Late last year I was fortunate enough to catch Goth Trad when he visited Dublin for a gig organised by the Raid Collective and Tribal Movements.
In this incredibly intimate show Goth Trad, aka Japanese producer Takeaki Maruyama, played some of his big tunes like “Two Faced” and “Sunbeam” but towards the end of the show he started to play more and more tunes I had not heard. The use of dubplates and hearing brand new songs is nothing new at a dubstep gig but I could tell that these songs were his own productions and were also some of his most advanced work to date.
Following the gig Goth Trad spoke to the blog briefly and it was then I got confirmation that these were in fact new tunes from his forthcoming album, at that time unnamed, now known as New Epoch.
This record continues his relationship with Deep Medi. The label run by Digital Mystikz’s Mala is known for the deeper side of dubstep but while this record is a million miles from the tear out that currently pervades in some dances it is still sonically devoted to dance floors.
Coming out as both an 11 track CD and an 8 track triple vinyl pack this marks a development of sorts for Goth Trad. Purists need not be afraid, the all encompassing bass and crushing sub basslines still dominate but songs have more movement now.
Opening tune “Man in the Maze” is a perfect example of this. Starting with a plucked orchestral string intro the tune has energy and tension long before the beats drop almost 3 minutes minutes into the song. When the beats do arrive what first appears to be a standard fare of half time dubstep quickly makes way for relentless movement. Driven by the now familiar kick / snare pattern as the highs inject real urgency.
“Departure” continues with this departure, a 4 x 4 kick pattern bounces as it is interspersed with high hats. When the bass drops the beat simplifies making way for a song that would fit perfectly into future garage or bass music sets. The melodic nature of the song falls apart as the piece builds to a finish of interference and screeches.
Track 3, “Cosmos” is perhaps most like Goth Trad’s previous work. Built on high end percussive elements and a bass line modulated with an LFO it is familiar ground. The song really gets interesting after the break, the bass line is explored as riffs and chords are played upon without ever becoming indulgent.
“Airbreaker” is one of the songs that I did recognise in the set and straight away on the album. It has been known as one of the best dubplates in dubstep circles for a long time. Rolling bass layered on top of looped and chopped vocals make this one a crowd favorite. I had to be included on any new LP Goth Trad was putting out and lots of people (me included) will be delighted to finally lay their hands on it.
“Walk Together” is another of the tunes I remember from the gig. Stuttering samples and broken beats form the basis of the melancholic tune. The bottom of this song needs to be heard on a proper system to actually appreciate how punchy the bass is. Of course this should be expected from a master producer like Goth Trad but I certainly needs mention on this song.
“Strangers” explores a different speed. Around about 105 bpm means this song is much slower than the rest of the album. Almost mournful at times, the song harkens back to the much earlier days of dubstep. Massive bass lines modulate through synths that rise and fall. If a song ever embodies early morning after club angst then this is it.
“Babylon Fall” is the only song on the album is feature a collaborator and it is the vocal talent of roots and reggae legend Max Romeo. This tune was released on Deep Medi last year with “Falling Leaf” and “Itinerant Priest” and it is one of the best releases on the label to date. If you didnt pick the song up back then this album is another chance to pick up a reggae, roots infused piece of quality dubstep.
“Anti-Grid” continues the busier beat orientated productions. More beats doesnt mean less bass as the bass is almost too over-whelming. Breaks and synths cut through the wall of pressure just in time. As a close the the vinyl album it makes sense but when put in context of the CD I felt that its place in the track listings was a little misjudged. You know that when you are worrying about the placement of songs on a CD rather than the actual songs themselves you are listening to something special.
“Seeker” is a frantic combination of almost deadened drums and oscillating synths. Bass lines swing, synth stabs rise and fall as quickly as they mutate. The song is busy but somehow you get sucked in, like the song rises around you and by the time you realise you are caught its too late.
“Mirage” rises and rises. Bells chime and bass lines build till they distort. Eventually the synths break down a flurry of rim shots and hits, a wildly swinging synth keeps the tune progressing. The song continues to develop even after this. It seems like almost at ever 4 bar interval a new element is introduced or developed but this doesn’t pose a problem for the song. It remains coherent and sonically together for its duration.
“New Epoch” the titular track (not available on the vinyl) is the real finish to this album. This song takes the ideas of the previous tracks and develops them. The strings from “Man in the Maze” are revisited, the busy high end percussion from “Cosmos” and “Departure” returns triumphantly. The songs builds just as “Mirage” and “Airbreaker” and the massive crushing bass lines exist too. This isn’t lazy though, it is the perfect close to the album and it is perhaps the biggest issue that I have with the vinyl release that previous tracks like “Babylon Fall” will be on the vinyl while “New Epoch” wont be included.
Overall the album is very very good. As to be expected from Goth Trad and the Deep Medi collective. The issues with tracks missing from the vinyl release and the lack of that one killer stops me from calling this album perfect. As an album the CD is brilliant, it is one of the most coherent albums that the dubstep scene has produced and I would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in bass music but it pains me to recommend the CD over vinyl.
Excuse the youtube links but there are no soundcloud links from the Deep Medi or Goth Trad accounts and we didnt want to upload the promo.