- A timely reminder of the enduring relevance of Benny Ill.
- Benny Ill is best known for helping pioneer dubstep and as the guiding force behind Horsepower Productions. But a look further back into his discography shows an exceptionally versatile producer. Alongside regular collaborator Bill Fuller, he predated the 808-heavy drum & bass sound of Hidden Hawaii by a good decade as Sonic Man, produced the type of electro that makes 2019 DJs salivate as Markarian 205 back in 1994, and released the acidic, trancey techno that's so trendy today as Lost Sector. While Ill Bent further cements his place in the proto-dubstep firmament, it's important to keep in mind that it was his versatility, nurtured for almost a decade before Horsepower, that made his later work especially timeless.
If you look up the word "dread" in the dictionary, you'll see an entry for "Is It Safe." By all accounts a garage-leaning, half-time dubstep cut in the early-'00s style, its bassline wouldn't be out of place in a Lost Sector track. The sample from the 1976 movie Marathon Man—a "suspense thriller film about a graduate student and obsessive runner in New York who is drawn into a mysterious plot involving his globe trotting [sic] brother, his European girlfriend, and an infamous Nazi war criminal in hiding," according to Wikipedia—is vintage Benny. "Is it safe?," one voice asks, before another replies, "Life can be that simple: Relief... Discomfort. Now which of these I next apply? That decision is in your hands." And we're plunged back into the murk. I don't know exactly when the track was made (the accompanying press text says he made it while living in New York), but if it came out back in the day, it could've been a classic.
If the title didn't tell you, the press text says "Ill Bent" is more or less a Benny Ill homage, and it sounds like a lost cut from Horsepower Productions' In Fine Style, so faithful is it to the original sound. It certainly does what it says on the tin, though the ascending electric piano line, effective as it is with its connotations of classic house and garage, in hindsight sounds typical of the so-called post-dubstep era. The fact that it features heavily on all three versions of "Ill Bent" is concerning—at least one of the mixes might be redundant. Still, all three are great in isolation, especially Benny Ill's Amen-rinsing "Straight Up Ill Mix." It's a good look for FaltyDL to be doffing the cap to a still-underappreicated force in UK dance music, and another timely reminder of Benny Ill's enduring relevance.
A1 Ill Bent
A2 Ill Bent (Benny Ill Remix - Straight Up Ill Mix)
B1 Is It Safe
B2 Ill Bent (Benny Ill remix - Fat Larry's Revenge Mix)