Various Artists Mary Anne Hobbs: Wild Angels Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

An essential mix from an evangelical dubstep fan.

John Doran 2009

On paper, Radio 1 DJ and former NME scribe Mary Anne Hobbs should be the antithesis of a good dubstep selector.

A brief look at her CV reveals that in the 1980s she was a Gn’R/Metallica-loving hair metal correspondent, that she helped found lads’ mag Loaded and is an authority on performance motorbike racing. You could be forgiven for worrying about this, as dubstep has recently threatened to acquire an uber-laddish, ‘extreme-sports’ event/Pepsi Max advert-soundtracking veneer. The low end-heavy genre is just as vulnerable to macho extremism as other forms of dance music, as drum and bass and techno have been in the past.

Of course, any prejudices against her in this field are completely unjustified. Clearly applying different aesthetic criteria to dance music than she does to motorbikes and lads’ mags, Hobbs has proved to be a consummate dub jockey and bass evangelist of the highest order. As well as being a well-respected pundit/DJ, she already has two excellent compilations to her name in the shape of 2006’s Warrior Dubz and last year’s Evangeline.

This excellent third compilation in the series again shows a refreshing lightness of touch while leaning more towards the future soul, aquacrunk and electronica sides of the dubstep scene while going easy on the grime and hip hop. The title Wild Angels was suggested to her by Planet Mu boss Mike Paradinas after Hobbs used the phrase to describe her hero Alice Coltrane and how she played the harp. Of course there aren’t any concrete links between this album and the world of free jazz, but contained within there is the suggestion of free-thinking and spiritually nourishing music.

In the mix, recent Warp signing Hudson Mohawke puts the fun back into dysfunctional with his glitchy but gorgeously sun-dappled and synth-drenched effort Spotted, which would have sat well on his excellent Polyfolk Dance EP. There is more overflowing serotonin synth work courtesy of Mike Slott and Knock Knock. Of course, we said that Hobbs is an evangelical dubstep fan and she’s keen to build bridges between UK and US contemporaries, and she does here by including tracks by the likes of Starkey – the Philadelphian DJ and producer is represented by a version of Gutter Music from his monumental album Ephemeral Exhibits.

All said, alongside Hyperdub’s forthcoming fifth anniversary compilation, this is the essential dubstep mix of the year.

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