Building on a strong 2011 – with albums by Sully, L.V and Damu that are still being rinsed – Keysound Recordings kicks off 2012 with the third EP from their mysterious LHF collective. “Cities Of Technology” is the last teaser before the album, set for an April release. As with the previous two EP instalments, it serves to further ramp up the excitement by delivering four cuts (tied together by a loose theme), featuring the same rewarding musical exploration that made the previous releases so essential.
The EP showcases three of the collective’s members – namely Amen Ra, Double Helix and No Fixed Abode – across four cuts. The A side is taken up by two tracks from Double Helix. The opener “Supreme Architecture” is easily my favourite of the lot, even if that’s ultimately not saying much as the entire package is really quite strong. Built around a paranoid sample from “The Matrix”, “Supreme Architecture” nods to both dubstep’s roots – see the work of people like Horsepower and their use of movie samples for mood setting – and what I personally see as the inherent pleasures of re-appropriating samples in the finest cut-and-paste tradition. It’s one thing to use a sample everyone will recognise thanks to its pop culture standing - whacking it over your dance music track - it’s quite another to give it a new context within which to exist, giving the listener a new meaning for an existing reference. That’s something Double Helix achieves brilliantly, over a well-produced track that rolls like the best of them. The use of percussion, eerie female vocals, piercing melodies and deep, almost disturbing bass only add to the paranoid feeling; your brain’s almost instant need to rewind and further delve into the music.
He follows this up with “LDN”, another rolling production that very much feels like the sonic equivalent of walking London’s less populated streets at night. The title might have been a giveaway in that regard. Deep, punching drums and a distant, barely decipherable Jamaican sample carry an understated riddim. He very much goes for the less is more approach and again opts for paranoia as the main emotive feel. Echoes of early DMZ and FWD dances are audible for those that remember them. Though more importantly, considering this is 2012 and “dubstep” just went and won three Grammies two weeks ago, it’s the kind of track that perfectly showcases the original potentials of the genre’s open approach. Someone not acquainted with dubstep’s history, or even just London itself, can still find plenty to get excited about in this music without understanding any of what I’m talking about.
The B side starts off with Amen Ra’s “Essence Investigation”, a cut that makes perfect use of a chopped up rhythmic backbone - blending junglistic inclinations with a hip hop flavour. The breaks find themselves regularly drifting into chaotic sloppiness, while maintaining a funky flavour that’s made all the more pleasant as your brain tries to compute exactly what’s going on. A robust bass underpins it all with wobbly variations brought in at just the right times. Atop it all sit gentle and soothing melodies as well as the cries/laughter of a baby (not quite sure which it is, to be honest). Welcome back to the wonderful world of LHF. The EP is concluded with No Fixed Abode’s “Indian Street Slang”, a production that makes brilliant use of – you guessed right – dusty Indian samples over a half time riddim that’s as much head-nodding hip hop bliss, as it is eyes down skanking bliss. Indian female vocals are combined with flutes and what sounds like slowed down Bollywood film samples, evoking strange mixed visions of Indian slums, Bollywood car chases, dub dances and smoking sessions listening to dusty beats. Pulling that off is no mean feat and the track’s inclusion at the end of the EP feels almost like a taunt from the collective, as if to say “you ain’t heard nothing yet”.
“Cities Of Technology” is great: it’s unafraid of trying things that blatantly shouldn’t work on paper, but turn out great on your speakers. Though perhaps the best thing about it for me – aside from its musical qualities – is simply that it does in 2012 what dubstep used to do so well 6 or7 years ago: giving us tracks that explore a seemingly infinite myriad of potentials, based on core tenants (BPM, deep sub bass) and ignoring any “rules” (which didn’t really exist much back then anyways). Next stop the album then, which based on all of this is bound to be fun.
LHF "EP3: Cities of Technlogy" sampler