Londoner Deadboy’s music career has always been a case of quality over quantity. With three solo releases to his name in as many years, the producer has nevertheless made a real name for himself off the back of two trailblazing early singles that showcased his unique voice, prefiguring the tropes of ‘bass music’ before it had even begun. Following these with 2011’s superb house anthem Wish U Were Here, an ability to effortlessly fuse powerful club chops with an authentic emotive drive has made every Deadboy release to date an essential release. Now he makes a welcome return, alongside Glasgow’s taste-making Numbers imprint, which apparently spent 2012 quietly gearing up for a bumper 2013 of festivals and high octane releases.
As a producer who has always pushed his sound forward with every release, it’s no surprise that Blaquewerk feels so fresh, containing four very different tracks, each extending a strain of sound hinted at in Deadboy’s early releases. Because of this, some may find the variation of styles results in a bit of a mixed bag, but all four tunes are united by a confident voice and consistently high quality production, so there will definitely be something here for everyone.
Opener On Your Mind is a curveball even by Deadboy’s standards, where a jittery spread of stuttering tics and a sedate kick rolls along at 120bpm, accompanied by Deadboy’s own softened vocals. A strutting bassline rules the show here, occasional iridescent 80s synth bursts adding liberal colour to the sound. Second cut Geek’d Up has been floating around the web for a while, but familiarity does nothing to diminish the tune’s killer impact. It stands as a gloriously moody slab of nocturnal house, where minimal percussive twitches underlie dubbed-out synth stabs and a superb array of vocal cuts.
On the flipside Deadboy dwells more on atmospherics, with Black Reign conjuring an obvious predecessor with its gloomy take on metallic 2step and ghosted vocals. Still it’s the details here that count, the industrial ambient hum and vocal loops deep in the mix make it so much more than a me-too effort. Deadboy waits until final track Nova to give the listener a real surprise. Apparently harking back to his youth in South London, this closer ups the tempo with ragged breakbeats, a pounding sub-bass tattoo and genuinely spiritual vocals that make for a stunning finale. Anyone who has heard Heartbreaker will know how uniquely moving Deadboy’s dance constructions can be, and Nova continues the trend, evoking a meditative vibe rarely felt on the ‘floor. While it may feel like only on the final track does Deadboy create something with the raw staying power of his early singles, Blaquewerk is still a very welcome return for one of the most impeccably consistent producers on the scene.