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Friday, May 2, 2014

Known Rebel - "Ocelo EP"

Artist: Known Rebel
Album: Ocelo EP
Year: 2014
Label: Mindtrick Records
Genre: Dubstep
Website: www.mindtrick-records.com

This is the new EP release from downtempo electronic act Known Rebel. I was wondering what happened to these guys; they've been all but silent after releasing their debut on Tympanik Audio in 2011. But now they're back and deliver this short release on the dnb/dubstep label Mindtrick.

Right off the bat it's obvious that this collection of tracks is basically "Known Rebel discovers Burial". While their debut was a blend of IDM, downtempo, and some dubstep elements, this release is focused exclusively on that early gritty, lofi dubstep sound spearheaded by Burial. Whether this is an experiment in working with that sound or a a full on style shift, I can't say. The EP opens with "Reborn". It's got that 2-step shuffle beat, the pitched up random vocal bits, and some retro synths. The wall of heavy reverb provides a smokey and distant overall feel (in a good way). It carries an organic vibe that's not dissimilar from the beautiful cover art. It's not particularly unique but it's competently written and is suitably atmospheric. I like that the production is a mixture of the classic lofi sound and more modern & punchy bits. The second track "Ocelo" is probably my favorite on here. It's similar to the opener but darker and more spacious. It opens with a long ambient segment before kicking in. It's got a catchy groove, and all the elements work together to provide this overwhelmingly rainy day/melancholic atmosphere - this is something that really captured me when I first heard this type of music. There is a remix of this song by a project called Delete, though unfortunately it sounds pretty much the same as the original, except with extremely muddy, weak production. The third and final original track "Cenacle" is a blatant attempt at copying the Burial sound. I mean, they do it well; if I didn't know better and my friend told me this was a Burial track I'd likely believe it. The sad, hazy atmosphere is there; the dub bassline centered around ultra low frequencies; the muted, hat-driven shuffling beat; the arbitrary - but nice sounding pitched vocals; the distant, emotive pads; etc. But here is my main problem with this release: it sounds like they are trying too hard to jump onto a dated trend - they're about 7 years too late. To be fair, they do this sound quite well and there aren't any problems with this EP, however it's a sound that's been emulated and copied by a bunch of other artists, years prior.

If you like the hazy, lofi "classic" dubstep sound than you will enjoy what Known Rebel has done on these tracks. It's very derivative, but undoubtedly well done. I can't complain though; when dubstep was first coming out this was the sound that got me into it and thinking it was going to be an awesome new genre, before it went all mid-range-wank brostep-y. So yeah, this is the "real" dubstep when it was focused on atmosphere & mood, and it's always pleasing to hear people making music like that. For fans of Burial (obviously), Kryptic Minds, Breakage, Mobthrow, Skream, etc. I'm very curious to see where they will go after this.

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