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Orphan101 – Propa review

Another string to add to Bristol’s thriving bass music bow, Orphan101 has been stirring a melting pot of sound, bridging house, techno and dubstep since he started producing around 2005. Nothing new there, you may think. But the man otherwise known as Rob Davies has really captured the attention of fellow Bristol producers Appleblim, Headhunter et al, releasing on Saigon Recordings and his own label DECA Rhythm last year and now ‘blim’s Apple Pips imprint. Despite a limited number of releases – of which this is only his third, we may add – it’s fair to say that Davies brings something altogether rather fresh to the table, specialising in a dubbed out blend of dubstep and techno, which is really quite something to behold.

It’s impossible to mention Orphan101’s name without mentioning his incredible “Tribtek Part 1 & 2” – his debut release, originally fifteen minutes long, which he subsequently split into two halves on either side of the record, but which, apparently, he still plays as a whole. His next release was a collab with the aforementioned Headhunter – “V.7.01” and it is this short, but oh so sweet, back catalogue which has got the blogosphere talking,  the naturally ahead of the curve Sonic Router pinned him down for an interview way back last summer and RA are amongst those who have picked up on this two tracker, the fourteenth release on Appleblim’s label.

“Propa” kicks things off with a flurry of clicks, alarm style bleeps and midnight chimes like the cinematic soundtrack to a psychological thriller. This is soon swept away by a bone-crushingly heavy, deep DMZ style bassline, which quivers away squid bass style with light, ticking percussion sketched over the top. Juddering chords create a sense of unease, like a light flickering in the gloom or a moth’s wings pattering against a bulb. Much like a Mike Leigh film, it’s all rather situational and not a lot happens or progresses as such, but it’s simultaneously got the uncomfortable, cryptic element of a David Lynch narrative.

A thought-provoking piece, no question, which is duly complimented by “Disemble” – its counterpart on the flip. Here, Orphan101 tunes into his techno sensibility much more palpably and the rippling undercurrent is rather like the patterns and textures of Rockwell’s remarkable “Reverse Engineering”. Fractured SFX, bubbling bass and bewildering sonics build gradually on top of one other and seem to ebb and flow like organic structures before the track finishes abruptly but masterfully with an artistic musical flourish. A fascinating 12” from Orphan101 which we urge you to test out.

Belinda Rowse