Rabit + Dedekind Cut R&D [EP]

[Ninja Tune; 2016]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: jungle, “industrial fusion,” trauma
Others: Amon Tobin, Chino Amobi, Lotic

When Mary Anne Hobbs premiered the first side of R&D for BBC Radio 6, she read a quote from Rabit that detailed his feelings toward the release. According to at least one half of this new collaboration with Dedekind Cut (f.k.a. Lee Bannon), the record is about “never feeling satisfied, chasing creative urges, and dipping into the unknown when it doesn’t always make sense.” That sounds like a process in itself, or at least like a formula for writing a piece of music set to veer drastically from any predetermined trajectory. Indeed, the musical styles that might have bridged these artists together in the past have often resulted in quite drastic diversions (compare the ravaged and dystopian cuts of Rabit’s “Flesh Covers the Bone” to the cool, collected air of Lee Bannon’s “Disneµ Girls”), which justifies the initial public response to this meeting of minds when the project was first announced.

But on their first joint release, those diversions forge so naturally that it feels like they stem from the compositional strategies of a single person. The bleak and discouraging context that Rabit depicts could well be the arena in which two diverging producers find an unnerving common ground, and like the traumatic furnace of last year’s collaboration with Chino Amobi, R&D certainly feels dissonant, as those urges (including samples from the likes of Lyn Collins) are nailed to a cross section of thundering bass lines and ambient buildup. Operating side-by-side, both artists use techniques that might have previously separated them to draw their audience into sonic disproportionality and abstraction by breaking down typical song structures and maintaining the fabric of their personal influences.

This results in an addictive interplay of approaches that would seem completely out of place, if they weren’t so delicately stitched together. Deep and fractured bass rumble upside a forceful and throbbing pulse, bleeding into a jagged vocal sample and a percussion-heavy onslaught, the second and third sections somehow merging seamlessly together. There are scores of instances like this over the course of 12 crushing minutes that end almost as abruptly as they began in a stark “what the fuck just happened?” moment that adheres to Rabit’s frequent gestures toward insatiability. The release requires repeat listens to come to grips with its temper and versatility, a stunning exploration of ideas riding the waves of neofuturist aspiration. But for all that, the strands of jungle and even dubstep that may well have instigated this record tend to leave a familiar aftertaste.

Once a thump ruptures on the fourth section and the Collins sample kicks in, the mood harks back to a late-2000s scene of urban isolation, of cold and rain-soaked evenings when night shift workers struggle for a slice of normality across a cityscape driving its population unwittingly forward into a realm of technological progress. Flashbacks to Crooks and Lovers are as common as they are to Untrue, but even when that happens alongside an inescapable hat tip to the Amen break, both artists manage to provide a beautiful mutation of that aesthetic. It seems inevitable, then, that those historic threads are what bind Rabit and Dedekind Cut together, but through consciously dragging their work into a new creative space, they are unravelling an approach that remains almost as unlikely as their pairing.

Links: Ninja Tune

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