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Sunday, November 13, 2011

VEX'D - CLOUD SEED

Planet Mu Records (2010, March)
Original U.K. pressing ZIQ260 

Averaged Rating: 7.5/ B+ 
Rating: 6.5 - 9.0/ D - A+

Category: Experimental Atmospheric Dubstep / Industrial / Grime / Ambient
Format: Vinyl (2 x 150g at 33 1/3 rpm)

Musicians:
  • Jamie Teasdale
  • Roly Porter
  • Sequenced by: Mike Paradinas 
  • Produced by:
  • Engineered by: 
  • Recorded at  
  • Mastered by: 
  • Pressed at 
  • Artwork [Front Cover] by Sven Sauer
  •  

Cloud Seed is Vex'd's second and final album. The renowned British Dubstep duo of Jamie Teasdale and Roly Porter have at long last completed a project that assembles tracks recorded between 2006 and 2007. Featuring guests Warrior Queen, Anneka and Jest, this eight track double LP intrigued me enough to investigate further.


Like any kind of music genre, Dubstep has more than one facet to offer. I was already familiar with the more 'traditional' forms which include fast paced rhythmic syncopation, sweeping low frequencies and prodigious bass density. These extrovert qualities clearly drawing roots from 'drum and bass', Jungle, two-step and of course Dub.

Sven Sauer's front cover with it is low-key two-tone 'segued' photos, conjures up a dark industrial bleak and cold future; something not too far from a post-apocalyptic landscape. As we shall soon discover, it also renders well the 'feel' of the album. The semi-gloss finish adds a nice touch to this efficient but rather austere packaging. The LP's are housed in quality white paper sleeves only, so one must take care of not scratching the surfaces and static may build up over time. The vinyl was flat and black with nice groove modulations indicative of promising deep bass 'explorations'.  The large 'dead wax' spacing reflect the cutting engineers decision to limit the 'groove width spread' to 2 1/2 inches for side A and 2 7/8 inches for side B, C and D falling in between; thus favoring a larger inner groove radius. All things being equal, this reduces high frequency distortion. But all things are rarely equal. Given nine to ten minutes of music per side, at 33 1/3 rpm the 'limited groove spread' is logical. Cutting at 45 rpm would have been probably pushing it at the limit considering the typical frequency spectrum of dubstep.


From the start the cutting level on side A is quite loud especially after following the Cars MoFi reissue but no more so than normal 'drum and bass' or Techno material. Opening with "Take Time Out", guest singer Annette Henry aka Warrior Queen lends her voice to a slow repetitive rhythm dressed in Industrial underpinnings. The drum beat is tight, highs are aggressive and there is compression tending to early listener fatigue. Not a great starter in my opinion but we continue with...

"Remains of the Day"; more experimental in 'sound landscape', a rhythm loop plus lots of panned effects, later augmented by a low frequency pounding synth. Again highs distort. At least it is much more interesting musically. The pressing is noisy as I've encountered frequently on U.K. imports in the past. I do not know if it's the PVC pellets used to make the vinyl that could be responsible.


Changing sides on the platter, "Heart Space" features guest singer Anneka; very sought after in the electronica and dubstep milieu. My first impression was that Beth Gibbons from Portishead was in front of the mike such are the resemblance in tonality and phrasing style. Superb deep low bass and nasty low grunt. Still compressed, ends with a 1980s sounding chime synth solo. Highs are a bit dirty. Good articulation in rhythm pattern and fine tonal balance.


"Out of the Hills" follows up; more a dub-industrial hybrid, it goes way down in the infra region with reverb effects of course. The rhythm is repetitive with an occasional 'double kick' or beat shuffling in the extreme lows which is quite effective. Too bad the highs are dirty and distorted. There is compression leading to some listener fatigue.

Continuing with side C, I noticed a bit of smudge dirt pressed in the outer grooves. I could have cleaned it on my Nitty Gritty but I always do a first evaluation 'as is' which reflects the true quality control of the label and pressing plant. And again this is a noisy pressing that tends to worsen during loud climaxes.

"Bar Kimura" (Jamie Vex'd Remix - original by Plaid) has a slow industrialized loop with some male vocals appearing. At first the beat is a bit thin sounding - surely wanted for contrast - but later the bass pounding comes in strong. The very deep grunt in the lows is accompanied by aggressive treble and higher compression in some instances for dramatic effect.

"Disposition" has a very nice punch in the bass kick region, a 'stuttering' or shuffling beat, Soviet rapper Jest makes a welcome contribution adding to the dark mood of the track. Although the general sound is cleaner than the previous track, there is nonetheless 'dirty' sounding sibilance in the highs and vocals. Clearly some form of de-essing on the vocals would have helped.

On side D, the pressing is a bit noisy with several little ticks and static-type sounds and seems cut a bit lower in level. "Oceans" has a beautiful sweeping synth intro, after which the beat enters with a 'double kick hiccup' of sorts and hi-hat establishing an extremely interesting rhythm. Additional synths sounds are crunchy and 'creatively distorted'. Midway the big beat ceases, yielding to a filtered fainter one. Some voice layer comes in to bring an eerie ambience.


'Ocean wave' sounds conjures up the coda of Planet Of the Apes when Taylor and Nova ride horseback on the shoreline. Very original track leaving this listener with an incredible feeling plus superb sound does indeed make this one a winner all the way.

Lastly "Nails", nails it indeed with another incredible track. Starting with some strange looped voices, a 'stuttering' rhythm enters the picture. There is nice detail on the hi-hat. Superb ambience and tension throughout. Briefly only the highs remain followed by a 'Murcof-type' lull. Abruptly a menacing, industrialized, heavily compressed and distorted beat dominates, before a second clean synth break comes to the rescue. The menacing beat(s) returns with an even greater vengeance - but it all works out perfectly in this context - reminding me of Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter's insanely troubling 2002 soundtrack of Irréversible starring Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel. Again, superb sound. These last two tracks are so good, they are reason enough to get this album.


Summing up, what started out on a rather disappointing note along the way, transformed itself into an impressive lasting impression, at least music-wise. In audiophile terms; on the one hand, many of the tracks go quite low to elicit thorax like sensations if ones system permits which can be impressive alone or 'showing off' with company. On the other hand, the highs are at times aggressive and dirty plus some 'cracking' pressing issues can detract ones pleasure.
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