REVIEW: Subtension - 'Black Haze'
The refreshingly experimental juggernaut that is Samurai Music has been on fire this year so far. All three divisions of the main label, including Samurai Red Seal and Samurai Horo have put out a host of quality, often exceptional releases whether under the guise of melodic 170, furious B-boy influenced drumfunk a la Paradox, beautifully judged liquid D&B or just straight-up rolling techie goodness. It’s in the latter that their latest release revels: a confident, tantalisingly dark if somewhat formulaic debut single from Subtension after his double appearance on Way of the Samurai 2: Code of Honour. The young Slovakian artist joins Minor Rain, delPurr & Eraser, and Keosz amongst others as part of a new breed of exciting talent to emerge from the country of recent times.
Continuing in the same minimal tech vein as Samurai’s last outing from Fre4knc, Mindmapper & Mtwn, Subtension’s sound veers very close towards the aggressive sound defined by labels such as Dispatch for example, with generous helpings of, dare I say it, ‘jump up’ within its brazen midwave growls and thickly layered snares laced throughout. It’s certainly a very bold and above-all organic sound for an artist who’s yet to barely get going, but in its concentration on precision engineering struggles to find that special something that separates itself from a host of artists who’ve been experimenting with this sound for years. Not to take away from the quality of its parts though: singling out certain aspects of each track that highlight the artist’s attention-to-detail in full effect such as the range of hi-hats used in ‘Black Haze’, the subtle, swerving bass edits in ‘Changes’, or the Octane & DLR-esque percussion elements used in digital-only track ‘Inner Man’. Subtension revels in this jack-of-all-trades approach, absorbing a plethora of elements from all across the darker side of D&B.
This best-of-all-worlds effect is largely successful albeit to a certain degree, as its lack of the spectacular is made up for in terms of its pristine production polish and obvious accessibility compared with some of the label’s more left-field excursions. Admittedly it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid nitpicking when it comes to Samurai’s output, such is the extraordinary wealth of creativity that emanates from its selection. Surely this staggering momentum that the label has built in the last couple of years will begin to subside at some point, but apparently not (thank goodness)… Huge credit to Samurai for stepping out of their comfort zone in their efforts to support such a fledgling and brilliantly capable young artist. One whose sound we’ll be most looking forward to hearing develop moving forward.