as importantly, last year's Illusions EP—which was really more like an LP—was visceral and bleak and formally well defined, nautical miles away from the polite, slinky forms designated by descriptively impotent terms like bass music or post-dubstep. Remember that Keysound delivered London collective LHF's Keepers of the Light album last year—in name and deed, a convincing statement that the sound was far from exhausted. At its strongest, the music produced in the name of keeping the faith has been a welcome reminder of the strict, martial pleasures of dubstep per se: steely machine funk for the end times, intended for sinew, gristle, and eventually the ears.
That's not to say that staying within a particular bloodline doesn't have its own pitfalls. Dusk + Blackdown followed up their spectacular Margins Music with the limp Dasaflex, which, in its attempt to sound ebullient, mostly sounded faint, weak, and airless. Beneath's "Strike a Pose" b/w "Bellz" single, for the young Niche 'N Bump label, delivers a fine dose of rigid funk, but in other respects comes across as dry and utilitarian. In short, these are stolidly respectable tunes. A-side "Strike a Pose" falls just shy of the quality found on the shadowy Illusions. The atmosphere laid out by its Zamboni bassline, decorated with a few coarse braps, is like a staircase that leads back to its own base. The drums, aerated by numberless rimshots as evenly spaced as steel rivets, are a strange mixture of torpor and hyperactivity. But the sense of congestion clears up without much trouble on "Bellz," where Beneath flogs another lumpy, menacing circus melody with inflexible rows of hi-hats. Swing Ting's UK funky–oriented "Bellz" remix is a somewhat looser and much brighter cousin to the original. Overall, it's a decent package, albeit one lacking in the nuance that—along with those drums—marks Beneath's best work.