Brighton’s Ital Tek peddles a similar line in hyperchromatic dubstep variations as his sorta-contemporaries in Bristol, Joker, Gemmy and Guido. Only ‘sorta’ because although there are undoubtedly similarities in end product – all possessed of a convincingly colourful sheen that gradually seems to soak into the music’s very fabric – Ital Tek’s vision feels more deeply considered. His nocturnal moodiness and tendency towards subtle exploration betray a greater debt to early Warp albums by the likes of Autechre and The Black Dog than to US hip-hop and R’n’B. So while the ‘purple’ contingent’s music sounds deliberately naïve and unconscious of much beyond its own boundaries, Ital Tek’s second album Midnight Colour is knowingly steeped in the history of British electronic music.
It’s perhaps surprising then that despite their entirely separate locations, his music shares more with his labelmate FaltyDL than with many of his British contemporaries. In a neat twist, it’s less a similarity of end product and more one of process and aesthetic. NYC-based FaltyDL makes gorgeous, moody garage, while Ital Tek’s beat structure remains rooted in dubstep’s stereotypical halfstep mode, but both share an audible love of their own label’s earlier music by the likes of Luke Vibert and Mu-ziq. On Midnight Colour that love is made manifest in delicate wisps of melody that drift almost aimlessly between muscular percussion. Opener ‘Neon Arc’ sets an appropriate precedent, driven by almost impossibly thick synths that again recall Joker, but sapped of his crunked-out feel possess a more natural rhythm. ‘Moon Bow’ is lovely, all descending lines that seem to plunge below its shimmering surface, and brings to mind the shifting sky curtains of the Northern Lights.
Midnight Colour is generally slower than its predecessor Cyclical, and as a result feels less a creation of and for the dancefloor than a headphone record. There’s a (whisper it) maturity to these tracks that proves to be an asset; Ital Tek’s level of restraint on something like ‘Moon Bow’, or the stargazing ‘Tails’ offers a full-length that is more than simply a collection of dance bombs. One of the standard complaints leveled against pure ‘dance’ full-lengths is that they often lack the variety across an entire hour to hold a listener’s interest without diminishing the furious energy of a great 12-inch single. The naturally stripped-back spaces of dubstep have, over the last couple of years, proven it to be a form that lends itself well to the album format.
Midnight Colour offers yet more evidence to support that claim; having drifted through its entire length the reward is quite possibly Ital Tek’s finest moment yet, the Anneka-featuring spacefuck of ‘Restless Tundra’. It’s a frosty love song, shot through with the vapour trails her almost wordless vocals leave in their wake. Similarly, when the ceaseless shuffle of ‘Strangelove VIP’ heads off in a more club-focused direction, it functions as a natural upsurge in the album’s energy rather than simply one in a sea of copies. That’s undoubtedly to Ital Tek’s credit; Midnight Colour offers a frequently lovely head-trip.
7Rory Gibb's Score