Three dubstep producers get together, with the express purpose of broadening the reach of their genre and bringing it some commercial credibility. Scream, Benga, and Artwork call themselves Magnetic Man, and they've just released their debut album. 


First of all, let's define dubstep as it has been in the past. One of the few new kinds of music to emergy from the 21st century, dubstep is a slow and bass-heavy form of techno best exemplified by Burial and Rusko. It's generally instrumental, with occasional sampled vocals. It has a ghostly, minor-key sound to it, most of the time. 


That's a generalization; dubstep has been around for nearly a decade now, and - like any form of music - has mixed itself with other genres and extended itself a bit. 


Now we have Magnetic Man, where the three initial producers bring in all sorts of guests, while trying to stay true to the essence of the sort of rhythms that they've already been immersed in for several years. 


First and most important question : does it work? 


The answer : sort of. The basics are there. There's monstrous bass, and repeating, echoing drumbeats. There's an occasionally spectral sound. 


But for the most part, a lot of the collaborations with various vocalists are probably closer to other forms of techno than they are to dubstep. And unfortunately, when the group does an instrumental piece, it's sometimes not very interesting. 


That's not to say that there's not several killer tunes on the record. Chances are, though, that you've already heard most of them. The ephemeral, yet coiled "I Need Air" with vocalist Angela Hunter is a marvelous piece of music, produced beautifully with winking synths and a choppy, irresistable rhythm. It's not terribly dubsteppy, though - the bottom line is much too light. "Perfect Stranger" with Katy B's voice is also nice, but again suffers a bit from lack o'bass. It's a bit like drum 'n' bass without the bass. Nice, but perhaps not subtle enough. 


The purely instrumental tracks are not bad, either, and are closer to the spirit of their origins, but songs like "Anthemic" are not terribly successful, and sound like they should be soundtracking a B-level thriller. "Ping Pong" is a bit better, mostly because of the oddly slurping synths and some rapid vibraphone work. 


I have a quibble with the synths in general here. Magnetic Man can frequently think of nothing to do with them except to have them oscillate up and down. It sounds awesome the first couple of times, but the motif is repeated ad infinitum. You'd think with all their experience, they could innovate a little, huh?


There's one instrumental track, though, that's brilliant. That's "Karma Crazy", where an entire orchestra is brought in, only to be subverted by a squelch followed by the monster bassline one expects from dubstep. Good stuff. 


Back to the vocal tracks, the most famous name they could line up is saved for last, as American R&B singer John Legend stretches his legs and saunters over to the dubstep camp. It's not a bad idea, really, but the execution is somewhat lackluster. 


Another vocal track which does succeed features Sam Frank. It's called "Boiling Water", and is odd enough to catch the ear. It's like they got Joe McElderry to sing along with a chopped, rusty backing. 


Successful dubstep crossover? Magnetic Man's debut album is good, but it's not great. I'm guessing that they'll attract even more guests in the future, and that the killer genre-crossing album is coming sometime in the future. 


Can they get Robbie or Leona?


I give Magnetic Man a 7.5 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
 


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