Pinch & Shackleton – ‘Pinch & Shackleton’ (Review)

Pinch & Shackleton – Pinch & Shackleton

Honest Jons Records

In a genre still very much developing its own cannon, it’s often quite hard to place new dubstep/bass music albums within a musical family tree. Often comparisons are grasped at and references to contemporaries vaguely made, but the emphasis is generally placed on the sonic qualities of the music itself.

That in mind, this latest meeting of dubstep minds – Bristol’s imperious Tectonic boss Pinch and one of the genre’s most consitant performers, Shackleton – is an atmospheric monster; as ambitious as it is exhilarating; and arguably without immediate precedent in its field. True, its dub-heavy caves of reverb and the constantly mutating arrangements of tracks like ‘Jellybone’ or ‘Monks on the Run’ recall the work of Disrupt, and the tribal meltdown of the spellbinding ‘Burning Blood’ has shades of Vessel or even Kind Midas Sound about it, but these are stretched associations. What is clear from the slow-build of opener ‘Cracks in the Pleasuredome’ onwards however, is that here lies a document that will surely stand the test of time, outlasting the instantly-gratifying and less subtle work of some of its contemporaries.

Tracks are constructed from multiple sections, but flow so seamlessly that this isn’t immediately apparent. Distant beat fragments drift in and out, providing tangential routes down which the two producers dive headlong at every given opportunity. The albun’s disorientating spook is a big feature of Shackleton’s work with the Skull Disco imprint he co-runs, and it’s presumably his influence that brings this mood to the table. That’s not to say the now Berlin-based man is the designated driver here – despites his eight-or-so years in the bass music game that makes him a near veteran – as Pinch & Shackleton is a collaboration of the truest form: not two distinct styles mashed together, but a congruent alliance; something wholly original from the solo work of its creators. (It’s almost a shame that they didn’t feel the need to separate their individual identities from this project and give themselves a new moniker under which to work.)

Whatever the role each takes on, the point at which these two craftsmen sonically intersect produces remarkable work, such as the playful and fluctuating percussion workout on ‘Torn and Submerged’, and ‘Rooms Within a Room’s sci-fi ambiance augmented by the colossal scrape of a reversed snare. The damning vocal loop that provides ‘Selfish Greedy Life’ with its title is brought in and out of phase in a way that echoes Steve Reich’s It’s Gonna Rain, also aping the demonic feel that that composition achieved.

Closer ‘Boracay Drift’ seals the deal, the terror of its opening white noise synths giving way to a syncopated landfill of different compositional elements, the eeriness nailed in place by possessed backward vocals and schizophrenic beats. But as with many of the tracks here, these are merely some of countless musical ideas that fit effortlessly together in an example of the catch-me-if-you-can arrangements that elevate Pinch and Shackleton above the looped constraints of most bass music genres.

Read this review in context over at THE STOOL PIGEON

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