Since he first emerged in the mid nineties under his DMX Krew alias, Ed Upton has remained one of the most consistently prolific figures operating amongst the UK electronic music scene. Indeed this latest collection on Hypercolour ‘Strange Directions’ offers up his 21st album in as many years, and represents just one of three records he’s dropped in the last twelve months. Those previously familiar with DMX Krew’s work will already have a good idea of what to expect here, but while Upton’s characteristic forays into electro, IDM and breakbeats remain firmly present here, there’s a distinctly more eerie and downbeat feel to many of the tracks here.
Opening track ‘Snowy Blue’ gives a good sense of this increasingly moody direction as chunky midtempo breakbeats contribute a snapping rhythmic undercarriage to ominously blurred out analogue synth sweeps, bleeping electronics and prowling bass tones, the sheeny surface textures not quite masking the dark funk undertones that lurk just beneath. ‘Odd Chill’ gets creepier still, as layers of background ambience create the sense of the ground falling away into an endless void beneath harsh distorted beats and icily glittering Kraftwerkian synths, the stuttering melodic pads contributing a sense of muted arrhythmia that if anything heightens the unsettling feel.
Elsewhere, ‘U Talk 2 Much’ sees the more muscular electro-funk elements coming to the surface, but while there’s certainly plenty of groove to the fat squelching analogue synths and sticky bass tones that cling to the punching stacked kickdrums, Upton’s vocoder-treated lyrics focus on a friend who’s been telling tall stories about him, the rippling arpeggios seeming to seethe with tension that remains unresolved by the track’s end. ‘Nice Portal’ meanwhile kicks the pace up a few notches, sending motorik-fuelled drum machine rhythms rolling beneath a phased Jarre-esque synth melody and zapping electronics, the growling distorted pulses that lurk at the edges undercutting the sense of Italo-indebted pop brightness. By contrast, ‘Strode Downe’ ventures out into the sort of IDM electro territory explored by Upton during his Rephlex days, as hard staccato breakbeats arc off glacial synth pads and noodling melodic elements, as digital timestretching suddenly kicks in, contorting the beats down to a crawl before sending them springing back off again. Once again, longtime DMX Krew fans are unlikely to be disappointed.