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Ital Tek
Hollowed Joseph Burnett , April 4th, 2016 10:13

Alan Myson, aka Ital Tek, has been something of a self-appointed keeper of the flame for traditional dubstep ever since his debut, cYCLiCAL, was released in 2008, sounding very much like every other post-Skreamizm album or EP around. Since then, he has stepped to the edges of the genre's paradigms, but never appeared to have the guts to make the leap that was needed as dubstep's initial appeal slowly became stale. With even the genre's unwilling figurehead, Burial, branching into new territory, with emphatic results, it seems Myson has finally woken up and smelled the cold, morning-after-a-rave coffee inadvertently mixed with vodka, because Hollowed is a colossally different beast to anything he's delivered thus far.

Effectively, the slow-inching towards new territories that has defined Ital Tek's music since 2008's Midnight Colour has here become a big leap forward. There's still intestine-shifting sub bass at the heart of Hollowed's tracks, underpinning and driving them forwards all at once (these tracks are going to sound as heavy as wrecking balls when played live), but the album's genesis, which saw Myson retreat into his studio for the best part of two years, in order to record minidiscs of effects-laden guitar drones, much as he did in his teenage years. If that sounds like a step backwards, rest assured, it's anything but. Instead, years of experience gleaned from working with the best technologies and honing his craft sees Myson project his past craft down new avenues, as if returning the source counterintuitively posited a way forwards he hadn't been able to perceive earlier.

Coming up with a post-dubstep answer to dubstep is a conundrum that has flummoxed the genre's early proponents almost from the get-go. Like Burial, and also Kuedo, Roly Porter, Raime, Ikonika and Zomby, Ital Tek seems to have come to the conclusion that the best solution is to effectively leave dubstep behind altogether. His assertion that Hollowed represents a move away from dance music rings a little, well, hollow, but in a good way, because the album overflows with rhythmically powerful tunes that will get any crowd in Corsica Studios going with gusto. Take third track 'Beyond Sight', for example, with its insistent sequencer oscillations, pounding kick drum and futuristic synths. It shares its DNA with former labelmate Kuedo's Severant album (indeed, that may be the closest cousin to Hollowed), but with an extra dose of heaviness. 'Cobra', meanwhile, fizzes with crackling energy over martial industrial beats and an oscillating build-up that seems ready to burst apart at any minute. Signs, however, that Myson has one ear away from the dancefloor, do manifest themselves here, notably in the form of an insistent siren squall and the sudden eruption of vibraphone patters. Across Hollowed the rhythmic balances are uneasy, with even the most propulsive, beat-driven tunes seemingly ready to collapse.

Unsurprisingly, such tension results in an album as dark as a black hole, especially on the final few tracks which in places come closer to ambient than dubstep. On 'Memory Shard', ghostly vocals form their own parody of techno rhythms over layers of synthetic ambience before the track segues into a gloomy hauntological shuffle à la Hype Williams. 'Redeemer', meanwhile, may be the album's high-water-mark in the collision of dubstep with something broader, with 2-step beats slowed down to a crawl and a throbbing funk bassline, albeit one played at underwater pace. In his notes for the album, Myson mentions seeing a liver performance of a Henryk Gorecki symphony. Whilst claiming any clear lineage may be pushing things somewhat, there is something to be made of how the sustained gravitas of the Polish composer compares to the similar emotional nakedness Myson displays on Hollowed. It's certainly the most opulent work to come out of the post-dubstep scene in a while. Above all, it represents a bold, sensorily majestic step in the right direction by an artist no longer content to tread water. In throwing off his shackles, Myson has added fresh impetus to a scene many might have thought had left him behind.

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