As one half of seminal UK dubstep pioneers Vex'd, Roly Porter is certainly no stranger to experimentalism. When he and Jamie Teasdale released their debut album Degenerate on Planet Mu back in 2005, it's combination of whip-crack beats and scouring electronic textures was something of a revelation. After putting out a hugely disappointing follow-up album Cloud Seed in 2010 which presented a wholesale stylistic volte-face, Vex'd were no more.
Given Porter's reputation, Aftertime could certainly be tagged as an important and much anticipated release in certain quarters.
The album's first sounds are high frequency tones which quickly mesh with a rumbling, industrial drone quickly followed by harsh electronics. Tellingly, this first track is entirely beatless and is riven by monumental strafes of ragged bass pressure. Second track 'Tleilax' expands on this template but adds random, pummelling snare fills and a heavily doctored snippet of voice - an aggressive shout whose only intelligible line seems to be "who the fuck". The thinly veiled air of violence gradually recedes and is finally given over to a pair of tones which sound for all the world like treated flutes. As the album progresses, each punishing bass drop hangs perilously on the verge of distortion as it threatens to rupture your woofers, layers of drones are slashed at mercilessly by a gale of dilapidated frequencies and outright atonality. This is a beautifully stark, unflinching and uncompromising listen.
It's worth noting at this point how much Porter makes use of heavily doctored string samples throughout this album - 'Kaitain', 'Hessra', 'Corrin' and 'Caladan' all feature such sources. Further expanding on this approach to the incorporation of influences of Western classical composition, 'Al Dhanab' has a distinctly Middle Eastern cadence whilst 'Ix' contains traces of what sound like some kind of Asian stringed instrument.
This is a stunning set from start to finish, an incredible statement of intent from an artist who has previously worked within a fairly tight set of genre-specific constraints. That Roly Porter was capable of producing one of the heaviest and texturally suffocating albums in quite some time shouldn't be too much of a surprise given how groundbreaking his debut with Vex'd sounded seven years ago.
Nothing short of essential.
The album is available through Juno on vinyl, CD and MP3. For more information and updates, check out Roly Porter's website.
Stream a preview of the album on Soundcloud;