Yet another artist that has successfully slipped under the radar of the mainstream, I first heard of Clubroot through his guest mix for Electronic Explorations a couple of months ago. After Rob Booth’s endorsement I’d been meaning to pick up his self-titled album for ages, but its lack of easy availability on CD/vinyl and my general disdain for digital downloads ensured I made the fairly foolish mistake of only getting hold of it last week. Which is a shame, as his music would have been perfect for July, with its mix of hot, heavy atmosphere and spontaneous downpours.
It’s ostensibly a dubstep album, though arguably as distant from the standard definition of that genre as the sound can be pushed. Where most dubstep is skeletal and stripped back to the point of minimalism, Clubroot shrouds everything in dense washes of mid-range ambience, disguising each tiny melodic inflection in a cloud of decaying electronic texture. Like Burial’s first record, the effect is almost dystopian in its evocation of the ghosts of London’s streets. But if Will Bevan’s beats conjure up the phantoms of the recent past - the lost promise and positivity of the embryonic rave scene, the feeling that anything could happen, right now - Clubroot’s spirit inhabits the London of Ballard’s Drowned World, a city reclaimed by nature and suffocated by oppressive humidity. Sound travels five times faster in water than in air; each note leaves a wispy vapour trail in its wake. Female voices drift, impossible to grasp, as though passing through ten thousand feet of warm, tropical water on their journey to the ears.
The aquatic early-Mystikz subs on ‘High Strung’ are probably Clubroot’s closest approximation of its parent genre, awash in wisps of barely-there panpipe melody that brush its surface without touching the depths underneath. Elsewhere, on ‘Dulcet’s coil-and-release spring tension and the submerged choirs of ‘Lucid Dream’ that recall Gang Gang Dance at their most astral, he hints at some entirely new creation, steeped in what Kode9 called ‘memories of the future’. Two tracks in particular encapsulate this more than the rest; ‘Talisman’ is a gorgeous slice of haunted garage, tracked throughout by a simple two note voice refrain over hot, abrasive subs, and ‘Sempiternal’ begins the wind-down to the album’s close with crumbling techy loops and a skittish two-step riddim. Both are absolutely beautiful, addictive tunes, and deserve an audience well beyond any they are ever likely to get.
Clubroot is undoubtedly a dark album, in the manner of so many post-garage urban derived musics, but its depth lends it an eerie sense of hope throughout. It’s a record that has only improved with repeated listens and I’m sure will continue to do so. A future classic? Quite possibly so, though we’re unlikely to see The Sun promoting an ‘Unmask Clubroot’ tabloid campaign any time soon.