Over the last year, Martijn Deykers has become one of the most well-known and respected figures in the increasingly fertile crossover territory between dubstep and techno.
The past twelve months have seen him release on Appleblim’s Apple Pips imprint and label of the moment Hessle Audio, as well as produce devastating remixes for (amongst others) TRG, Scuba and Shed. Despite having a long and prolific career as drum ‘n’ bass DJ and producer, Great Lengths is Martyn’s debut album. Released on his own label, 3024, it is an organic sprawl as in thrall to the sounds of classic Warp electronica as to any contemporary dance music.
Great Lengths is a record essentially split, physically and thematically, into two halves by a short ambient interlude. The first half is chameleonic in its diversity, ranging from deep percussive dubstep (‘Vancouver’) and broken garage-y beats (‘Right? Star!’) to a thumping 4/4 pulse (‘Little Things’). After the curiously muted opener, things only start to pick up when ‘Krdl-T-Grv’ shuffles into action, all techoid propulsion and brittle synths. Much has been made of Martyn’s techno credentials, but more immediately apparent is a debt to the warmth and percussive structures of two-step. This is not cold machine music: the centerpiece of ‘Right? Star! is a gorgeous chord progression straight out of a 90s garage tune, before a sudden drop into subterranean bass pulls the ground from beneath your feet. The production throughout is immaculate, managing to encompass both the twitchy, restless energy of dubstep and the smooth flow of house – no mean feat.
If the first half of the album feels stylistically unsettled, from ‘Bridge’ onward things take a steadily more coherent, and dancefloor-ready, approach. ‘Elden St.’ welds icy snare syncopations to a relentless 4/4 kick to devastating effect, and the churning bassline that drives ‘Hear Me’ has made it a staple in many recent DJ sets. It is in this second half, too, that Great Lengths starts to feel like an album length artistic statement rather than simply a compilation of (admittedly excellent) tracks. Tracks ebb and flow, and shifts in tempo and mood feel more controlled, less random – the subtle restraint of a DJ who knows exactly how to build up tension before the inevitable release. And, when the energy is finally unleashed, even on headphones it’s hard not to feel the same excitement you’d feel at 4am in a dark club.
Dance music can suffer in the transition to album format. The problem lies in transferring the focused energy of a 12″ to full-length without either tiring the listener through a lack of dynamics or boring them with filler. All albums rely heavily on atmosphere and pacing; this is perhaps why the genre’s most fulfilling long players (Burial’s two albums, Kode9 & The Spaceape’s Memories Of The Future) come from producers who take much of their inspiration from sources outside of a packed club floor. Martyn treads the middle ground; this is undeniably club music and the majority of tracks here would slay a dancefloor, yet the variation in style and mood across the entire record prevents it from lapsing into predictability. By the time Great Lengths finishes you feel exhausted; yet having waded through the sequentially challenging first half and been thoroughly rinsed by the fluidity of the second, as the final track tails off you feel both (bittersweet) relief and a strange desire to start all over again.