Deadbeat: Roots and Wire
Wagon Repair

Following upon last year's disappointing Journeyman's Annual, Roots and Wire represents a fabulous return to form for Scott Monteith's Deadbeat project. Having survived, in his own words, a “decidedly difficult year,” Monteith sounds invigorated and focused on the new release, and not a moment's wasted in the album's perfectly-realized eight cuts. Though one can only guess as to his mindset, were Monteith to feel a tad slighted and underappreciated, he'd have just cause. Alongside the equally innovative Pole, Monteith helped pioneer the digi-dub style and progressively refined it on three ~scape albums, Wild Life Documentaries (2003), Something Borrowed, Something Blue (2004), and New World Observer (2005), only to see dubstep subsequently steal the headlines. Roots and Wire is so forceful a statement, one could construe it as the now-Berlin-based artist's defiant response to dubstep's upsurge or as simply a gesture of re-assertion. Regardless, a buoyant vibe characterizes the album, with the pieces uptempo and vigorous. In addition, each track segues into the next so momentum never flags; plus, presenting the album as an uninterrupted mix helps make the fifty-minute set feel like a whole rather than unrelated parts.

The huge bass sound that inaugurates the opener “Rise Again” hints immediately that Monteith's been absorbing dubstep but the spacious mix, aqueous chords, and Paul St Hilaire's (Tikiman) beautiful vocal turn also brings Deadbeat into the Rhythm & Sound universe to marvelous effect (one explanation, at least, for the album's expansive sound stems from the fact that Monteith recorded all of the virtual instruments through mic'd speakers as one would a real band). Adding Tikiman to the mix proves a masterstroke, both here and on the closer “Babylon Correction,” and the seductively swaying rhythm, punctuated by a gunshot crack, proves irresistible too. That rhythmic heft carries over into the title track where chordal waves echo across a tough groove before a melodica, alternately honking like a harmonica and tooting like a train whistle, slides into position to lead the charge. The tune's pounding attack is so powerful, it makes “Roots and Wire” one of the album's most perfect club-ready tracks. Elevated by colourful dub treatments, the tribal percussive workout “Grounation (Berghain Drum Jack)” stampedes like a rampaging buffalo herd. The massive chordal vapors gusting through “Xberg Ghosts” suggest Monteith's been listening to Deepchord and Soultek, even if the track's racing techno groove moves about twice as fast as your standard Echospace pulse. In “Deep Structure,” a morphing voice sample (“deep structure”) swims through a slinky house pulse in an oceanic, reverb-drenched mix. In addition, electro, funk, dub, and techno converge in the charging “Night Stepping,” and a tasty melodica hook, rootsy skank, and Tikiman's sing-song vocal bring the album's closing cut, “Babylon Correction,” ever closer to reggae.

Though the new release largely dispenses with the overarching narrative structure that underpinned the aforementioned ~scape albums, where each one felt like a dramatic travelogue through richly contrasting scenery, Roots and Wire's material is so unfailingly solid and fully-realized it sounds, at this juncture, like Deadbeat's strongest release to date. Welcome back.

November 2008