Thursday, 27 February 2014

Review: A/T/O/S - A/T/O/S [MEDiLP009]

We're welcoming another new scribe to these pages today, as well as (probably quite belatedly) a scoring system to accompany all the reviews you'll find on the site in future. As is to be expected, our standards are high and any release scoring within spitting distance of a five-out-of-five is one you'll kick yourself for missing out on.

Words: Alex Terry

A/T/O/S’ (A Taste of Struggle) first appearance came early on in 2013 by way of a self-titled single on the ever-adored Deep Medi Musik imprint. A low-slung, melancholic release pinching together aspects of trip- hop, R&B and dubstep, remixes from Skream and Commodo, and a video directed by Simon Mannaerts ear-marked the project of Amos & Truenoys as one to wait patiently and excitedly for. One year on, after confused anticipation, a couple of live performances and little to no information about the outfit surfacing online, A/T/O/S have announced their debut full length release.

Noticeably split between two different tempos - circling around the 140 and 100bpm marks - the album, on the one hand, seemingly pays homage to much of the Deep Medi back catalogue while markedly prying into regions previously unexplored by the dubstep label. Regardless of whether this was an intentional split, A/T/O/S present a debut album that oozes an undeniable 90's Bristolian demeanour while continually carving their own brand of dusky, leftfield R&B inflected with broken hip-hop: drunk drum patterns stumble spaciously over Moogs and Rhodes, lead by charmingly hesitant vocals.

Stand out tracks include 'Projects' bearing glistening synths that sound suspiciously sampled from 'Anti War Dub' - perhaps another appreciative nod towards influence - and 'Cosmos': a sunken, downtempo number that bears the qualities of the kind of industrial pop characterised recently by artists such as Grimes, and that benefits indefinitely from feeling submerged in cold bath water, washing off the saccharin edge and being stripped back into unnervingly few elements.

It is clear why the label seem to have been keen to lock the duo away while an album fell into place; quite simply, 'A/T/O/S' is one of the best debuts from any UK underground bass music act in a good number of years. Quite a statement, though one that becomes self-evident and difficult to dispute. Rich in emotion, confidently diverse production which retains strong continuity from track to track and an even stronger sense of A/T/O/S’ ownership over a sonic aesthetic and a bleak, sultry song writing ability.

A/T/O/S are undoubtedly special in that they have produced a stunning and unique debut album, and while they may not have spent the run up to its release gaining any noticeable momentum [Ed. - read: "shallow hype"], they have maintained an enthusiastic audience of label followers who are, let's face it, not outwardly interested in what they have to offer. To their credit, they have strung along the adjectives “dark” and “weighty” to encapsulate everything organic and timeless about the typical dancefloor-orientated MEDi release, while retaining them in what is absolutely a real listeners' album.

As for Deep Medi, who have a tendency to throw the occasional curveball - acts like Old Apparatus and Mark Pritchard being among the most notable - this is really the first vocal-lead act on the roster and it is difficult to imagine them not proving hugely successful in ways that bands such as Submotion Orchestra have proven of late. With that in mind, the prospect of further similar homegrown projects from the label would certainly be something to get excited about for 2014 and beyond.

A/T/O/S - A/T/O/S [MEDiLP009] will be released on the 3rd of March 2014 on 3x10" vinyl and in digital formats, and is available to pre-order from the Deep Medi Surus store now.

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