I know I am a bit late coming to the party on this one. Beneath’s Vobes EP was released last week and the review stage is probably well in truly over for this album. It will most likely be resigned to the confines of forgotten playlists for a lot of reviewers and that is why I thought I’d hang on this one a bit longer. Let those other guys do their thing and in the mean time I’ll just relish this one a little longer. It’s no secret that I am a fan of this wave of Instrumental Grime and Beneath is one of those artists that has always shined brightly amongst the ranks. His 2012 FACT mix is still a stern favourite and it was a bold move from the newcomer at the time. It featured very little outside the producer’s own catalogue and as a result, it brought a fluid development to the FACT mix series, which has yet to be surpassed in my opinion. It didn’t show much versatility from the producer on the other hand. A Beneath track, during that period, would have relied on a very noticeable formula. Stark arrangements featuring menacing textures and scattering percussive rhythms were the order of the day and he very rarely delved into more adventurous territories. So, I was intrigued to see what he had done for PAN, a label that always seems to take an artist through their next natural evolution.
I am happy to report Beneath is no exception. The Vobes EP is still immediately recognisable as the mysterious producer’s creation. Stark rhythmic environments are still present, and accounted for, with ominous textures wrapping around the listener’s stereo field. Occupy and Stress 1 are the most immediate examples that can draw a straight comparison to Beneath’s earlier work, but still contain subtle differences. The figured bass line on Occupy and the high-pitched melody of Stress 1 both suggest that the producer has started working with analogue if not modular synthesisers. The scattered rhythms of the percussive section still remain at the core of each track however.
Bored 2 is the only instance where the beat is negated and hints at an experimental attitude that the producer hasn’t really showcased before. The dominant percussive elements are supplied by a squelching acid synth, which builds up along the track’s development. The Grime influence is also still there as a set of processed strings bangs out a staccato harmony alongside the big synth textures. The experimentation continues on One Blings with springboard-like delayed samples and warped flute-like melodies sitting atop the jittery beat. It makes for a nice juxtaposition as the largo elements in the harmony swathes the percussive rhythm section and it’s just this type of contrasting flavours that would sum up this EP for me.
Beneath’s production style is still very much at the heart of Vobes but its sprinkled with interesting parts that are idiosyncratic to the PAN label. It makes for a good partnership, and one that I’m sure will mark a significant influence on Beneath’s future catalogue. I’m not that eager to move on just yet though, and will savour Vobes just a little longer before I indulge the next release from Beneath or any other artist for that matter.