- Etch's love for breakbeat has typically played out at dubstep and techno speeds. Lately he's found a new frontier, venturing into the sub-100 BPM tempos currently populated by halftime drum & bass explorers. The Cosmic B-Boy, released on Purple City Soufflé last year, sprinkled spacey instrumental hip-hop with the metal swarf of UK bass over six tracks. This two-track 7-inch offers a more concentrated dose of Etch's new sound, and it's pretty weird. Not texturally—each track is little more than a programmed breakbeat and some subtle atmos work—but rhythmically. Working at slow tempos means there's more air between the beats, which Etch exploits as he plays with strange contortions of groove.
The A-side, "Synapse Cluster," is already unhinged. Its finely sliced breakbeats stumble between straight and triplet time, as if we're watching a breakdancer glitch mid-move, while held chords and the odd bass snarl keep us in suspense. But "Labyrinthian Contours" takes the biscuit. As the name suggests, the track is a rhythmic maze, with three successive layers. The first section is in triplet time circa 90 BPM. But perhaps those are straight 16th notes at 132-ish BPM, with three beats to the bar? Then the drums peter out, and a downpitched voice says, "And just when you thought it was over..." We drop into a meatier 90-BPM backbeat, followed by another fake-out ending. The third time, the breakbeats are in disorienting 7/4 time. Glittering arps, buried low in the mix, serve as a reward for navigating the track's twists and turns.
A Synapse Cluster
B Labyrinthian Contours