Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture Vol. 2: Enter the Dubstep | Album Review

Wu-Tang Clan/Various Artists
Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture Volume 2:
Enter the Dubstep

Release Date: November 10th, 2009

The fate of the Shaolin Temple was sealed by its leaders’ refusal to open its doors to newcomers seeking to join their following. Had it not been for the monks’ initial anti-proselytization policy; had they accepted all those who sought entrance, the Temple may never have been destroyed. This important lesson, often recounted by The RZA, is a perfect analogy for the Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture series. Released in 2005, volume one introduced a lineup of indie/underground emcees whose form and style were so compatible with Wu-Tang that it made for one of the year’s most thorough (and thoroughly enjoyable) albums. In 2009, a new chamber of cross-breeding music has been opened, this time introducing a whole new genre/style to the Wu-Tang sound: Enter the Dubstep.

Dubstep originated earlier within the decade in the midst of the UK garage scene. A fusion of house, drum and bass, 2-step, and London’s grime, with influence from dub reggae, dubstep is characterized by its dark, uptempo beats. While artists like Lady Sovereign and Dizzee Rascal have expounded definitely-British sounds to the United States’ audience, the movement hasn’t really caught on across the pond… or has it? This year alone, dubstep has made a significant leap into the consciousness of U.S. music fans, whether they knew it or not. Dubstep producers Chase and Status’ smash track “Eastern Jam” was adopted and remixed by none other than Snoop Dogg on his promotional single “Snoop Dogg Millionaire”. Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture Volume 2: Enter the Dubstep seeks to further familiarize this new audience.

While volume one of the Indie Culture series brought along a roster of emcees, volume two is production-centric, highlighting the work of over a dozen dubstep producers. To the newfound dubstep listener – I’ll admit, I’m one of them – Indie Culture Volume 2’s mixes are either hit or miss; thankfully, they’re mostly hit. Tracks like Chimpo’s remix of the haunting “Cinema” by the GZA and his son are eerily intensified by the sinister keys and the dark and sparse soundscapes played throughout. In such instances, the production creates a brand new setting, providing the vocals an alternative meaning to the original; in others, they re-sample original beats, putting an emphasis on dub remixing rather than remaking. The Scuba Scythe remix to “Street Corners”, for example, retools the great Jean Plum sample from the original, crafting a bubbling, new interpretation that’s equally pleasing to the ears.

Unlike the first entry in the Indie Culture series, Enter the Dubstep does not feature any new vocals. The album is a hodgepodge of verses and choruses from previously-released Wu-Tang and Wu-Tang affiliate albums like Raekwon and Icewater’s Polluted Water, Lord Jamar’s The 5% Album, Wisemen’s Wisemen Approaching, GZA’s Pro Tools, U-God’s Dopium and more (including volume one of the series). While it would have been nice to hear some new lyrics – especially by the main members of the Clan – it works out better this way since this collection is intended to primarily highlight the producers; as such, it’s gainful to compare and contrast the originals to the remixes.

It’s worth noting that being a fan of Wu-Tang is not an assurance that you’ll enjoy this album. Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture Volume 2: Enter the Dubstep is very much like Linkin Park’s Reanimation in this regard. Open-mindedness is a pre-requisite, particularly for the untrained ear of the genre being tackled. Nineteen tracks deep, unless you’re a dubstep fan you may find yourself pressing the fast-forward button once every few or so tracks. But like Reanimation, the core content is still intact despite the altered sounds and backdrops. Overall you’ll find that there’s plenty of common ground to be shared and enjoyed when you Enter the Dubstep.