A record that’s already being hailed as a great forward leap for dubstep, 2562’s first LP, Aerial, packages a few earlier coveted twelve-inch releases with new material to form a serious new swerve in the techno landscape, but perhaps based more on its premises than it results. The hype pins 2562’s sound as a dubstep/minimal techno hybrid: think Basic Channel minimal dub infused with the kinesis of Burial or Pinch. The cocktail admittedly looks better on the drawing board than it sounds, which recalls something like Luomo on helium.
Propelled by previous singles “Channel Two” and “Kameleon,” Aerial will garner attention from fans of Burial as well as some in the more ADD-addled corners of minimal techno — most likely more from the former than the latter. “Channel Two” in particular is a quite deft interplay of reggae bass stabs. It follows “Moog Dub,” which is one of the more effective tracks because it allows a downbeat bass thomp to act as a sparse Jamaican-tinged backbone for all the twittering and undulating of some heavily effected percussion.
But if dub is going to be your secret password that allows you to move freely between, say, Germany’s relentless metronomic pulse and the U.K.’s scattershot tin-can tap-dance, you better make sure you can pronounce it right — otherwise you’re on shaky Shibboleth ground. Aerial has been put in the lineage of Lee Perry and King Tubby, Scientist, Steve Gurley, Dillinja, Photek, Rhythm & Sound, and Burial, but as bass-heavy and tech’d up as the album is, it ultimately sounds kind of digital in an airless way. It’s as if all the beats and floaty filtered samples are bouncing around in a cramped airlock, like gas molecules looking to escape.
On both the metronomic and skittery sides of the dub equation, the key is giving sounds room to expand, whether you want to let some floaty samples echo into the void or allow mind-warping drum loops to rumble endlessly in the jungle without restraint from the high end. A lot of Aerial sounds like serious effort was put in running a clamp-down on either of these possibilities, and the way you receive the record will depend on how effective the payoff of this strategy is perceived.
A hybrid form like that of 2562 has to make quantitative sacrifices: Aerial can’t approach the sheer subterranean depths of Deepspace or Basic Channel and at the same time keep the skittering Frisbee rhythms of dubstep in full effect. Theses concessions also mean it’s not as ominous, steely or unforgiving as minimal techno can be, but neither do its beats reach the kind of neck-snapping erratic intensity that makes dubstep, drum ’n’ bass and grime so gloriously unpredictable.
Another way of saying this is that ultimately Aerial’s strength is its weakness: It’s too palatable. It’s a thoughtfully executed and purposeful production that delivers on its modestly aimed sights, without pretense or grandeur. In the end it’s dubious as to whether Aerial’s genre-bending will endure.