Review Summary: Down the rabbit hole.Angels and Devils
, Kevin Martin’s newest LP as The Bug, spirals down further into the nether regions of bass music than Martin has ever traveled before. He’s made incredibly dreary music before (see King Midas Sound’s superb “Meltdown”), but he’s never done anything quite this ominous and oppressive. It has its fair share of dancehall killers, as any good The Bug album would, although it would seem that Martin has wised up to the extremely slim chance he’ll ever make anything as jaw-droppingly nasty as “Skeng” or “Jah Warrior” again.
As a result, the album inches forward at a glacier’s pace through its entire first half. Martin obliterates the aggression and anger found on London Zoo
, instead outputting a face that looks inward and despises what it sees. The monolithic, baleful “Pandi” is utterly terrifying, huge washes of Transylvanian organ and trembling bass providing some of the freakiest sonics this side of industrial techno. Martin then goes on to top himself with “Save Me,” its caustic chords and wizened, groaning vocal feature from Gonjasufi plodding forward with the gravity and intentionality of Death itself.
The album’s brooding, intensely dark first half sucks the listener into a vortex of pain so strong that the comparatively lighthearted second half seems especially hollow. This is by no means a bad thing, as only the most intrepid would be able to weather much more crushing blackness, and it’s a refreshing change of pace to see The Bug slowly extricate himself from the muck he created and roar back with the instant-classic opening notes of “Function. ” Here, we see the Martin we’ve known and loved for so many years - his punishing grime is back in full effect, rearing its head and roaring with a cavalcade of well-metered hi-hats and immediately memorable basslines. You can hear Martin’s confidence in the chest-pulverizing bass wobbles of “Fat Mac,” Manga’s cackles in “Function” over a filthy hip-hop mid-range, the dubby synth wails of “Dirty.”
Yet the relative joy of the album’s closing rings oddly against the beginning, and Martin knows it. This results in some of The Bug’s most mournful bangers ever. They haven’t quite recovered from the morass of “Ascension” or “Fall,” and the keening chiptune sirens in “Dirty” and the paranoid snare rolls in “The One” reflect the obsessive, insistent darkness which permeates the whole of Angels and Devils
. Even the album’s title is pulled into the fray - the word “angel” almost always appears here followed by “dust,” also known as the drug PCP.
The collapsing roars at the end of “The One,” then, are a microcosm of Martin’s creative and technical talents at their best. Angels and Devils
is an album inextricable from intense, looming, pounding despair, and no matter how far away Martin manages to pull himself the blackness always comes back. Its sonic architecture is so crushing that it’s impossible to escape the strangely alluring black-hole pull of the devilish madness The Bug promises here. Angels and Devils
is a triumph of anguish, needles and monsters and evil in aural form. Be warned.