Silkie: City Limits Volume 2
VA: Deep Medi Releases Volume 3
More than anything else, City Limits Volume 2 impresses for showing the degree to which Silkie (Solomon Rose) repeatedly transcends conventions associated with the dubstep genre through the force of imagination and artistry. A case in point is the album opener “Feel,” a collaboration between Silkie and Truth (New Zealand duo Andre Fernandez and Tristan Roake), which sneaks up on the listener by starting in a laid-back mode before the heavy artillery arrives, in this case a broiling dubstep groove that grows dubbier as the minutes tick by. It's a rich and elegant start to an album that never fails to reward with musicality and imagination. Yes, there's wobble aplenty but also so much more. Hear, for example, how effortlessly “Snowed In,” a pairing with French Dubstep producer Von D, works elements of rave, house, funk, and jazz into its hyperactive storm, and “Get Up N Dance” twists bass-heavy dubstep into a straight-up banger, with a honking sax riff, no less, leading the charge. Elsewhere Silkie gives jungle a fresh rinse in “Selva Nova,” a hard-grooving stepper that's even a little bit prog-inflected in its synthesizer blaze, and even works a smattering of jazz fusion into “Only For You.”
Like his 2009 Deep Medi Musik debut album City Limits Volume 1, the new collection takes its inspiration from his home base of Hammersmith in London and, apparently, a special selection of about forty tracks that he continually returns to and that includes trip-hop, old-school rap, and R'n'B slow jams. That he does so is borne out by the broad stylistic range encompassed by the album's dozen tracks, which work rich swathes of funk, electro, dub, and soul into its jams. On the one hand there's “Lucky,” a lush take on dubstep enhanced by soulful female vocal punctuations, and “Outlook,” a dreamy outro of lilting rhythms and summery atmosphere; on the other, there are “New York City,” about as powerful a head-nodder as one would expect given the title, plus Silkie's untitled collaboration with Skream, which hits just as hard. For sixty-five minutes, forceful bangers rub shoulders with silkier takes, and Silkie rolls out one dubstep jewel after another, with each track boasting an arrangement that manages to be polished without sacrificing energy or momentum in the process.
He also contributes two tracks to Deep Medi Releases Volume 3, a twelve-track compilation that also features two tracks apiece from Clouds, Goth-Trad, Skream, Truth, and Quest. Established in 2006, Deep Medi Musik is owned and operated by Digital Mystikz member Mala and has issued material by the likes of Kromestar, Hijak, Coki, Loefah, Goth-Trad, Silkie, and Quest, among others. Just as the label's first volume covered the first five EPs and the second the next five, so too does the third volume, which naturally features material issued on EPs eleven through sixteen.
Silkie shows his softer side with the light-footed reggae lilt of “Poltergeist,” while “Sky's The Limit” is as strong as anything on City Limits Volume 2. Clouds (Helsinki production team Tommi Liikka and Samuli Tanner) leaves its own unique finerprint on the genre by adding the sweetly cooing vocals of Tiiu to their “Protecting Hands Part 2.” Powered by a heavy snare-and-kick drum combination, Skream's slow-moving “Backwards” is as crushing as a steamroller, while his more animated “Shinein” grinds with forceful determination. In keeping with its title, “Stolen Children” by Truth exudes a brooding and downcast spirit; by contrast, the group's “Fatman” is a ten-ton wobbler that's got club hellraiser written all over it. In addition, Goth-Trad (Tokyo-based Takeaki Maruyama) and Quest respectively contribute a squiggly electro-banger (“S.A.T.U.R.N.”) and a slightly jazzier treatment (“Eden”). But top of the pops in this case is Quest's mighty “Stand,” which gets ample mileage from a dramatic voiceover sample (“And the generation that's coming up now can see it and are not afraid to say it”) that helps deepen the already dark ambiance of the bass-heavy moodscape. Its nine-minute running time also allows Quest to shift gears halfway through by stripping away the beats for a delicate vocal-tinged episode before easing the controlled thunder back in. Like Silkie's own album, Deep Medi Releases Volume 3 shows how flexible the genre can be when entrusted to individuals interested in doing more than following roads already traveled.