Deadbeat: Walls and Dimensions
Fourteen years on since Primordia (originally released on Intr_version, the album was reissued on BLKRTZ in 2013) introduced his music to the world, Scott Monteith's Deadbeat project continues to evolve and develop in surprising and—most importantly—rewarding ways. After releasing a handful of albums on ~scape (plus one on Wagon Repair), the Canadian-born, Berlin-based producer inaugurated his own BLKRTZ label in 2011 with Drawn and Quartered and followed it up with Eight and The Infinity Dub Sessions, the latter a collaboration with Paul St Hilaire. In contrast to the raw'n'rootsy dub character of those releases, Walls and Dimensions signifies something of a re-imagining of the Deadbeat concept. Vestiges of dub remain, but stylistically the material branches out into territory that until now has played a largely tangential role in his music. Listening to Drawn and Quartered at the time of its release, it would have been hard to imagine that Monteith only a few years later would be digging into house-related material tailor-made for a festival presentation.
In another artist's hands, that might be a bad thing, but not so in Monteith's. Yes, some of the material on Walls and Dimensions is comparatively more accessible than some of what he's created, but it also retains the customary artfulness and sophistication of the prototypical Deadbeat production. Monteith's handling of pacing, sound design (in terms of both sonority and spatial definition), and compositional development are as fine-tuned on the new material as they've been in the past, and the listener comes away from the recording struck by its refined execution. Dub-techno is generally the genre into which Deadbeat is slotted, but, as mentioned, Walls and Dimensions strays outside that template, with blues-soaked tracks, soulful house bangers, and even an ambient-drone soundscape part of the playlist. The fundamental diversity of the material is bolstered by the involvement of guests, with vocal performances by Fink, Delhia de France, and Elif Becir (and on one cut Monteith himself) and cello contributions by Maarten Vos adding to the album's appeal.
While Monteith has clearly encountered his fair share of obstacles since his recording and performing career began, recent days presented a crippling series of challenges, among them business-related pressures and personal tragedy (the death of his father-in-law in an accident). But rather than giving in to despair, Walls and Dimensions champions resilience and determination, as evidenced by track titles such as “Keep on Pushing” and “Got to Carry On”; Monteith even works Dylan Thomas into the proceedings in threading lines from “Do not go gentle into that good night” into “Rage Against the Light.”
Fink adds a deliciously soulful vocal to the blues-reggae skank of “Ain't No More Flowers,” a slow-builder that Monteith gradually shapes into a engrossing dubwise production. Here and elsewhere, his unerring talent for assembling elements into hypnotic, interrelated wholes is evident, the inclusion of Vos's textural enhancements at track's end a prime example. The bluesy tone carries over to “I Get Low” in Monteith's mantra-like chant of the title, but the kinetic thrust of the cut's snappy house swing oozes rave-ready uplift and abandon. Thereafter Delhia de France complements the exuberant charge of “Rage Against the Light” (even if her delivery does veer a little too explicitly into Bjork territory at one point), and Elif Becir elevates the deep house dynamism of “Got to Carry On” with a magnificently soulful vocal that oozes an undeniable, early Diana Ross-like charm. Dedicated to his late father-in-law, the ambient elegy “Lights for Lele” is here presented in a fourteen-minute form, the cyclonic colossus also available in a forty-minute version on the vinyl-only Walls and Dimensions I issued prior to the full-length.If there's a weakness to the album, it's the lack of cohesiveness that inevitably results when tracks of such diverse character are released together. It's a small price to pay, however, when the payoff is the ongoing vitality of the Deadbeat project. Rather than painting himself into a corner on this tenth Deadbeat full-length, Monteith shows himself to be a master of re-invention, someone impressively capable of invigorating the project with new life from one year to the next.