Arriving on a wave of hype that would better be fitting as an undertow, Magnetic Man’s reputation as the group who could send dubstep mainstream inevitably precedes them. It also raises the question: does dubstep – a bedroom-born, after-dark genre – really need to see the light of day? Thankfully, the trio – underground veterans Artwork, Benga and Skream – have pooled their talents to produce an album that conveys the appeal of where they come from. But it is nonetheless something broader than a primer, pushing boundaries with its buttons and laying down a marker for anyone set to follow them.
It’s the tracks with guest vocalists that give Magnetic Man its breadth, the more orthodox material comprising the rest of the album’s depth. Of the former, Ms Dynamite’s re-emergence on the barrelling Fire is the only dud – her changed-up vocals sounding an uninspiring contrast to the likes of Angela Hunte on top 40 single I Need Air, which soars into life on a synthetic riff, and the floating nightmare Sam Frank provides on Boiling Water. The appearance of Katy B on straight-up love song Perfect Stranger makes it an inevitable second single, but in truth her turn on the song’s through the looking glass comedown – Crossover – is more impressive, to the point where it arguably would’ve made a more natural sign-off than their suitably soulful collaboration with John Legend, Getting Nowhere.
As for the rest, there won’t be many dubstep purists disappointed with the burrowing The Bug and its whispered malevolence, nor the way it segues into Ping Pong and an arresting, bare bones melody. Likewise, Mad and Anthemic both pay their dues to the dubstep’s trademark suffocating slow grind without stinting on a sense of occasion.
Perhaps as much as anything, Magnetic Man should be praised for their quality control. This album arrives on the back of countless mixtapes and collaborations between its core members and the temptation for a lesser group would be to believe that they’ve done enough to impress purely on the back of getting noticed. As it stands, they’ve not only crossed over but given themselves the scope to impress even further in future.
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