Benga: Diary of an Afro Warrior

Like all innovators, Beni “Benga” Adejumo doesn't just riff on a genre's defining characteristics but re-defines the genre, even if only subtly, by treating its foundation as a springboard that frees him to elastically reshape it through the sheer force of imagination. On Diary Of An Afro Warrior, the ground doesn't shift anywhere near as much as it does on Burial and Untrue; instead, the Croydon, London-based twenty-two-year-old extends dubstep's playing field by stretching its stylistic reach into promising new directions.

Admittedly, the sixty-four-minute set includes enough trademark bass wobble and lurching beats to satisfy the resident dubstep fanatic but it offers much more. That's clearly apparent in “B4 The Dual,” for example, when Benga arrestingly slips a multi-tracked tenor saxophone over the track's broiling beats and subterranean bass, and when a sci-fi warble straight out of Dr. Who oozes over a swaying electro trot in “Someone 20.” The synth swarm in “Cut” is so heavy it could lacerate flesh, while the squiggly Moog squeal and guttural bass croak in “26 Basslines” is certainly ear-catching too. The sexy female voice drawling “Pleasure, give you pleasure” in the similarly-titled cut may be the album's most potent hook but the tune's slinky electro-house swing is tasty too.

Benga isn't afraid to let his titles do the talking either: “Night” suggests a forest shrouded in darkness by layering owl-like cascades and amphibian croaks over a steamy, percussion-heavy groove; sing-song melodies trace maze-like paths over skeletal beats in “Crunked Up”; in “Go Tell Them” android voices suggest commands uttered by an alien tribe to cowering earthlings; and in “Light Bulb” a chiming motif oscillates amidst babbling vocalisms. There's even an occasional nod to other artists—a case in point the atmospheric, jazz-tinged “Zero M2” whose bass hook is a seeming nod to Roni Size's “Brown Paper Bag.”

May 2008