DFRNT: Metafiction
On the Edge

DFRNT's Metafiction sounds like the work of someone who has spent years absorbing the major electronic styles—ambient dub, IDM, dubstep, soul-jazz, drum'n'bass, ambient, house—and then decided to turn off the stereo system and begin creating tracks of his own. As a result, each of the album's fourteen heavily atmospheric pieces offers a fusion of said styles, with one or two perhaps more prominent than the others in a given track. Alex Cowles, an Edinburgh, Scotland-based producer, Echodub records manager, and web designer (by day), discovered dubstep around 2000 when he checked out some of the tracks Kode9 featured at his site and then more fully immersed himself into the genre in 2007 at about the same time as the encouraging feedback he'd received for a remix of Dead Prez's “Hip Hop” spurred him on to start creating original DFRNT tracks.

The album's opening tracks (“Wake Up,” “The Warmest”) ease the listener in restrainedly, and the pieces thereafter offer samplings of atmospheric funk-house propulsion (“Tripped”) and chilled serenades (“Lounge”). “The Next Step” counters New Age tinklings with a menacing, dub-inflected undercurrent, while “Therapy” floats a soul-jazz flute over burbling house chords, a bass-throbbing pulse, and an insistent pulse that contains echoes of dubstep and drum'n'bass. There's a workmanlike quality to the material, with much of it even-tempered and kept under tight control—so tight, in fact, that it ends up hurting the material. A track like “Winter,” for example, sounds as if it might take flight at any moment but never does, and the same could be said for “Decay” and any number of tracks. Put simply, it'd be nice to hear DFRNT loosen the reins to let the music show its boisterous side. Nevertheless, while no individual track impresses as mind-blowing, the album's material is so well-crafted, it demands respect and admiration.

August 2009