- Om Unit highlights his melodic strengths on this down-home dub LP.
- After years of innovating in the realm of uptempo dance music—dubstep, drum & bass, footwork, you name it—Jim Coles seems to be finding comfort in the familiar. Over the last few years, dub has become an outsized influence in his music once again, leading to lovely releases like 2019's Violet EP, or last year's overlooked collaboration with Martyn. On his new album, as the title implies, dub takes over entirely. Inspired by long, solo walks around Bristol, Acid Dub Studies is content, solitary and beautiful, the sound of the artist sitting down and making what feels true to life.
Acid Dub Studies is an unpretentious album. Each track is about three or four minutes long, all based around a central motif. (The word Studies in the title is also instructive—these are like personal, intimate sketches in a notebook.) Lead cut "Bristol Theme" mixes a powerful, staggered dub melody with curlicues of 303, the acid leads shading in the track like pencilwork. It's the most pensive acid you'll hear this side of Tin Man and Recondite.
For Coles, there are endless applications for this brilliant combo of acid and dub. Mournful synth melodica appears on "Treading Earth." "Celestial Envoy" struts like weightless dancehall, its blend of squelchy blurts and celestial synths hinting at some far-off anxiety. On the other hand, the swagger of "Circled" is pure confidence, its tinny drums giving off a digidub vibe. "Rolling Stock" is fantastically atmospheric dub techno that sounds like a DeepChord tune compressed into four minutes. The brevity is part of the charm. No song outlasts its welcome and the whole thing wraps up in 35 minutes, just like a classic dub LP from the '70s.
The musicality of Acid Dub Studies has given me renewed appreciation for Coles' discography, both in its breadth and its sheer quality. From the sleek production of his early dubstep work to the expert drum & bass manipulation of Inversion, he's always been infusing UK dance music with a distinct style of melody and emotion. But there's something different about Acid Dub Studies. He sounds newly self-assured.
02. Bristol Theme
03. Treading Earth
05. Celestial Envoy
08. Rolling Stock
10. The Struggle