After its nephews, the cousins d'n'b, grime, dubstep faded in the 00s inevitable that hip hop would reassert itself as BASS-music's most powerful drunkuncle-like force, coincidental with hip-hop's ongoing journey in from the coasts and back to the party, back from the real and imagined frontlines to the trap called home, the home called Trap. The best dubstep is touched by hip hop for me, hits some of the exact same pleasure centres - and in recent lean years it's mainly meant stuff on Deep Medi, Mala and Commodo in particular. Last year's double 12" LP from Commodo, Gantz & Kahn "Volume 1" was one of the year's highlights - a deeply cinematic bass-heavy soundtrack to a late night neon-smeared drive round the ringroad, as concrete and brute as it was diffuse and suggestive. One of the most useful and USED records in my 2015 life of endless transit. Have been gagging for this, his debut full-length LP and it's been worth it. Even beyond the modern link with the kind of textures that the likes of Metro Boomin' and Future toy with, Commodo seems to reach further back - I hear RZA and Timba and even Mantronix in his productions. His productions on 'How What Time' are as follows.
'Hej' - a good boy howdy, lets you know the kind of mayhem to expect and the kind of frequencies your body should get acquainted with. [Sampled voice: 'if you call that music? I'm a-tell you what it reminds me of. It sounds like those PEOPLE who SMOKE THAT PIPE . . . I DON'T THINK THAT'S FUNNY, THEY'RE HOPPED UP WHEN THEY'RE PLAYING . . . YOU'RE NOT']. Ruptures, heavy heavy kick, wickedly ungainly breaks and fills, lysergic iridescent sea-kelp tendrils dragging you under. Look, it's an instrumental LP in the main, these are the things I see.
'Pea Souper' - y'know how a while back d'n'b seemed to be taken over by a load of EDM fuckers who didn't understand the BASS part of d'n'b? Same thing has been a problem with much dubstep for me, made by people too young or too white or too dumb to secure the low-end properly before faffing about with all the other peripherals. Commodo never makes this mistake, always makes his bottom-end OOZE menace so the hooks and licks snag you even deeper. Pump it, fuck your floorboards and your neighbours UP.
'Itchin' - ` straight-up D.I.T.C/PeteRock/DiamondD style frabjousness to the beat here but the bass is dubbier than even they could manage. Great vox from Trim and hats off to Comm for getting only two guest MCs in on the album and ensuring both of them aren't heard anywhere else. It's the weird drone that sits amid the track, the way it warps around the words and kick, that makes it more than just another 'guest' track. Superb.
'Hadi Hadi Ha' - very much picking up where last year's tracks like 'Bitchcraft' and 'Kibosh' left off, heavy manners on the bass, a real Arabic vibe to the percussion and vocals, straight-up Drill/Trap-style synth stabs. Fearsome.
'My Liege' - another thing you notice, some of this shit sounds fucking MEDIEVAL. Harpsichords will do that of course, but this isn't just lazy little shards of chords, Commodo plays some wonderfully bleak plainsong-style pre-Rennaissance motifs on much of the album. This has such a great ending as well.
'Russian Glass' - sometimes he just leaves earth entirely, or rather returns to something ancient and English and dissident which might as well be another world now. I hear Robert Wyatt, Ultramarine, Brotherhood, the bleakest bits of the Bosworth archive but mainly I hear a heroic, visionary gloom.
"Floods" - all the titles up until now have made sense. Have no idea why this is called 'Floods' but then hear the weird aquatic sonar-sounds and realise, somehow he's managed to take that sound when your ears fill up with water and apply it to a rippling hip hop instrumental in an entirely disorientating and unsettling way. Fab.
"How Dare You" - would love to hear someone utterly fucking stupid spitting bars on this utterly thuggish banger. A rapper called Yung something or Travis something should do it.
'Sleepwave' - by now you realise that no matter what tech Commodo uses to make his music, the results sound almost non-digital, non-Cubasey/Logicy, like they were punched together using an SP-1200. Dead effective use of samples utterly unlike anyone else I can think of at the moment. In a world of CGI special-fx yawnfest electronic musicians he's like Ray Harryhausen.
'HWT' - if you had to ethnically place Commodo just from listening to his music you'd think he was part Tunisian, part Morrocan, part Asian, part Jamaican. In other words all-British, or rather the Britain that 52% of us don't want anymore. THIS is the sound of the neighbourhoods in England I know of. This is me and mine and you and yours writ in sound.
'Set It Straight' - another rap track, this time with verbals from Rocks FOE, snarly, necksnapping, surging, intense.
'Kofte Cloud' - burned the album to a CD in backwards order so this always comes up first which I'm dead pleased about cos fuck me the bass, the creepy insect loops - for me it recalls the brilliant recent work of Telemachus aka Chemo, and the same kind of Paul-Bowles-esque stealth and derangement of Jehst's 'Sheltering Sky'. If you don't understand what this high-praise refers to seek it all out.
Throughout, 'How What Time' is so good your kids will tell you to turn that racket down and neighbours three-doors-down will be feeling strange ructions in their innards and in your car your rear-view mirror will judder like a motherfucker. Like I say, Commodo makes incredibly USEFUL music. Get all you can.