Dubstep. Put yourself back in 2008 for a moment; the genre is established but not mainstream. It’s a different sound, a combination of the heavy drum and bass, grime and the rather mellow, electronic, reggae-esque dub. Croydon based Benga is a very significant name here, bringing dubstep to the forefront and truly defining the genre in it’s definition and capability.
Diary of an Afro Warrior is just such a sonic playground and these are tracks that know you are going to be (or have been) on the dancefloor for hours. By complete design it’s well-considered minimalism, it plays with feelings, it pushes, pulls, drives, restrains. Another great thing about this album is that is so listenable out of context, through headphones, to get lost in; so without further ado, let’s get a little lost.
Zero M2 gives us a really relaxed open, just musing and restrained in the beginning and really underlining the “dub” in dubstep. The middle of the track opens the door a little, there’s heaviness to come, and a bass so deep you can actually feel it, fleetingly and it’s gone, we fade to the simple musing opening style and into Night. Deep and dark, opening, establish the sounds, establish some of those beats and… wait for it… That electronic pulse in that riff, it’s so considered against those, really quite urgent, drum beats. So hypnotic! Just with a simple rhythm.
The very next track, B4 the Dual gives us something completely different, much more mid level, sweeter chords in the opening, then quick rhythms and brief bass and a saxophone joins with such an odd melody, completely off beat, I had to write it down (E♭-F♯-F♮-A♮-A♭-B♭-A♮-F♮-A♭-G♮), it’s dark, it’s punchy!
Rather than continuing track by track, some highlights. Someone 20, is just so captivating, it’s the “move yourself” beat but the “be serene” overtones. It feels raw but it has to be calculated, this is an artist who just knows how to control sound. He really plays with sound, 26 Basslines has a really scratchy bass that is another “core-shifter”, just like Crunked Up, simple melodies playing between minor chords and diminished ones, “keep going, keep going” it pushes you and always that ethereal serenity.
Quick honerable mention from Loose Synths, yes they are loose, they’re all over the place yet ever purposeful and towards the single direction, “stay for this set!” they demand.
I’ve used the words already: considered, raw, controlling and calculated. Obviously this is what good dance music should do but it’s so wonderful to here it executed in this way, with a real writing talent. This album is an exploration of what dubstep is capable of and well, it turns out, that’s a fair whack of stuff.
Is this album for you?
It’s dubstep but it’s really well written stuff. This is not a cash-grabbing, quick overload of sounds; it’s measured and solidly delivered. Overall though, one side will say the music is chaotic and another side will say it does nothing with long repetative tracks. For me it’s just allowing these to mix that really makes it. Dip your toes in a little if you’re not familiar and want to give a go. For dance music fans, you need to hear this album.
- Writing: 9/10
- Performance: 8/10
- Style: 9.5/10