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Hyetal – Searchlight review

With all the dubstep-gone-house kerfuffle currently engulfing the UK scene, it’s very intriguing to observe the myriad reactions and interpretations to be found about the place. Of course the argument for many artists would be that they were never strictly dubstep, and true enough a lot of the purist producers (say, the DMZ crew or the likes of Distance) are still plying their trade without a hint of 4/4 touching their productions. Hyetal was certainly testing the limits of dubstep when he first emerged with his glossy, warbling synth-laden sound, and then last years Broadcast LP smacked the script out of context altogether.

After giving the release ample breathing room, Hyetal returns to revisit one of the album’s highlights, “Searchlight”. This new “Night Mix” of the track keeps the haunting, dramatic feel of the original intact. The melodies still overlap in a thick melee of broad brush strokes and subtle speckles, evoking twinkling, fantasy landscapes in the way that only Hyetal tracks can. However, the beat has been quite simply jacked up, with a solid 4/4 kick hammering away underneath and some rapid-fire hats ticking away overhead.

It’s a simple trick and it does the track no injustice whatsoever. The 80s soundtrack nature of Hyetal’s music remains, not least in the gargantuan snare hits; it’s just that the groove has switched up from a broken beat to a straight one. The “Let No Man Put Asunder” vocal hook also graduates from a fleeting moment to a repeating feature, humanising the otherwise otherworldly realms the track inhabits. It may be a canny move to “house-up” the track in the current climate, but it’s certainly done no harm.

Stay+ is summoned forth to deliver the remix, and his take packs a touch more wonky swagger to it in the stop-start groove of the intro. Once again the core swathes of melody are present, but everything melts into the background behind the nagging beat, before simmering down to a heavily reverbed breakdown that lets the vocal hook decay into infinity. The drop packs a synth that comes on a touch jarring, full of the kind of hype you find in trance records, but the surrounding elements smooth out this somewhat unwelcome surprise.

Really though it’s Hyetal’s own interpretation that deserves attention, adding a new dimension to the track compared to its album origins and placing it in a new kind of record bag where it could serve just as great a purpose. It could have been easy for him to chisel away and create something utterly different, but in this instance its good that he hasn’t.

Oli Warwick