Blow Your Head proves dubstep’s commercial and underground tribes can still intermingle.
Louis Pattison 2010
By now, you surely know Diplo: Philadelphia-born DJ/producer Thomas Wesley Pentz, onetime squeeze of M.I.A. and purveyor of a DJ style that mashes together local genres with an ear for the dancefloor, not the chin-strokers. It should be no surprise, then, that Pentz has locked onto dubstep, which is currently enjoying its moment in the sun as an honestly mainstream UK dance style following several years of incubation and gradual experimentation.
With their bracing bass wobbles and cracking snares, modern dubstep warriors like Skream and Rusko boast a similarly visceral appeal to Diplo’s other genres of choice, dancehall, rap and baile funk. An opening brace of tracks proves his commitment to the energetic end of the dancefloor: a Skream remix of Major Lazer’s Hold the Line and the harsh mid-range wobble of DZ’s Down, while pretty hard-hitting in themselves, are mere aperitifs before the wrecking ball that is Diplo’s U Don’t Like Me, featuring Dirty South shouter Lil Jon.
If this is all starting to sound a bit like being battered around the cranium for 45 minutes, it’s pleasing to report that Blow Your Head recognises the merit of an occasional gear-change. The glimmering melodies of Zomby’s Strange Fruit and Brackles’ hypnotic, driving Glazed offer some tranced-out respite, while later, current future bass wunderkind James Blake makes a couple of showings – first, with his loping, dubby remix of Untold’s Stop What You’re Doing, then with his own Sparing the Horse, a cut-up of sing-song vocals and seasick synths. Diplo’s approach serves best to display that much of the talk about a fissure in dubstep – drooling club bangers on one side, sophisticated future sounds on the other – is rather overplayed.
True, it is debatable that we need more mixes with Cockney Thug on in late 2010. But Blow Your Head proves the two tribes can still intermingle, and both are still making winning records: see this mix’s closer, Rusko’s Hold On. It’s a fusion of dizzy fairground builds, pneumatic bass and yearning vocals from Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffmann that suggests you can still do wobblers with tunes and subtlety.