TheLetterElectronic Music Guide

RDG - Planetary Sound Fiction
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Since his first forays into Dubstep mutations around 2012 Danish producer Ruben Dag Nielsen has relentlessly explored every facet of Bass music, exploiting an increasingly maligned genre (Dubstep that is) by mashing-in sibling styles (Jungle, Grime etc.). Along the way he's racked up more than twenty EPs while running two labels: Surfase Records and Circle Vision. It's on the latter that Planetary Sound Fiction, his debut album, appears.

To this day, Dubstep clearly remains a chief inspiration for Nielsen. Even when consumer interest in the genre has waned in recent years he's kept things tight and relevant by working with quality collaborators, each injecting their own vital energy, reinforcing a shared game plan and pushing boundaries. This is the case with Planetary Sound Fiction, which accurately lists its styles as Dubstep, Grime, Drum n Bass, Ambient, Dub, Techno, Leftfield, Abstract, Drone, Downtempo, Dub Techno, Experimental and EBM! Genres are dead, long live the mash-up!

For an hour, fourteen tracks lurch and divert with a variety that, on paper, sounds like a car crash but it's anything but that. There's a deep, Dubby thread that unites the disparate as a whole. In support of the many Bass elements, we find instrumental excursions (like the beautiful Voices) connecting bigger tracks, alongside vocal contributions that pop and zing. Positioned optimally in the centre of the album, there's a sequence of four microcosmic moments, beginning and ending with effective vocal performances. On Can't Hide, the confident Grime-stylee of Killa P proves that UK rapping can be genuinely hooky. Then the electrifying vibe pulsing through Powerlines carries us into A Number featuring K Man, an instrumental with a steady current at its core, rippling with rude intent. Roar, with Monti completes this winning streak with a bold Dubstep showcase.

There's great sample use throughout, with vocal snippets and textures all adding depth. The sampled speech on Earth distils an unexpected reverence early on, while, in perfect contrast, the skittish Jungle breaks of Hypnotica immediately trash your developing mindset. Intentional or not, the inclusion of a female vocal track, Channelized featuring Yaa Aisin, towards the end adds a surprising twist, shifting from a largely male-dominated sound to something much more accessible; perhaps a second female voice earlier on would have altered things further still? Ultimately, Planetary Sound Fiction is a strong album, allegorical to some extent, packed with interest and head-nodding splendour, entertaining, chopping and changing but never too challenging.

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Listens: 11
  • Highlight: A Number ft. K Man
  • Label: Circle Music
  • Release Date: 20th March 2020
RDG - Planetary Sound Fiction