Sheffield's The Black Dog has a substantial legacy to manage. Slapped with the unfortunate IDM tag early on, the lineup-shifting trio has neither balked at nor played to expectations, resulting in a consistent body of work. As a result, its latest EP for hometown label Dust Science, The Return ov Bleep, invokes the city's bleep n' bass heritage in name and deed, but doesn't offer much beyond a retread of the style. Dialing down the ambient elements that make its music so suitable to home listening, the four "Bleeps" here pass pleasantly enough, but fail to make a lasting impression, despite the trio's truth-to-power rhetoric.
Appropriately enough, the EP opens with a clip from Michael Moore's Sicko, making the group's political allegiances clear before laying down a squelchy, rolling techno number. As is typical of its productions, "Bleep Four" sounds clean and considered, a seamless puzzle of hardware that locks into place perfectly but sacrifices some essential energy in doing so. The Black Dog seems to sense this, eventually bringing in a pumping, sub-Reese bass line to bolster the arrangement and underscore a general sense of paranoia lurking under the sculpted surface. The more blackened "Bleep Two" continues the unresolved tension without developing it much, while "Bleep One" stands out for adding some syncopation into the mix, along with a cheery dial-up melody, indirectly evoking a quick-and-dirty grime aesthetic that's a welcome change of pace. "Bleep Five" rounds out the EP with a final helping of buzzing techno, its ratcheting hi-hats and vapor-trail bass sounding somewhat more hungry that what came before. The Return ov Bleep deftly upholds The Black Dog's reputation, but has limited appeal for initiates looking for a sense of where UK techno is at these days.