New releases on Chestplate are always an occasion, and the 45th release from the iconic label from head honcho Distance himself is an extra special treat for the dubstep world. The four-track Awaken EP - out Friday, 2/15 - builds on everything we’ve come to expect from both Distance and the Chestplate imprint to deliver a little bit more.
The most immediately noticeable, stand-out aspect of the Awaken EP is its release art. The trippy, multi-colored depiction of a mutant being (woke?) is a jarring contrast to the muted, mostly greyscale style featured across the rest of the release catalogue. The alien-esque art isn’t even contained by the typical circle used across underground dance genres, presumably to denote a “proper” release.
The break from the time-honored aesthetic convention comes briefly as a surprise - but not exactly a disappointment. As dubstep’s fan base expands and the music evolves, isn’t it about time we split from traditions that have become tropes, cliches, and symbols of underground elitism?
For some old-school devotees, the use of actual colors may strike as blindingly dramatic… but rest assured, dubsteppers: the Awaken EP is unmistakably the work of the pioneer producer who we know and love. The art does set the tone poignantly for the EP’s title track, “Awaken.” The high-energy anthem features familiar low-end grit, juxtaposed with vibrant, Joker-esque synths. It’s the perfect introduction for the journey about to unfold, rumbling with a musical thesis common across all four tracks. The Awaken EP is a quintessential Distance release, with a pronounced new-school twist.
The next track, “Equate,” solidifies the impression that Distance’s signature sound is here to stay. The tune is a straight-up testament to Chestplate’s cultivated sound, complete with the growling, marching bassline beat associated with classic tunes from Distance himself and other older releases on the label.
Still, the artist’s sound is hardly stagnant. Distance remains highly active in the underground scene. Emerging artists and smaller labels are regularly featured on the InDepth radio show, which he co-hosts with Darkside. His immersion in the new-wave sphere takes audible form across the Awaken EP. DJs will inevitably recognize the “loose” style of percussions upon the first play of “Equate”: the slightly off-center hits are majestic and drama-inducing, but (forgivably) infuriating in the mix.
This theme escalates along with the EP’s overall energy in “Rotation.” Phrasing tricks aside, the track is distinctly classic in character, especially in its grainy, mid-bass roar. But the metallic melodic motifs highlighted in “Awaken” resurface in “Rotation,” accentuated by hard-hitting hoodrat snares. It’s this sonic momentum, plus the new-wave-old-school vibe, that solidifies the entire EP’s staple status on dance floors worldwide.
The EP comes back around with its final track, “Settling Scores.” Both simplistic and climactic, the tune is punctuated with traditional grime-styled hits and sweeping cinematic tones. “Settling Scores” builds, then ends rather abruptly - leaving us in suspense as to what’s to come next from Distance and his label.
The Awaken EP is available digitally and physically via Chestplate this Friday, 2/15. Purchase it via Bandcamp now.
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