Cloud Seed

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Dubstep duo Vex'd are widely credited with having created one of the first really influential full-length albums in the genre (2005's dark and harrowing Degenerate). Five years later comes the follow-up, and if anything it's darker and more harrowing still: the beats lurch relentlessly, the atmospheres are dense and oppressive, and the chord progressions -- when present -- are straight out of a dystopian horror movie. And then occasionally the sun comes out, or at least the moon, and sometimes the mood is lifted by a female vocalist or a gritty-sounding MC. "Take Time Out" opens up the program with a truly creepy and disturbing groove over which Warrior Queen delivers a hard-as-nails lyrical flow; "Remains of the Day" sounds like heavy machinery grinding repeatedly and excruciatingly to a halt to the accompaniment of a bottomlessly sad chord progression; by the time you get to the aptly titled "Slug Trawl Depths," about halfway through the album, the sludgy darkness is starting to sound a bit formulaic and even the funkier entries are beginning to sound like dance music for depressed, introverted zombies. But then Jest makes a fine (if somewhat buried) MC contribution on "Disposition," "String Quartet No. 2" jettisons most of the dejected horror-funk of the previous tracks for an almost exuberant bounciness, and "Fallen" takes the proceedings even further in the direction of aesthetic pleasure. "Nails" takes things out in an aggro, industri-step fashion, like an astringent palate cleanser after a rich and bloody meal. It was inevitable that dubstep would progress in this direction, and probably inevitable that Vex'd would be the ones to bring it here. It may not be exactly fun, but Cloud Seed is consistently interesting.

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