Keysound is the type of label where you make sure that you check out each one of their releases, even if some of them aren’t exactly to your taste. They have managed to successfully carve out a niche for themselves in the crowded scene of British dance music, through exercising tight quality control and maintaining a unifying vision. Though their releases exhibit some sonic variety, there is an overriding aesthetic theme; fairly summed up as dark and sparse. There are obvious parallels with early dubstep here, and some have accused Keysound of merely purveying slowed-down ‘dungeon’; Keysound Allstars Vol. 2 should put that myth decisively to bed.
While the EP’s four tracks do their fair share of looking back to the hardcore continuum, they manage to fuse the old elements into something new, exciting, and powerful. Opener ‘Scattah’, produced by Etch (from whom I for one haven’t heard much before) is a beast of a tune. Sounding like a cross between RSD’s dubstep classic ‘Pretty Bright Lights’ and Tessela’s recent stuff, it combines skittering junglist breaks with a wormholing bassline to devastating effect. Next up is Walton, who featured on Allstars Vol. 1, and he justifies the double inclusion with ‘Homage’, a banger of a tribute to UK Garage which includes added crackle for true analogue warmth. ‘Homage’ even pulls the classic trick of cutting to a female vocal before it drops a pulverising bassline, not dissimilar to Bigga G’s ‘Mind, Body, and Soul’.
On the flip, the atmosphere is more Eski than 2-step. Visionist provides ‘From a Place’, which starts with echoing drums before introducing ice-cold synths and strings, while vocal snippets float in and out of the mix. Fresh Paul’s ‘Sunblazed’ is the lightest track here, but doesn’t sacrifice any power. Logos-like synths flicker and interplay with Eski bleeps, while off-kilter drums drive the whole forward. This side is less out-and-out club fare than the other, but will surely find its way into the discerning DJ’s sets. A highly satisfying compilation, these tracks will, and definitely have, gone off in the club.