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Monday, April 13, 2009

Mobthrow - 'Mutant Dubstep Vol. 3'

Artist: Mobthrow
Album: Mutant Dubstep Vol 3
Year: 2009
Label: Spectral Liquid
Genre: Electronic
Website: www.myspace.com/mobthrow

3rd in the series of “Mutant Dubstep” releases from Spectral Liquid

Packaging: n/a
We were giving a promotion copy with no packaging

Composition: 5/10
First of all I have to point out that the name “Mutant Dubstep” is a misnomer, as this release bears very little resemblance to what is generally considered dubstep. Dubstep is usually fairly lo-fi, minimalist, and marked by heavy emphasis on the low end (especially the subbass), and said low end usually consists of wobbly modulating basslines. “Mutant Dubstep vol.3 ” contains nearly none of the above. Maybe he is making a statement that typical dubstep sucks or something, I don’t know. Anyway, that aside…on to the actual music.

This is only 5 songs so here they are:

  1. Jazz Monsta – Ok so here we kick off the album. This sounds very modern. It sounds very digital and the production is very “big” and bold sounding. This sounds a lot more like The Prodigy than dubstep. It’s done pretty well, it’s got a fairly simple melody overtop of a few layers of pads and a clunky beat (not clunky in a bad way). It’s sort of boring like most dubstep and then it turns into more of a sci-fi thing with laser-y synths and some modulating bass. The bassline is cool and sounds very furistic and digital. The beat is nice and evolves a bit and he throws in different sounds every few minutes. Again this sounds more like The Crystal Method or Prodigy, but that should be a compliment. A lot of stuff is going on at any given time which is nice.
  2. Breakstar – This one starts off with a big distorted lead synth which again bears a strong likeness to The Prodigy. This one is mostly a beat, some weird noises + subtle ambiance, and the aforementioned synth. The lead synth is the only thing that has any melody and it’s not enough to keep my interest. The beat work is nice and the production is suburb, but aside from the pristine production, it’s not any more interesting than the usual dubstep beat. As a whole the track doesn’t really evolve or go anywhere. I usually skip this one.
  3. Deathstep – This is the first one that has some definite dubstep characteristics. It’s actually got a groove to it and wobbly bass. The beat is a lot faster and more complex than the usual minimal dubstep stuff, but it sounds good and definitely works. Like the previous tracks there is no melody here, just bass, beat and various other noises. Halfway through he adds in a low distorted synth sort of similar to the one in Breakstar. It’s cool but it still feels like the track is missing a lot. I would’ve really dug this had it had some melodic elements or maybe some breakdowns without the bass or beat, as it is it just feel like too much of the same thing. The fact that it’s almost 7 minutes long doesn’t help either. This really could’ve benefited from a D1 or Eskmo type melody.
  4. My Dub Kingdom (Mobthrow remix) – This track is a remix of The Future Sound of London and it is hands down the best one on here. This follows the rest of the album in that it is primarily composed of a beat and various futuristic sounds, however in this there is a big focus on atmosphere! I guess that comes from the original FSOL track. There are some really awesome and weird sounding atmospheric pads, and some awesome trippy synths which capture the feel of FSOL. A great cerebral downtempo track. I think that Mobthrow should take note of how well he did the atmosphere on this track and the fact that the atmosphere really ties together the track and makes it feel like a cohesive song rather that just a beat and a bassline meandering along. If he could carry that over into his original tracks they would be spectacular.
  5. Jazz Monsta (Mad EP remix) – The Mad EP remix of the first track. There are some really cool ideas explored here, most notably the use of the violins (I assume it’s a violin). However the violin sound really does not match up that well with the highly digital sounds of the bass and plethora of spacey sound effects. The violin sort of sounds like a dying animal and it plays for almost the entire song and it gets on my nerves. It’s cool for about 2 minutes and then I always want to turn it off. There are good ideas here, but they work better on paper than in practice. There just isn’t enough variety or cohesion in this piece.

Ok so my big gripe…if this is a dubstep album then why is there so little bass on this album??? Listen to any dubstep track, even crappy ones you can download off last.fm for free, and you will find that they are massive in the sub-bass department. This…isn’t. Even when there is wobbly bass like on Deathstep, it’s not even a focual point of the track…it’s quiet and almost buried in the mix. Now I guess he wanted to make the beat really stand out and sound big and powerful, but if you listen to something like Takomo, their beats and atmospheres sound really thick and crisp, but their bass is still so huge. I listen to dubstep for the wob wob wob and the groove…so where is it?

Production: 9.5/10
The production is probably the most notable thing about “Mutant Dubstep vol. 3”. It is very big sounding, like what you would hear on a more mainstream electronic album (which is good because the ‘more mainstream’ albums have probably been graced with very expensive production, mixing, and mastering). Anyway all the instruments are very clear; the synths are huge sounding and very powerful; the beats are also nice and thick, and all the sound effects and pads are crisp and can be heard side by side of the beats and bassline. A lot of dubstep is focused on the lo-fi sound, and sometimes the production is kind of weak and thin sounding. That said, I think it’s cool that Mobthrow was able to give ‘dubstep’ his ultra modern sounding production. Well, I guess he forgot the dubstep part, but the production part is quite solid.

Artistic Merit: 5/10
I guess on the one hand it could be considered artistic that he has a release with dubstep in the title, yet very little of the content resembles dubstep. Is that an artistic statement? Is he rallying against modern dubstep? Or is he just throwing the buzzword dubstep on his electronic tracks hoping to grab a bigger audience? We may never know. On the one hand maybe it’s ahead-of-its-time post-dubstep, or on the other maybe it’s just regular electronica following in the footsteps of The Prodigy, Crystal Method, etc.

Flow: 6/10
The flow is ok. The tracks have similar speeds, styles and level of production so they all match up when placed next to each other. It’s not a hugely diverse body of work, and it gets stuck in the fact that the tracks don’t really progress that much and just repeat similar sounding sections nearly the whole time. However, ‘My Dub Kingdom’ shows that Mobthrow does have the ability to build a nice atmospheric work that has a steady pacing yet manages to evolve and keep the listener’s interest.

Overall Rating: 5.5-6 /10
Unfortunately when I got this I was really looking forward to a dubstep album. Being that this has very little to do with dubstep I am quite disappointed. My feelings aside, it is competent at what it does, however there are a lot of well known bands already doing this style and it is hard to compete with them and their legacy. I’m not really into The Prodigy (which is why I really can’t compare this to other similar artists…I am unfamiliar with that style), so honestly I don’t see myself listening to this too often. It didn’t really offer me anything new and innovative that grabbed me by the throat and said ‘this is really above and beyond’, nor did it make me feel high or want to move like the dubstep I typically listen to. At only 5 tracks, it's a bit hard to recommend this. What I took away from this album is simply that I should listen to more Future Sound of London and Takomo.
It is quite apparent that Mobthrow knows his stuff when it comes to production, however I think his compositions need more inspiration and variety. If you dig The Prodigy type stuff with really big modern sounding production than this might be for you. If you’re looking for dubstep then you might be disappointed. If you want to take my advice for some reason, than just get 'Deathstep' and 'My Dub Kingdom'. Or just get a Boxcutter album instead.

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