He may not be the most prolific producer, but few survivors of the UK’s dubstep scene can rival the unerring hit-rate of Joe. Inventive and perplexing, Joe’s tracks often hit way-out leftfield, and with his follow-up to last month’s Slope on Hessle the man doesn’t disappoint, offering some of the most warped, addictive dance cuts this side of A Made Up Sound. Punters Step Out is unhinged: a carnival ride on DMT, a club night melting into an acid trip, it’s anything but expected. A detuned funfair melody takes centre stage, winding sinuously around a stripped field of clicks. It may be unsettling but it’s undeniably danceable – after a brilliant moment where Joe jarringly uses music technology against itself (sampling the sound of an audio cable becoming half-unplugged), the beats become more muscular, lending that disquieting melody a new raucous energy. It’s a strange track, and certainly an acquired taste, but you’ve got to give it to Joe for making this all somehow work – one can easily imagine a room of clubbers equal parts confused and ecstatic.
After such a madcap opener one might expect something a little straighter, but instead Club Scared jumps right off the deep end. Here a rolling drum pattern provides a stark skeleton, more club-tooled than its predecessor. But it’s not the music here that aims to mess with your mind, it’s the vocal. Once the groove gets going, a prim British woman starts intoning mind-fuck one-liners over the top – highlights include, ‘this is the hook…this is the part of the song you pay attention to… stop listening … you’ve heard this before … isn’t this the same as everything else?’ Alongside the increasingly frantic synth notes Club Scared builds up a real lunatic energy, its self-reflexive lyrics perfectly balanced by its manic 140bpm drumride. They’re bold, they’re weird, and more than a little frightening, but Joe’s new tracks sound blisteringly fresh – and doesn’t all the best art alienate as many people as it thrills?