Boomkat Product Review:
*Includes all vocal AND instrumental versions!* Long anticipated by a dubstep community starved of full-length packages to sink their teeth into, "Underwater Dancehall" is the hugely ambitious debut album from Pinch, serendipitously unleashed onto the world on the same week as Burial's towering second album "Untrue". Short of the generous use of vocals and innovative determination there's little to connect these two albums - except perhaps for a skewed populist trajectory followed by both producers. The cd version of "Underwater Dancehall" comes as a double-disc package, delivering the entire tracklisting in vocal (Disc 1) and Instrumental (Disc 2) forms - and each disc is an entirely different beast. Pinch's astonishing "Qawaali" is re-branded here as "Brighter Day" and features vocal narration by New York MC Jukali, offsetting the emotive resonance of the original with a rugged vocal antithesis that takes a few listens to digest but which ultimately imbues the track with a context far removed from the spacious melancholy of the original (re-produced as the opening track on Disc 2). "Get Up" is next and is the first of two tracks featuring Yolanda on Vocal duties, shifting the agenda into a more giddy orbit that has more in common with the slick machinations of 2-step/R&B than with anything you could describe as dubstep, though the instrumental version reveals a much darker edge that seems to possess a filthier hub at its core. "One Blood, One Source" has already been aired on the limited 12" album sampler and is the emotive heart of the album, engulfing Rudey Lee's vocal with light-footed Sino melodies and a musically colloquial arrangement that does that clever thing of appealing to a broad spectrum of listener without letting go of its deviant soul. Martin Clark has already made much of the link between Pinch and Bristol's Wild Bunch/Massive Attack Continuum and as he rightly points out this is the track that most clearly joins those dots. "Gangstaz" sees the return of Jukali and is just immense - making a piercing emotional impact with the barest ingredients - something which for our money is Pinch's greatest trait as a producer. The album ends on the hugely impressive "Lazarus", a complex arrangement of layered percussion and broad soundscaping, finishing proceedings off with an almost entirely instrumental sweep that makes use of stylistic self-restraint, a device that so many of Pinch's peers could do with adopting. Across these 20 tracks Pinch has managed to balance out his broad musical ambition with a stylistic focus that imbues "Underwater Dancehall" with a narrative that makes it more than just a collection of 12" tracks - and although there are moments when you feel the instrumental versions offer greater rewards, its nice to have the choice. Excellent stuff - Highly Recommended.