03.04.2010, Words by Charlie Jones

Cloud Seed/Contact, Love, Want, Hate

For many, Dubstep is now more of an aesthetic than a sound. Producers like Addison Groove aka Headhunter make juke, Benga flirts with Baltimore club and Ramadanman is rewiring old house and techno.

Making Post-Dubstep at a time when Dubstep itself was still developing, VEX’D‘s life as a duo seemed to splinter along with the scene itself. Started around 2006, ‘Cloud Seed’ was meant to be the London pair’s second album but was aborted mid-way through when the duo went their separate paths. Though never finished (it’s padded out here with remixes of Plaid, Distance and Gabriel Prokofiev, son of Russian classical legend Sergei), it feels virtually complete, though it’s a less pummelling beast than their debut. More concerned with building dank, foreboding soundscapes for torture dungeons than Degenerate’s blistering punk garage, it’s a gloomy, gloomy industrialised spin on the half-step era, bearing as much in common with Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle as The Bug or Distance. The brilliant Take Time Out with Warrior Queen aside, the remixes and tracks with vocalists prove to be its least satisfying points, with the sub-Portishead Heart Space and Disposition with anonymous raps from New Yorker Jest (not to be confused with UK hip hopper Jehst) doing little to stop you suspecting they might have worked better as instrumentals. Though inevitably not the follow-up hoped for – you wouldn’t mind some of Degenerate’s rhythmic vigour making the occasional entrance, it’s hard to see why Vex’d lost interest.

Like Hyperdub labelmate Quarta 330, former Post-Hardcore drummer IKONIKA seems happiest making music to soundtrack imaginary video games. Opening and penultimate tracks Ikonoklast and Look even have their titles bracketed with arcade game commands ‘insert coin’ and ‘final boss stage’. So it’s probably no surprise that much of ‘Contact, Love, Want, Have’ sounds like an advanced Nintendo game – albeit a woozily melancholy one – inhabiting the body of the dozen or so genres Ikonika puts her sleek stamp on; Dubstep, Funky, Bleep, 80s R&B and the wriggling lead lines of LA’s G-Funk some of the most obvious. Fit to bust, these tracks are restless, often to the point where you wouldn’t mind a less maximalist tack or arrangements with more breathing space. Tilted more towards mazes of dense synth layering than the hookiness of early singles Please and Simulacrum, it’s an enveloping full-length, but at close to 60 minutes, can almost seem too seamless for its own good. The pristine textures could do with a few rough edges, as on the jagged They Are All Losing The War, to break things up a little. But even if CLWH can seem too much of a muchness, Ikonika is still a dazzling synth technician. Dubstep or otherwise.

‘Cloud Seed’ came out at the end of March and ‘Contact, Love, Want, Have’ is out on the 6th April

Like this? Read our review of Mux Mool’s new album ‘Skull Taste’ here

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