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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bug- London Zoo LP Review (7.5/10), 15 Jun. 2008
This review is from: London Zoo (Audio CD)
Kevin Martin aka `The Bug' has collaborated with some of leftfields finest including John Zorn, EL-P and Anti-Pop Consortium as well as recording for labels as diverse as Virgin, Rephlex, Position Chrome/Mille Plateaux, Hyperdub and Tigerbeat. This experience of experimental sound combined with his love of reggae and dancehall first appeared in his 1997 collaboration with DJ Vadim on `Tapping the Conversation'. Ever since, he has pursued and forwarded his sound whilst challenging ideals and even pioneering genres.

Nowhere near as turbulent and apocalyptic as 'Pressure', `London Zoo' sees Kevin Martin (Techno Animal, Ice, Ladybug) inject a coalescing sense of tribal melody to the toned down dubby beats which to some may come as a refreshing change to the aggressive amplification of violence and sex which made up his debut. When it comes to Rasta tuneage however, it is the murky, semi-auto toting, philly smoking Yardie territory that holds the most weight. Think back to now cult movie characters such as Uncle Curtis in Kidulthood, Julius in Johnny Was or the whole cast of Shotta's and you'll know what I mean as they, for me anyway, are the characters that really stood out. Just like in the movies, it's the gangster-orientated offerings that stand out first and although the use of Patois slurs are unfortunately reigned-in on this album there are several gun-happy cuts to choose from. `Murder Me' (the forthcoming single release) sees The Bug move into deep underground bashment territory with the homicidal sub-aqua flow of Ricky Ranking whose prose roll off over a quasar-lit battleground of low-end burble and fizzing snares. `Jah War' proves to be the drive-by mimicking, inner-city cruise tune of the summer with its exploding beatscape of elongated bass spurts and raw percussive smatterings which fuse energetically with laser swirls and skeletal 8bit melodics. The treble-heavy, cheapo soundsystem sound of `Warning' featuring Flowdan harks back to Kevin Martin's industrial Techno Animal days, what with its muffled and hiss-heavy beats, alien sirens and compressed bass. Just like a peaceful and emotional memorial service following a crazed bout of bloodshed business, the subtle yet epic and atmosphere steeped sound of closer `Judgement' proves to be the perfect conclusion, a kind of urban requiem of sorts that stays with you long after the album stops spinning.

What `London Zoo' specalises in is the contemporisation of old-skool dub-reggae by injecting a bouncing sci-fi electroid flair which is all fused into the skeletal body of bass-worshiping dub-step. Tracks like `Insane' and `Skeng' capture this bustling noughtie's London soundsystem dynamic, the latter utilising a skeletal and hollowing dubstep soundscape which flows wave-like with Flowdan and Killa P flowing in a tempo and octave varying narrative-esque style. When the oozing bass movements merge with rhythmic and rhyming bars there is real fusion but the experimental arrangement makes for a slightly messy affair. `Fu#kaz' on the other hand is not so much about the beats but the message conveyed- being a inner-city sermon featuring the irrepressible Spaceape (Burial, Kode 9) who doesn't hold back in his warranted scrutiny of other man-dem by spitting narrative bars like "fear all dem people who never wann-a see man succeed, improve and better him-bludklaat-self in life". One of the stand outs of `London Zoo' is the beefed up yet stripped down dancehall groove of previous single `Poison Dart' which features Warrior Queen. Heavy duty bass rolls and fizzing snares are wrapped together and warped in a chunky dub-tech style whilst Warrior Queen, who collaborated with Kevin Martin back in 2002 with the jointly credited `Aktion Pak' EP, provides a confident, girlish and brash flow that fuses dancehall chanting with rap sensibilities.

With `London Zoo', Kevin Martin has created a varied and gritty score to London's colourful underbelly, fusing elements of dubstep, dancehall, reggae and electronica all whilst maintaining a subtle melodic sensibility. Tracks like the dreamy, muted dub swirl of `Too Much Pain', You & Me' and instrumental `Freak Freak' add depth and longevity to the release by providing that essential contrast between those pounding war-riddims and brash dancehall stompers. (AM)

For fans of: Razor X Productions, Shockout Vol.1
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