Cult Albums: #7 VEX’D – Degenerate (2005)

My first encounter with dubstep was hearing this album back in the late summer of 2005. I’d been an enthusiastic drum and bass fan back in the mid to late nineties, especially the more rhythmically complex and bass heavy stuff such as Photek, Source Direct, Tech Itch, Dom and Roland etc. But as the rhythms got simpler, the music got repetitive. Jonny L’s “Piper” is a minimalist classic, but the problem is, in no time every record seemed to be using that simplistic two-step beat to the point of tedium. The much heralded d’n’b revival at the turn of the decade with the likes of Kosheen and Uncut, was just two-step rhythms with pop tunes bolted on. It wasn’t anything new or exciting. I didn’t fall out of love with the music, just failed to find anything that compared to the “old school” stuff. I still listen to a few of the best albums quite regularly (those acts I mentioned, plus early Omni Trio and E-Z Rollers, Krust, Bukem, PFM, Foul Play etc).

I never really got garage, and I don’t think I ever really understood what grime was. And dubstep was just another term that didn’t have any meaning to me. I liked Mike Paradinas, though, and liked some of the other stuff on Planet Mu which is how I came by a copy of Degenerate, a sprawling double CD – one half new material, and the other a collection of previously issued twelves.

First listen was a real ‘what-the-fuck?’ experience. The rhythms were colossal, but the tempos seemed stilted, and somehow teetering on the edge of collapse, like a runner whose legs are struggling to keep up with their body. The bass tones boomed on grumbled, but apart from that there was very little melodic colour. This was bare bones music, stripped down to the bare essentials. I didn’t really get it, but I was intrigued enough not to chuck it on to the Ebay pile, but give it another bash. And in time it clicked, this strangely tempoed, claustrophobic, slightly forbidding music. I grew very fond of Degenerate, and it was largely because of it that I got into Burial, Boxcutter, Kode9 and others. Even now there’s something primal and strange about the album that I don’t really hear in other dubstep. Kinda like the Charley Patton to other acts’ Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.

It’s been three years. Hopefully a follow-up shouldn’t be too far away. The track with Warrior Queen on the most recent Planet Mu compilation seems to indicate a move into the same sort of territory as Kevin Martin’s Bug project.

Thunder

Tracks
1-01 Pop Pop V.I.P. 6:55
1-02 Thunder 6:36
1-03 Angels 6:34
1-04 Corridor 6:24
1-05 Cold 3:32
1-06 Venus 5:38
1-07 Gunman 6:08
1-08 Crusher Dub 3:09
1-09 Fire 6:27
1-10 Destruction 0:58
1-11 Lion V.I.P. 5:59
1-12 Slime 4:51
2-01 Canyon 6:03
2-02 Pop Pop 6:00
2-03 Ghost 5:55
2-04 Lion 7:05
2-05 Smart Bomb 5:46
2-06 End Of Line 6:25

Originally issued as Planet Mu ZIQ115CD in July 2005.

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2 responses to “Cult Albums: #7 VEX’D – Degenerate (2005)

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