Magnetic Man – Magnetic Man
Album out Monday 11th October
The experimental nature of the ambitious Magnetic Man project is a product of several years of individual successes and a collective determination to bring the genre of Dubstep to the masses. The dubstep supergroup, as they have been coined, consists of Benga, Skream and Artwork who you may or may not know as the founding fathers of the genre itself.
The band’s eponymous debut is unsurprisingly experimental in style, form and convention and ventures into what might have been considered enemy territory almost a decade ago. R ‘n’ B and garage vocals pepper the album and seamlessly work together with the traditional two-step rhythms to craft something entirely different and terrifically tempting.
Kicking off any dubstep album with a track that involves no bassline is a risky move to say the least but on one as hotly-anticipated as this, it could have been disastrous. In fact, the track works to symbolise the album’s motivations before moving back onto familiar ground and demonstrates the trio’s appreciation of other styles and sounds.
The album quickly shifts back into what fans expected with the garage-homage Fire which features the high-tempo vocals of the UK’s best-known female garage artist Ms. Dynamite. The instrumentals take a backseat as the vocals dominate the track and for dubstep fanatics/garage pessimists this is an early indication that the album won’t live up to the individual successes of Magnetic Man’s members.
I Need Air and midpoint track Perfect Stranger are undoubtedly the club-pleasers and despite making a clear departure from the vocal-less, stripped back style that Benga and Skream are both known for, the tracks still don’t class as ‘sell-out.’ The rhythms are as clean and well structured as the best the genre has offered in recent years and the addition of vocals is a refreshing change even for the dubstep faithful.
By the time the 4th track rolls around, Anthemic, you’ll be gasping for something that resembles the heavy, dirty basslines of Skream’s style and luckily it’s delivered. Anthemic is what Magnetic Man probably refer to as a “banger.” In other words it’s spot on, with a powerful and deep bassline accompanied by a simple yet effective drumbeat. The melody, akin to something from Blade Runner, is fantastic and completes the essential elements.
Sticking with the futuristic theme is The Bug, a track that can only be described as ‘robot-dub.’ Benga’s influence on the track is crystal clear as the styles and samples in his infamous Invasion EP emerge throughout. Ping Pong yet again feels like another Benga-masterpiece with quieter, gentler tones similar to much of the material from his hugely successful Diary of an Afro Warrior. The simpler the tracks are on the Magnetic Man album the better it gets. Whilst the vocals on early material is briefly refreshing they fail to match the simplistic, repeatedly enjoyable quality of the stripped back tracks.
Just when you think the three dubstep pioneers have left the deep, dub basslines behind, Mad, Crossover and Karma Crazy crop up at the business-end of the album to please the purists. Mad is yet another example of traditional dubstep styles proving to be most effective and the boys are bang on with the melody on it too. A future dubstep classic in the making perhaps.
Crossover is probably the strongest vocal-track on the album with Katy B providing elegant poeticism on top of the punchy, bass-driven instrumentals. Karma Crazy is one of the strongest exemplary tracks of the individual qualities and skills of the three “Magnetic Men” with Artwork’s famed guidance and organisation reigning in the creativity and passion of Benga and Skream to produce an orchestral-come-dubstep infusion. The result is a brilliantly original and timeless dubstep track. These are the three tracks that should hit clubs to prove what the genre is all about.
The final track features John Legend injecting an intriguingly soulful dose of vocals into Getting Nowhere. The track is sublime and could potentially offer up a dub-soul niche in the market. Or perhaps kick start a US infatuation with the genre?
Magnetic Man set out to make a dubstep album for the masses and have succeeded in doing so, whilst brilliantly avoiding alienation of the die-hard fans. Whilst the album isn’t quite the sum of its individually genre-defining parts, it is still a fresh, innovative approach to a genre in need of mass-affection. If anyone is going to initiate a dubstep explosion it’s Magnetic Man.