The last big dubstep release of 2006 arrives from Bristol label Tectonic. Generously, they give us two CDs: one, for the DJs, unmixed, and the other, for the rest of us, mixed by label boss DJ Pinch. Together, they collect almost everything that Tectonic's put out in its short but impressive history.
A lot of Tectonic Plates is truly earth-moving. Skream's Bahl Fwd may be his best work yet: the synth melody flits out of the same flying saucer as Midnight Request Line, while the percussion sounds like Squarepusher taking on tablas. Loefah's System is brought alive by machete rave stabs and echoing drums – one of the best things about dubstep, and one borrowing from dub that it should never give back, is the paradoxical feeling of dancing to the faded after-image of a sound instead of the sound itself. MRK1's Slang sounds like one of those car assembly robots, a little plug of silence in between every precise beat, not a movement wasted. Loefah's remix of Pinch's Punisher follows the increasingly familiar template for a heavy, scowling, stripped-down club track but somehow makes it interesting again.
Inevitably, though, not all of CD2's twenty tracks are so good. Whither the next generation? Armour's Iron Man, with its rusty industrial textures, sounds like something left off Vex'd's Degenerate LP, and dubstep certainly doesn't need two Vex'ds; it wouldn't matter so much if Pinch didn't let it chug away for nearly five minutes at the end of the mix. Contributions from Headhunter and S.N.O. are better but they don't make much of an impression. Still, even the old guard aren't infallible: Digital Mystikz's Molten is perhaps their first ever weak track, with its damp wobbly bass that stumbles along after the beat but never quite catches up.
A few disappointing tracks don't drag down a very solid mix. But what Tectonic Plates shows, as if we didn't already know, is that dubstep has mastered the prevailing style, and it needs to move on. At the end of 2006, this stuff sounds great – but by the end of 2007, I want it to sound dated!7/10
Out now on Tectonic