Takeaki Maruyama's first Goth-Trad full-length for Deep Medi Musik imprint might not quite live up to its New Epoch billing, but it's nevertheless a superbly crafted collection of next-level dubstep. He's certainly no flash-in-the-pan. Playing samplers, keyboards, and even self-made instruments, Maruyama's been producing, touring, playing live, and remixing in one form or another since 1998. 2003 saw the release of his first solo album Goth Trad 1, which was followed in 2005 by The Inverted Perspective and Mad Ravers Dance Floor before a meeting with Mala initiated Maruyama's association with Deep Medi Musik. Five twelve-inch releases appeared between 2007 and 2011, making New Epoch the natural culmination. Dubstep is at the top of the list, of course, but one also hears traces of dub, grime, rave, and jungle in the album's eleven tracks. But it also finds him leaving far behind any one-dimensional ties to the Tokyo, Japan electronic scene from which he emerged to instead offer up a style that transcends simple geographical and stylistic associations.
That's never more apparent than during the opener “Man in the Maze,” which moves from a strings-based intro of foreboding, even dread-fueled urgency through multiple episodes before eventually settling into a hard-hitting rhythm powered by echoing snares. Far more than simply a one-note banger, the tune reveals Maruyama to be a producer with a highly developed sensitivity to dynamics and arrangement. With its heavy synthesizer stabs and wiry bass lines, the next-level throwdown “Mirage” also finds Goth-Trad flirting with a bold, forward-thinking sound that calls to mind kindred explorer Kode9, while the hyperactive “New Epoch” exits the album with an equally adventurous take on dubstep.
Maruyama is also someone not unafraid to confront dubstep head on with his own take on the form. The suitably trippy “Cosmos” is a dystopic wobbler of the first rank, with its skittish rhythms, snapping snares, and bass skullduggery making the genre sound fresh all over again. Other tracks, such as “Anti-Grid” and “Seeker,” also show Goth-Trad affirming his genre credentials. The album receives a powerful boost when reggae singer Max Romeo appears on “Babylon Fall” halfway through, lending his rootsy voice to an epic backing on a fabulous exercise in deep and mystical vocal dubstep (replete with a chorus backing no less). Elsewhere, the ten-ton grinder “Air Breaker” brings out Maruyama's more experimental side in an acidy headbanger that features no shortage of brain-addling squelch to twist one's cranium into new shape, and things turn dreamy during “Walking Together” when a whistling melody provides an ear-catching counterpoint to a fleet-footed groove that swings mightily. Not content to simply riff on established and to some degree outworn genre conventions, Maruyama takes the form to a more advanced level of compositional sophistication by mutating sounds of the UK underground into something entirely his own.