hile the sound worlds of DJ Scud’s breakcore and I-Sound’s roots reggae wouldn’t seem to line up as a possible mixture for anything worth listening to, 2003’s Amen Fire proved vehemently otherwise. Touching lightly upon the nascent grime scene as a mainstream analogue to the sound, the duo worked in the outer reaches of the genre’s limits, making abstract bass shaking sonic landscapes.

Those who experienced Amen Fire, then, won’t be much surprised to hear what the two have cooked up October. The beats are frighteningly spare, the bass is almost so low that it’s inaudible and the rest is seemingly built from Pierre Schaeffer’s lost tapes. It’s as if the life-changing hardcore and jungle has now been replaced in Scud’s and I-Sound’s personal musical canons by the equally exciting sounds of the UK hip-hop underground. Simply put, October is a bit like Wiley with a graduate degree and a penchant for the Middle East, instead of the Far.

What Scud and I-Sound are doing here is refiguring their individual sounds for a collective purpose. Gone is Scud’s uncompromising chunky beats and I-Sound’s earlier nods toward rave’s easy to discern breakbeats. Here they are replaced with thin crackling snares and pounding tribal bass drums. And while the patterns are easy to understand, providing an all-important groove to each track here, they are covered in so much sonic information that sometimes they’re nearly impossible to uncover.

That sonic information is hard to describe. And with good reason. Obviously put together out of the scraps that both had lying around their studio’s, creepy and breathtaking digital shards have been transformed into loops that dart in and out of the tracks visibility. Unleashed in a full fury on, say, “Hour Glass”, it sounds like strangulated synths distorted and stretched to their breaking point. Roiling in the background underneath a quickly panned synth chords on “Wintermission”, it acts as a subtle reminder of what lies inexorably beneath.

All of this review lies moot in the face of the album’s closing track “In Your Sleep”, however. Rave synths introduce the track, bringing in a slow loping groove that is positively sunny in the face of the down-trodden loops that have come before it. Sounding like little else on the album, in the final moments of its somehow epic four minute running time, it mixes those opening synths, a piercingly pointillistic harmonic counterpoint and a lightly plucked guitar, ensuring its inclusion on many a future mixtape as the perfect closer. Massive.

Reviewed by: Todd Burns

Reviewed on: 2004-12-02

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