Damu - Unity

by Charly Richardson Rating:7 Release Date:2011-11-07

Manchester producer Damu is the latest in a fresh new generation of (for want of better term) 'post-dubstep' producers, and this offering, Unity is his debut, out on London label Keysound Recordings whose recent roster includes LV, Sully, and many more.

From the word go, Unity is surprisingly refreshing, with unexpected movements and directions. At first I thought this could be labelled as future garage, but actually it is generally more upbeat and light-hearted (and that's not a bad thing) than other productions in that burgeoning sub-genre. Damu utilises subdued vocal-garage style snippets; shimmering, sparkling synths, dreamy soundscapes; old-skool rave drum sounds and builds; two-step inflections; and, of course, the odd obligatory computer beep, to create a unique soundboard. There is some nicely rounded sub-bass, but nothing too pounding or obtrusive. The textures are thicker, busier and more complete than stripped-down dubstep often is. This style is carried consistently throughout the album, creating a unique and incomparable stamp.

There is definitely a feel-good factor (perhaps surprising for someone whose name means 'blood' in Swahili and was used by the Bloods in LA), but the production is interesting and complex enough to remain engaging and escape the clichés. 'L.O.V.E' draws on sweet steel drums, busy samba-esque percussion and squeaky-clean synths. You will smile and dance, yet it doesn't feel cheesy. 'After Indigo' has a multi-layered soulful garage sample crooning "I just need you", manipulated in a way which is reminiscent of both Burial and Jamie xx.

The rest of the album follows a similar path, although 'Waterfall of Light' and 'Plasm' towards the end are a bit darker, with heavy drums and laser-beam syths; 'Ridin' the Hype' features Trim delivering a gruff and effective vocal, spoken-word style. The cheekily-entitled 'Maths is Fine for Sum', meanwhile, is a somewhat out-of-place exploration into Emptyset-style noisecore-house (still at least it shows Damu can be experimental when he wants to be). And maybe that's my only real criticism of Unity. While it is certainly refreshing to hear a spirited and dancefloor-friendly exploration into post-dubstep and its many sub-genres, the album doesn't hold concentration quite like it should (but then maybe my front room is the wrong place to experience it). A warm and intriguing debut, but with such a clean production style, a few more risks would have made this really interesting.

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