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Zhou – I Remain review

There’s a lot of naysaying about dubstep going on at the moment, what with its infiltration of the pop charts, its adoption by certain nu-metal dinosaurs, and the disappointing evolution of promising underground heroes. Put all the negativity to one side though, and there’s still plenty to enjoy from old favourites and fresh talent.

Spanning both of those criteria, Bristol’s ever-dependable library of locally sourced bass music, Punch Drunk, offers forth yet another hitherto unfamiliar name in the form of Zhou. Some of his contemporaries in the Young Echo collective (namely Kahn, Vessel and El Kid) have already been making their presence felt over the last twelve months, with fresh and diverse output sharing not much more than a sense of adventure, but Zhou has barely a release to his name thus far.

That should be all due to change on the strength of “I Remain”, reminding you from the outset just what made dubstep so alluring in its infancy. A DMZ sense of dread chimes out through the gorgeous chords which form the centrepoint of the track, dark and exotic at the same time. Meanwhile the beat is devastatingly simple, rolling and bumping with understated ripples of percussion while dubby effects zip and dart through the mix. There’s not much more to the track than that, but the brilliance of the music is that there doesn’t need to be.

“Noburu” on the flip is a far more daring affair, following the lead set out by the likes of Ekoplekz. The style is very different, but the sheer avant-garde nature of the track would be an utterly shocking inclusion on Punch Drunk had that other Bristolian experimentalist not marked the label’s 20th release. Distant drones and low-end textures are the order of the day, with not much else to grab on to.

For a first release on a prominent label limited to two tracks, it’s an artist with utmost conviction that opts to fill a side with a few minutes of textural ambience. While it might not have legions of fans fawning from the off, it sets a mandate for the kind of artist Zhou clearly is, which is worth far more than another attention grabbing track. Besides, “I Remain” achieves the direct approach more than ably on its own stead.

Oli Warwick