The Bug: London Zoo
Ninja Tune

London Zoo signifies Kevin Martin's full-fledged absorption into London 's dubstep scene, even if the album's rhythms are just as often rooted in dancehall as dubstep. Long-time electronic music listeners will be familiar with Martin's other projects—Techno Animal and God (both with Justin Broadrick), to name two—but The Bug is a radically different animal, though it does share their apocalyptic tone. Put simply, London Zoo's a dizzying and noisy mix of head-nodding rhythms, clattering beats, and slithering bass throb coupled with jackhammer vocal somersaults by Killa P, Flowdan, Warrior Queen, Roots Manuva associate Ricky Ranking, Spaceape, and others (all but one of the hour-long album's dozen songs features vocals).

The hammering dancehall chug of “Angry” and bitter vocal roar of Tippa Irie immediately establish the album's aggressive tone, which is pushed even further when the crazed delirium of “Murder We,” “Jah War,” and “Warning” takes charge. The tracks featuring Warrior Queen are among the album's best. Her (oft-multi-tracked) voice sails confidently over the pummeling broil of “Insane,” and the massive crunch and howl of “Poison Dart” can't overpower her wail either. In a surprising move, Martin takes the decibel level down a few notches for both “You & Me” and “Judgement," thereby providing Roger Robinson and Ranking with (relatively) restrained bases over which to sing, while the brooding instrumental “Freak Freak” offers a refreshing respite from the raucous vocal attack. The participation of Hyperdub MC Spaceape is more than welcome—too bad that something lyrically more palatable than the profanity-laden “Fuckaz” couldn't have been produced for the album. Regardless, it would be wrong to lump The Bug's collection in with Tectonic, Hyperdub, and Tempa releases; though there are commonalities between London Zoo and those labels' offerings, Martin's release very much stands alone.

August 2008