Beneath – Vobes
There has been no shortage of good things said about Sheffield’s Beneath since he first bowled into earshot back in 2012 on his own No Symbols imprint. The hand-stamped aesthetic of those initial releases spelt out a techno backbone to his style, but the music itself spoke yet further of deference to dubstep and its spawn, and the overall lineage of bass-driven subgenres. As such, it wasn’t surprising to see labels like Keysound and Tectonic snapping him up for releases, both imprints being bastions for forward thinking low-end productions as well as having a penchant for the darker dancefloor outlook. Beneath’s music is nothing if not eerie, but now he makes the move to PAN and it sees an interesting new facet emerging in his sound, which is perhaps not surprising given the wildcard nature of Bill Kouligas’ stable.
What bursts straight out of this EP in the first instance is the clanging synth hits and chunky acid framework of “Bored 2”, and to even a casual fan of early Warp Records material its hard not to be instantly reminded of the thrilling futurisms of LFO and Nightmares On Wax back when they were spring-boarding off burgeoning rave tropes and plummeting into the unknown. With Beneath’s Sheffield roots hovering in the background it’s an easy parallel to make, but this is no straight revival sound. These signifiers are placed in a loose fit rhythmic structure that ignores concerns about the usual requirements for a dancefloor rocker. The track certainly moves like a punchy techno track, just without all those handy 4/4 handrails, and in the flamboyant drops and switch-ups that occur throughout, Beneath shows off his clout and flair in the studio in an entirely new light.
“Occupy” takes a more measured route into its groove, riding on a snaking broken beat somewhere near the 130 tempo margin, while icy tones and calmly menacing bass notes work in unison to create a deft and addictive stepper. Even if it’s less shocking than its predecessor, it’s a track executed with nothing less than immaculate creative vision. “One Blings” has a similar concern for a spacious mix as it lurches forward on a drunken kick, but this is a more temporary state before curious slices of melody come fluttering in, similar in spirit to the stabs of “Bored 2” but with a jazzy lilt that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Ark production of the mid 00s. Fusing such micro house sensibilities with a distinctly UK rhythmic palette and a perfect choice of diva vocal call once again pushes Beneath into a realm all his own, but most notably the playful elements let colour into his sound where once all was rather monochrome.
As if hearing such thoughts, “Stress 1” is on hand to hammer out a more industrial and spacious mantra, using plenty of crafty sound design to send glass pirouetting across the top of the mix and knowing when to trigger a deadly drop of raw drums. It’s definitely more typical of the output that Beneath has made his name on, much like “Occupy”, but what this serves to do is remind you just why the artist has been gaining so much praise in the first place, while also pointing out that Pan has elicited a fresh dimension to his sound for this EP and played a vital role in encouraging his development.
Like any noteworthy producer of these times, Beneath is operating under his own unique spell, and while there are fun reference points to be found (not least in all the Steel City freakiness) such influences would never be regurgitated this way by another artist. If this was a sign of Beneath branching out, then there’s surely plenty more exciting sounds to come.
A1. Bored 2
B1. One Blings
B2. Stress 1