DJ Side is a Czech DJ who makes dubstep, grime and hip-hop. "All well and good, and we're very happy for him," I hear you say, "but what about those of CTW's enormous readership who don't want to nod their heads and consort with people of the opposite sex?" Fear not, O basement dwellers. With a surreptitious wink, DJ Side has sneaked an ambient hip-hop EP into CTW's coat pocket. You heard me: ambient hip-hop. Bittersweet Love is a five-track slice of hypnotic audio bliss, released on parole by those unstable people at Surreal Madrid netlabel.
Wikipedia defines dubstep as "distinguished by its dark mood, sparse rhythms, and emphasis on bass," which goes a long way to explain the soundscape you'll hear in Bittersweet Love. What's especially intriguing is the use of ambient sounds in hip-hop rhythms, though the glitches are set at such slow tempi that it's more trip-hop than hip-hop. Standing on the Olympic podium: 1. Lo-fi beats over lengthy delays and reverberations. 2. Deep bass drones. 3. Glitches.
The EP kicks off with Amb Part 2, wherein we discover an electric piano, a snare drum made of stretched white noise (sort of), and a distressed seagull strapped to a dub delay. Hey, it's how I roll. [/Americanese slang]
Clicks is just that, the sound of a dusty record with lots of panned clicks 'n' cuts. It sounds like a fireplace getting its groove on while an ominous, pulsing bass runs around the house and tries to find a way in. It's difficult to make such sparse elements engrossing, but don't worry - a Czech DJ is, er, in the house. Heh.
If the Cold War ever returns to Europe, D33P should be the soundtrack for its newly employed spies as they don mackintoshes, smoke far too many high-tar cigarettes and rendezvous in bombed-out buildings. Bell-like tones haunt the crackly, delayed clicks that run in and out of a lo-fi drum break. The bass sounds as though DJ Side parked a diesel engine in the corner of his studio, threw a thick tarpaulin over it and left it to run while he got on with making music. The track takes its time and thus gets under your skin. It broods. It's deep ind33d.
In Klear you'll hear giant filter sweeps, background thumps and a low, pulsing bass. It's rather like listening to distant warfare while the United Nations deploy a blue-helmeted click 'n' cut groove to keep things almost civilised. Like the rest of Bittersweet Love, it won't grab you on the first listen, but it's detail and rhythmical qualities might eventually win you over; it did me.
Metatron provides an optimistic-ish ending to our aural journey. A plain clap-and-kick beat overlays background noises and snatches of conversation before a muted guitar and lo-fi strings leaven the mix.
I'm not sure if there's much point listening to this fascinating EP on your/my standard crappy PC speakers because much of the intricate detail will be lost. It's definitely headphones territory; either that or play it late at night on a decent sound system. Your neighbours will love you. Trust me.
Perhaps someone will tell me where the album cover image comes from. Donning my deerstalker hat, I've deduced that it's from an Asian gangster film, and furthermore, my magnifying glass tells me that it might include the odd bout of fisticuffs or at least a sharply worded letter deploring misbehaviour in general.
DJ Side - Bittersweet Love EP (link to individual MP3s)