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Sir Hiss
Frequent Flyer Zac Cazes , July 24th, 2019 08:43

The new ep by Sir Hiss surveys the globe through samples, but sometimes comes across as little more than tourism, finds Zac Cazes

Behind the well-behaved soundscapes of the Frequent Flyer EP, Sir Hiss enacts dubstep’s current identity crisis in a cultural moment where digital audio, trap music, and ultrafast communication has alienated the genre from its roots. Over these five tracks, Sir Hiss adopts a globetrotting attitude to sampling, setting each of the instrumentals in a distinct part of the world. If there is anything spectacular about this release, it is clearly Sir Hiss’s ability to pull beautiful samples out from deep in the crates. ‘Café Moskau’ shows off a gorgeous piano sequence, while the last track, ‘Temujin’ boasts a stunning middle-eastern sounding female vocal, clearly inspired aesthetically by Commodo, Kahn and Gantz’s collaborative tour de force Volume One. But while Commodo, Gantz and Kahn managed to meld middle eastern samples and UK bass seamlessly on now legendary tracks such as ‘AMK’ and ‘Bitchcraft,’ Sir Hiss’s latest EP feels more like sample tourism. The samples, although treated beautifully, are barely chopped, and simply layered with one or two note basslines. Sir Hiss doesn’t penetrate fully into the alternate musical worlds he purports to represent, rather he simply frames snapshots of them with overly tame (though well-executed) UK bass production.

The edgy approach to bassline production that grime and dubstep are known for is sorely missed on this EP, where the intricate, alien low-end design of Bristol peers like Kahn, Neek and Peverelist finds itself giving way to simple trappy 808s. Even when Sir Hiss does provide the type of bass that this release wants, such as the weighty LFO sweeps on ‘Camel Blues’, it seems too clean and sparse to push these songs to the next level. With the drums too, it feel like more work needs to be done: polite and unsaturated, they loop with too little variation and not enough intricacy or development. Frequent Flyer has a placidness about it that just does not suit the colourful nature of the sampling. The melodic sensibility of Hiss’s older work, ‘Danny Uzi Vert’ for instance, is here, but is constrained by an over-dependence on samples.

This isn’t a bad release, a welcome break from the proliferation of overly derivative UK drill instrumentals, and in a way it works rather neatly. But it’s also hard to imagine these songs having much success in a club setting: the drums and basslines on a lot of the tracks don’t vary much, leaving the tracks in danger of becoming boring repetitive loops. The shuffled groove on ‘Temujin’ manages to sustain the listener’s interest for the duration of the song, but it also stands out as the only song on the EP which doesn’t feel like too many repeats of the same loop. There is a deficit of both the aggression and the mysticism that are native and essential to dubstep. Perhaps these instrumentals would have worked better with vocals on them, since they seem not quite interesting enough to stand alone, either in the club or out of it.