- Skream's a difficult guy to pin down. Crudely, dubstep appears to be settling into three or four sounds; the pitch-black minimalism of the likes of Youngsta, the more overtly dubby flavours of the Digital Mystikz camp, the jump-up wobblers that Caspa and Rusko specialise in and the deep, technoid stuff that was recently showcased on Appleblim's Dubstep Allstars mix. But Skream flits between all of these approaches; the result, perhaps, of him being such a restlessly active producer (the rumour, or the myth, is that he has thousands of productions on his hard drive). So, his self-titled debut album was heavy on the reggae influences, while recent tracks such as "Hedd Banger" and "Oskillatah" are hard-as-nails bangers and an unreleased track making the rounds at the moment, "Love Don't Come Easily," could almost be a new Burial cut, with its delicate post-rave romanticism.
It's fitting, then, that his contribution to the Watch the Ride mix CD series sounds so unsettled. The sense of flux and fracture is partly due to Skream's rapid mixing style; he crams in 28 tracks over the course of an hour-long mix, with some tracks barely lasting a minute before they're chopped out. It's also a result of the way Skream likes to sequence tracks; snatches of lilting reggae melodies, as on Skream's "If You Know" and Rusko's atypically gorgeous "Soundboy My Target" are elbowed aside by much harder fare. Despite the seamless mixing, tracks here seem to collide and jump out from behind each other rather than blur together. Initially, this can all be a little difficult to get a handle on, but once one gets used to being bounced around rather than following the more typical "down-tempo start—hard midsection—slow wind-down to close" DJing arc, there's a lot of fun to be had here.
It is, however an uneasy, queasy kind of fun. The mix's bedrock is an austere, cold-blooded take on dubstep. From Skream's "The Shinein" to Seven's "Dark Passenger" tracks are streaked with shreds of distortion, the sound of rust and decay. Later on in the mix, Skream's "Filth" has broken-down chattering synths that sound like his "Oskillatah" fallen apart underneath its own weight, while the darkside rave echoes of Hit N Run's "Bad Out" seem to fold back in on themselves, sucked into a black hole. It's a hard and lonely place, this mix, but it's often thrilling in its dead-eyed, twitchy intensity. Benga's "Better" is a heart-stopper, the cut-up robo vocals hurrying along a beat that's been calcified into a brittle, rigid stomp. Benga can make his synths talk like few others, and on "Benga's Off His Head" they speak in tongues, the frayed bassline sounding like garbled radio transmissions, distorted into gibberish.
There's few moments of respite, but Skream waits a long while before unleashing the full-force brutality. When it does come, in the mix's final third, it's pretty awe-inspiring. Babylon System and Noah D's "Examination of Time" is so weighty it's almost ridiculous, with scrubbed-up, metallic bass hitting out at your stomach with clinical efficiency. Things get even more brutal in its wake; Skream's "Fick" gallops along ferociously, the stereotypical half-step beat eschewed for a rhythm that verges on a palpitating warehouse techno bounce.
Things aren't quite perfect; there's a few too many ice-cold snarlers, and weariness sets in towards the end as Skream's "Meta-Lick" (which recalls Coki's "Spongebob") is wheeled out. Earlier in the mix, the plasticy gloops of Benni Page and Zero G's "Pan Pipes" don't sit right at all, shading dangerously towards hard psy-trance. And a few more chinks of light would certainly be welcome in the mix, particularly as the closing track, Late's "Saw, Sine, Square" is so pretty, all halting beats and shimmering melodies. (It sounds like Pantha Du Prince gone dubstep.) For those times when you want something ruthless and steely, though, Skream's Watch the Ride should fit the bill nicely.
01. Skream - Tribal Intro
02. Skream - The Shinein
03. DLX - Matter of Facts (Breakage's Relatively Speaking Mix)
04. Mala - Mountain Dread March
05. Skream - If You Know
06. Benni Page & Zero G - Pan Pipes
07. Hit N Run - Bad Out
08. Noah D & No Thing - Unknown Suspect
09. Seven - Siren
10. Seven - Dark Passenger
11. Smut - Badman Place
12. Benga - Better
13. Kutz - Twilight Zone
14. Skream - Filth
15. Kulture - Diesel
16. Benga - Benga's Off His Head
17. Rusko - Soundboy My Target
18. Skream - Simple City
19. Babylon System & Noah D - Examination Of Time
20. Skream - Fick
21. Benga - 26 Basslines V.I.P
22. Breakage - Together
23. Benga - Sleep Another Day
24. TC - Where's My Money (Caspa Remix)
25. Black Ganion - Method (Goth Trad Remix)
26. Skream - Meta-Lick
27. Ruge Kru - Shanghai Nights
28. Late - Saw, Sine, Square