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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Album Review: The Others - Red Planet

Album Rating: A-
2012 has been a disappointing year so far for Dub Police. After a solid 2011 that saw the releases of a very good Subscape EP, a pretty good EP from The Others, a decent full-length from Emalkay, and some fantastic shorter releases from smaller artists like Subzee-D and KGB, the British dubstep label simply hasn't been able to match their 2011 output this year. Not only has the label released far less material, the material it has released has been unfortunately mediocre - a middling Subscape EP, some average Caspa singles, and three smaller artists' EPs which don't hold a candle to those released last year. Of course, this 2012 summary overlooks the massive amount of advertising of The Others' debut full-length which the label did this past year as well. Dub Police promoted the album like crazy, releasing somewhere around a third of the album in singles over the course of the year, and it was made clear that a mediocre 2012 was due in part to the label wanting to end the year with a bang with the release of the album on December 21st. Thanks in part to the almost ridiculous amount of hype surrounding the release, however, many fans of The Others (including this reviewer) were just a bit worried about the final product. After all, we've seen quite a few more albums than we would have liked to this year which didn't quite live up to massive expectations - Netsky's sophomore release alienated quite a bit of the fanbase he won over after his debut, and Calyx & Teebee couldn't quite live up to the monster hopes fans had for their first full-length in five years. As a result, it's fair to say that there were quite a few nervous fans waiting anxiously for Red Planet.

Almost surprisingly, then, the album is very good. The Others (aka Alex Crawford) does what Dub Police does best, albeit occasionally - make a convincing case for heavier dubstep as a serious force in the electronic music community. One of the best things about Red Planet is that it's far removed from most brostep clich├ęs, a factor which aids mightily in its argument for acceptance as a serious work of music. There are minimal, if any, stereotypical drops, there's a definite absence of shoddily-produced, balls-to-the-walls main sections, and most importantly the songs on the album don't sound like everything else already out there. Probably the best example of this phenomenon is "Spaceman." It's absolutely a heavy song - the bass is wobbly, the kicks and snares are room-filling, and there's a huge amount of distortion. Where it distances itself from other songs of its ilk is that it's a shockingly interesting yet catchy song. Much like the rest of the songs on Red Planet, "Spaceman" has interesting melodies and harmonies complementing the wobbling bass extremely well, a development progressing through the entire song instead of just making it halfway and then repeating itself almost exactly, and most importantly a coherent song structure rather than just wubs all over the place. It's a tale of an intelligible dubstep album in a world full of dumbed-down EDM, and it's clear that the release succeeds in a way people feared would not happen and rises above the toxic atmosphere surrounding it.

Almost counter-intuitively, the collaborations on the album represent some of Crawford's best output. "Feel It" is a nice work of almost chilled-out breaks with the eerie, almost otherworldly sound The Others does so well, while "Fallout" is one of the few bona-fide bangers on the album, ready to make a club go wild while not being an over-the-top, obnoxious experience at the same time. "Antithesis" is one of the best songs as well, taking a creepy, sci-fi instrumental feel and running it over plaintive synth whines and growls and a lethargic breakbeat. As a whole, the album shows a coherent and original sound that stays fresh throughout the entire release and for the most part doesn't focus on individual tracks, instead being in favor of keeping the whole album together. Sure, at times it does feel like parts of the album are there simply to support some singles - the second half of "Showdown / Polaris" as an intro to "Fallout," the second half of "Stargate" as an intro to "The Way You Make Me" - but mostly the full-length actually feels like a full-length instead of a collection of singles. It's a good thing, too - Red Planet displays exactly what can make a heavier dubstep album good, and it's relieving to see what The Others has accomplished. Dub Police has had a stroke of luck here - they managed to end 2012 with a worthwhile release, one which they can use to brag about an excellent year, a year where it's doubtful anyone will complain too much after listening to this.

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1. Go
2. First Flight
3. Freeze The Frame (feat. Geoff Smith)
4. Spaceman (feat. Joker)
5. Showdown / Polaris
6. Fallout (feat. Emalkay)
7. Antithesis (feat. Stamina MC)
8. Stargate
9. The Way You Make Me
10. Feel It
11. One Man Show (feat. Lonette Charles)
12. Red Planet

2 comments:

  1. THIS ALBUM WAS HORRIBLE LISTEN TO THE AFRICA EP HOW COULD THEY DO THIS

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  2. Best album of the year for me! Loving; freeze the frame, spaceman, fallout, the way you make me, feel it, red planet!

    ReplyDelete