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Various Artists – 116 & Rising review

At a time when music critics and fans alike are more than happy to endlessly debate what the next stage of dubstep’s progression should be called, Hessle Audio present 116 & Rising – a rich demonstration of how the label has progressed over the past four years and an exciting portent of where they might go in the future. Whichever format you choose to sink into, when you come out the other side you can’t help but be fully impressed.

As anyone who has followed the label’s progression will attest, it’s natural that the triple vinyl edition contains the most swagger, with the design work from regular collaborator Will Bankhead looking stunning across the gatefold sleeve and the twelve new and exclusive tracks spread across three slabs of vinyl, two to a side. Furthermore the inclusion in this edition of all 24 tracks on CD makes it the smart choice to indulge in.

If you can see past the temptation to merely sit and admire the artwork and actually bask in the music on offer, you will be richly rewarded with an array of brilliant material from the Hessle camp. Mainstays such as Elgato, Untold and James Blake naturally feature alongside contributions from the two thirds of the Hessle Audio decision-making team that produce. Flexing their status at the top of the game, Hessle can also call on new tracks from Addison Groove, Peverelist and D1, which is clearly a move to show which of their contemporaries has helped to shape the direction of the label since it launched in 2007.

So far so impressive, but how does the actual music sound? It surpasses expectation and has you gripped from the moment Elgato’s “Music (Body Mix)” starts. Along the way Blawan serves further notice that he’s got the best drum flex in the game on “Potchla Vee” which might just work in the rattle of a can of spray paint. Sitting next to this is “Stifle”, the one Pearson Sound submission, which sounds like a 23rd century twist on “Din Da Da”. Fans of David Kennedy are well stocked though, as he graces 116 & Rising with no less than three Ramadanman productions – perhaps finally putting this alias to bed?

Elsewhere, Cosmin TRG’s “Bijoux” is every bit as impressive as the four tracks that made up A Universal Crush, his EP for the Rush Hour Direct Current series (this reviewers favourite release of 2011 so far), whilst Joe invokes the spirit of West London circa 2001 on the tinny broken sensation of “Twice”. Amidst such celebrated company, Addison Groove might just steal the show on “Fuk Da 101” which combines dexterous sampling of urgent vocals with a cacophony of crazed percussive touches.

More words could be said on the music that features on the second CD but followers of Hessle Audio will be familiar with the brilliance of tracks such as “Fram”, “Rut” and Martyn’s ever excellent remix of TRG’s “Broken Heart” and happy to have them on CD for the first time, whilst late comers will delight in experiencing these and the nine other inclusions for the first time. With such a detailed musical representation of the label’s past, present and future, you might wonder why there was no thought given to the inclusion of sleeve notes. However the music is strong enough to speak for itself, and perhaps enough people spend far too much column space discussing their music anyway?

Tony Poland