Kontext: Dispersal
Absys Records

When not releasing music under the Kontext name, St. Petersburg, Russia-based DJ-and-producer Stanislav Sevostyanikhin also operates in the drum'n'bass world as Dissident. But if Dispersal is anything, it's assuredly not a drum'n'bass recording. More to the point, the ten-track, hour-long collection—the first Kontext album since 2009's Dissociate—resists easy genre classification, with a representative track such as “Addicted to Disaster” suggesting connections to a number of styles—house, techno, and dub among them—without limiting itself to one only. “Worldbridger” similarly defies categorization in its late-night blend of dub (bass lines), jazz (electric guitar shadings), and drum'n'bass (groove). In Dispersal's case, it maybe makes the most sense to go with the generic electronica label and leave it at that.

While Sevostyanikhin's Kontext tracks are fundamentally instrumental in nature, he liberally weaves samples, specifically spoken passages taken from films (one from The Dark Knight of Michael Caine as Alfred pronouncing “Some men just want to watch the world burn” shows up at the end of “Primordial Soup,” for example), into the arrangements. Used as prominently as they are, the actors' lines begin to assume the role normally taken by vocal melodies. Generally dark in tone, the sampled voice content adds to the brooding, noir-like mood of the typical Kontext track. “Nameless Things With No Memory” opens the album with an atmospheric electronic-dub workout, while “Time Travel in His Sleep,” a frothy blend of house and dub that's at times reminiscent of Deadbeat, also catches one's ear for its high-energy charge. Elsewhere, “Refracted Man” and “Moon Whispers” serve up drum'n'bass and dub-house swing, respectively, while “Sneaking Sculpture,” with its downtempo headnod, adds hip-hop flavour to the mix.

High production values are solidly in place from start to finish, and Sevostyanikhin brings each of the ten pieces to a satisfying level of completeness. The typical Kontext piece is a densely detailed affair of five- to six-minutes duration; there's certainly no shortage of aural stimulation present to hold one's attention, and beats crackle and pop as they muscle their way through the thick masses of voices and electronic textures. If there's a weakness to the album, it's that no particular tracks stand out as better than others, resulting in a rather homogenous effect that implies the album should best be regarded as a complete entity rather than as a collection whose tracks vary in quality.

December 2014