- Quick, what are the sounds you associate with mainstream dubstep? Probably some guttural growls, wobbly frequencies and all manner of sludgy nastiness. One producer who makes twisted and intricate little figurines out of the same toolset is San Francisco's Eprom. His previous EPs saw him deftly explore a hybrid between hyperactive crunk and spastic dubstep, overstuffed with bouncy basslines that tumbled drunkenly like the screwiest of hip-hop. He emerges with his debut album, Metahuman, on Dutch grime(ish) label Rwina Records, which finds him transforming almost instantly from an occasionally-intriguing producer to one with a striking command of style and sound design.
Metahuman has three dominant sounds: foundation-shaking sub-bass, chirpy chiptune synths and silence. The latter is a key ingredient in Eprom's current formula, allowing him to explore the politics and cliches of American rave music (read: dubstep) without resorting to the deafening, lowest-common-denominator aural pyrotechnics of other artists who brush against the same territory. Take "Regis Chillbin," which burps and gurgles a series of wet vocal samples and blunted basslines down a zig-zagging path. There's not much to it, with such a stark abyss between the spare sounds, but it can't help but sound massive and heaving. Other tracks like "Can Control" or the opening illusion "Honey Badger" thunder like earthquakes despite their otherwise tinny tweeters, candyfloss synthesizers underlined with thick slabs of tectonic murmuring.
The silence also means that Eprom's more melodic flights of fancy burn brightly, whether it's naive whimsy on "Floating Palace" or the near-modal jazz exercises of "Variations," with dizzy arpeggios that feel like they're trying to mimic mid-period Coltrane's famous "sheets of sound." No matter how "dance floor" his music becomes, there's always clear musicianship and methodical thought—carefully written tracks that work as thought-provoking pieces of extreme sound as much as they do dance floor destroyers, much in the same way as equally alienating noise music.
The songwriting isn't the only elaborate aspect of Metahuman. Most modern dubstep is modeled around "filth." It's an idea that Eprom hasn't shied away from previously, with EPs like Pipe Dream, but on Metahuman toxic waste is the dominant texture, with beats that splurt and splash in viscous pools, sometimes landing with a splat rather than a thud. This lends most of the tracks a shimmering, unstable wobbliness, like viewing a reflection on the surface of a puddle.
Through all of Metahuman, Eprom is constructing a stunningly inventive world where go-for-broke "rave" music doesn't have to sacrifice ingenuity or detail. There are a lot of moments that might test the taste barriers of stodgier dance music fans, but for every one of those there's an enthralling bit of texture or layering behind it. It's rare to hear artists hang in limbo so expertly, the much-neglected purgatory between "tear-out" and "stay-in." On Metahuman Eprom takes the entirety of his local San Francisco bass scene—encompassing dubstep, hip-hop, drum & bass and god knows what else—and makes a mutant out of it.
01. Honey Badger
02. Regis Chillbin
05. Can Control
06. Floating Palace
09. Love Number
10. Sun Death
11. The Golden Planet
12. Needle Thrasher