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Vex’d – Degenerate

Label: Planet Mu Format: 2CD,2LP

Degenerate - sleeve detailLondon duo Vex’d are to be found operating at the murky point where dubstep meets bleep, where grimey shivers fuss and bass drops rumble. The sounds collected on Degenerate take the momentum of dark drum’n’bass into yet edgier territory; the kind of places Witchman was hinting at years back, but with a particular atmosphere which is yet more gloomy — if that’s possible — and sure to bounce chiaroscuro shadows off the walls with the weight of its intensity.

That density can become ponderous under the minor key inflections of shivery electronics and the febrile rhythms, but the maismic dub undertow propels matters into convincing plateaux of low end dynamics set off by flurries of MDMA spine tinglers and tearing, doomy percussion. As the album progresses, elements of the best of breakbeat scientists and industrial gloom merchants mix and merge, emerging as a crawling electronic chaos of all things mashed up dirtily in unsettling style especially on shivery Dubstep frazzler “Lion VIP”, here reformating their Subtext single as a syncopated frenzy of groove-skipping beats and electrical discharges. The soundtrack to urban nightmares, Degenerate heaves with the prospect of dread realisation of dreams’ more Lovecraftian aspects, the delay FX filtering insidiously into the Illbient backdrop as the beats kick in on tracks such as “Angels” or “Gunman” with fearsome slews of bass rippling like a claustrophobe struggling to escape their tangled bedclothes, timestretched mutterings repeating in their ears.

There’s a fair helping of more uptempo (by comparison) bleeps and beats on “Venus” though, where matters become relatively jolly, helping to relieve the tension building up to that point. “Crusher Dub” eviscerates classic dub reggae in a welter of cut’n’paste skips until the rhythm fractures beyond the point that even Adrian Sherwood would probably rip it up, and the melancholy strings and vinyl hiss which introduces “Fire” finds themselves double-dipped further and further in churning subbass and disembodied Rastaman vocal snippets. The album proper closes with the slow-burning “Slime”, layering a dissolute selection of percussive snaps and drops with a gradual influx of assorted treated samples until the whole edifice collapses entropically under its own weight. Fortunately, there’s more to come, as initial pressings of the CD version of Degenerate come with a bonus disc featuring six Vex’d tracks from earlier 12″ releases.


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