Review Summary: Tell me what you want to be...
At this point in time, it seems unworkable to talk about future-garage/dubstep and not have the word "Burial" pass through your lips. The man has attained, for all intents and purposes, an almost god-like status, not just in the world of future-garage/dubstep, but in electronic music as a whole. With this prestige, there have also come numerous imitators. It is not uncommon; most innovative and inspirational things are replicated in a feeble attempt to tap into the potential increase in popularity the innovation receives. However, there are those small few that, while remaining in the same ballpark as the innovator, choose their own path around the bases and manage to implement their own design to the foundation set for them.
In the case of future-garage/dubstep, of which Burial is undeniably the innovator, an interesting tweak has been made to it by a producer named Felix Manuel, better know as DjRum, a tweak that is made with startling precision and tact. A remarkable ingenuity for sampling handiwork and the interweaving of other electronic influences make Manuel seem impressive on paper alone. It is, however, the execution of all of this that makes him truly rewarding, especially on his 2011 EP, Mountains.
It is fitting, then, that Mountains opens with an absorbing and undaunted statement. In the opening track, "Undercoat", Manuel uses the first twenty seconds of ambient noise to lull the listener into surmising that the album won't be anything more than a replication of Burial's output. This is where Manuel makes use of his first sample: "He wouldn't necessarily agree with you at this moment..." quietly asserts a young woman. From there, the dynamics of the music begin to change. What disguised itself a simple sample is now apparent as a staunch message of individuality, of knowing ones own sound well enough to be firmly confident in it.
All four of the tracks contained on Mountains surpass six-and-a-half minutes, which displays faith in the ability of the music to keep the listeners attention, faith seen in only the most seasoned of veterans. As methodically placed samples whirl in and out of the amorphous ambience, Manuel constantly molds the music into different textures and is not bashful about experimenting with his sound. Oftentimes, he'll make changes to the beats or samples he's using so that they do not overstay their welcome and become stale, something he's able to do with uncanny professionalism.
Everything Manuel does on Mountains has a definitive purpose, wether it be a spoken word sample or a light echo of a voice. It is all crafted around a ethereal atmosphere that takes the record to heights it would not have grasped without it. Every minute detail contributes to the overall semblance and euphoric aura that surrounds the record, resulting in a calculated and infallible legitimacy. A drawback, if there is one to be found, is the brevity of the record, as it can leave the listener feeling like there is a piece missing from it.
As it stands, the great innovators of music and the genres carried within it will always have impersonators. However, there will also be those who able to break from the monotonous mold and manage to create something worthwhile. For a time, future-garage/dubstep only had it's innovator, and it's imposters. Now, a new technique has been implanted within the genre that, with time, will be recognized as one of the best, and one of the most important, that it has to offer.