Drawn and Quartered
Every recording Scott Monteith has issued during his Deadbeat project's twelve-year run has been a surprise in one way or another. He structured a number of his ~scape full-lengths in terms of album-length narratives (2005's New World Observer one such example), whereas his most recent album of original material, 2008's Roots and Wire (Wagon Repair) received a boost from the vocal presence of Paul St Hilaire (Tikiman). One of 2010's best mix discs, Radio Rothko (the Agriculture), found Monteith schooling listeners in the art of dub-techno, and only a few months ago the Echocord Jubilee Comp. included a fabulous Deadbeat contribution in the form of the ultra-skanky “House of Vampires.” To be frank, I'd expected his new release, Drawn and Quartered (on his own newly established BLKRTZ imprint) to perpetuate the high-energy attack of his most recently issued material so was initially taken aback to discover its five tracks to be not only long-form (each pushing beyond the ten-minute mark) but also relatively laid-back and heavily rootsy in character. Of course, first impressions are exactly that, and one's reception of a work evolves with repeated exposure to it. Not surprisingly, in this case the album grows in substance and strength the more one listens to it, as its textural richness grows more conspicuous with each revisitation.
Drawn and Quartered reveals that Monteith hasn't let his sound be pulled into dubstep's orbit but if anything has plunged even more deeply into dub in its purer form. That's immediately apparent when the opening track, “First Quarter,” lays out a slow-moving whirlpool of bass-heavy undulations and textural swirls. For almost twelve minutes, elements ebb and flow within a black sea built up from granular synthesis, field recordings, and recorded instrument sounds, and the roiling throb of the bass undertow grows progressively more potent as the piece develops. The pace quickens during the slow-burning “Second Quarter,” Monteith's self-professed homage to the now-retired ~scape label, whose simmer becomes gradually more insistent, locomotive, and funky as Monteith sprinkles the track with synthetic dust. “Third Quarter (The Vampire of Mumbai)” inhabits a humid and becalmed oasis before allowing muffled traces of bass, horns, and congas to seep in and expand the track's sonic breadth. Near the end of the crackle-infested piece, the rhythms drop out altogether and the mix briefly contracts until “Fourth Quarter (Cala's House)” invests the album with its rootsiest moment in a deeply reverberant mix of burbling chords and lightly broiling rhythms. The final piece, “Plateau Quarter (Hope in Numbers),” finds Monteith paying tribute to Montreal, whose MUTEK festival has repeatedly helped bring the Deadbeat sound to the masses (one presumes that the traffic noises stem from Montreal-derived field recordings). It's here that one of the album's sweetest moments arrives, specifically when the opening builds in intensity to suddenly give way to a brief horn episode that connects the dots between dub and Deadbeat even more explicitly. The album's sole flaw is that it ends abuptly, seemingly in mid-bar, rather than easing the listener out more naturally; a gradual fade-out would have ended the album more satisfyingly. But it's a minor point, all things considered, and Drawn and Quartered ends up showing the Deadbeat project to be as healthy as ever and, if anything, rendered more appealing for offering a welcome alternative to dubstep; in addition, Monteith's take on dub (dub-techno, if you prefer) is enhanced for being such an individualized treatment of the genre, not to mention one championed with such sincerity.