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Dusk & Blackdown
Margins Music jonny mugwump , October 15th, 2008 14:54

“Where we are right now/ there's a police siren goin' on perfectly in the background/ we’re in wilehouse its called Limehouse/ we’ve been round here for years since we were little nippers runnin' around doin' water fights”

Dusk & Blackdown’s debut album, Margins Music begins quietly with Roll Deep Entourage’s Target casually chatting about his suburb while a blown-glass melody rises out of the setting sun of a marginalised London.

Blackdown is Martin Clark who has been at the heart of the dubstep scene for many years now as organiser (Plastic People) writer (both his blog and monthly Pitchfork column are essential for keeping track of the scene) and, with Dan Frampton, one half of this duo . Expectations for this album have been high, and it’s been a long-time coming. Given the pedigree of these two at the heart of the action, you would expect something more than just a collection of tunes. Well, you certainly get that.

The concept behind Margins Music is that of a travelogue through another London, the endlessly vital, constantly mutating mess of global communities forgotten and ignored by the corporate centre. It is of course this cultural messthetic that has sustained underground dancefloor music for several decades now, the reason that the UK can still at least make a claim for something vibrant and positive. Over the last few years though, generic dubstep has become notoriously ignorant and aloof from many of its roots (and depressingly anything resembling a melody or voice or actually, just anything other than a fucking bassline). There are questions with the duo’s concept here - notions of authenticity are always problematic anyway, and nobody other than the Fosters slacks brigade would ever head to the city in search of adventure - anybody who is interested in marginal music knows to head to, well, the margins anyway. But if this is meant to be street it’s the equivalent of Miles’ On The Corner, when he attempted to sell-out to the kids, or as Cammell & Roeg’s Performance being a realistic picture of gangster life in London. Out of an earthbound intention comes something spectacularly other. And as a travelogue, Dusk & Blackdown create such a consistent vision that everything becomes bent towards their style. However, it’s now necessary to mention that this vision is also one of the most intoxicating exquisite soundworlds you will hear this year.

'Con/Fusion' sets sitars and something akin to a drawling accordion drone with Farrah’s utterly mesmerising voice harmonically and wordlessly floating over a deeply liquefied percussion. It’s a gigantic sound, hugely spacious with traces of her vocals adding further layers to the psychedelic mist. 'Kuri Pataka (The Firecracker Girl)' begins with Teiji’s soaring howl reaching impossible notes until it suddenly hits a bewildering loop as tribal dhol drums create huge tension and then, out of nowhere, this magisterial and hugely dramatic Bollywood orchestral riff takes over the whole fucking world - my favourite musical moment of the year so far. Trim’s typically idiosyncratic rhythm dodging patter is perfect with Blackdown and Dusk’s exoticstep (producing one of the highlights of the MC’s Soulfood Volume 3 from earlier in the year). With 'On The Bits', they provide him with a meandering collage of trippy strings underpinned by a horror synth to suit his own skewed worldview ("I’ve got chips on my shoulder and a fish that aint even battered yet"). 'dis/East' is an instrumental seemingly built by Steve Reich and Morton Feldman run riot with cubase. Waves of crystal light guitar running backwards and forwards over glass percussion and avant-piano flows and stabs. Even 'Durrty Goodz' get kidnapped into a parallel universe. But, for all this, the bass weighs supreme- out there it might be but every bassline is huge, overpowering.

Dubstep (or whatever) has been responsible for a fair share of exemplary long-players, something jungle only managed to pull off ONCE (Gerald’s recently reissued Black Secret Technology) and Margins Music is right up there at the top.

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