Crucial Recordings couldn’t bare a more appropriate name. Sleeper’s record label accurately describes the dubstep community’s collective regard for his releases. The artist produces in the spirit of a DJ. He channels the rhythmic energy of the dancefloor with skill and precision, and his tracks pulse with the very dark magic they perpetuate. In that respect, the Crushin EP isn’t anything new. The four-track release is powerful, playable, and will inevitably prove pervasive in the dance.
The seventh release from Crucial Recordings is also the label’s fourth EP produced by Sleeper himself. The Crushin EP is right at home among the Crucial catalogue — that much seems self-evident. In context of his most recent releases, the EP also fits a less obvious description: it sounds like Sleeper.
Since his official induction to the realm of dubstep in 2012, the artist has undergone a constant evolution.
It almost feels like it’s been a while since we’ve really known what to expect from the producer. Crucial’s first release — the Too Close EP — marked a transition in the producer’s persona; in the wake of Shatterz and Burn Finger, his current musical identity assumes a distinct and audible form. TheCrushin EP fulfils the metamorphosis with a self-aware sense of purpose.
The Crushin EP plays as the inside of an enchantment. Its four tracks play out with a flawless sequential continuity also revealed as cyclical when the triplet-fueled momentum contained by Crushin, the release’s final tune, flows seamlessly into Girl Scout Cookies to begin again. It’s a loop weaved together by a gentle, haunting melodic quality suggestive of siren seduction. The soft hint of sinister intentions is understated in every tune, but amplified by the eerie repetition of their shared subtleties.
In absence of a clear climax, the EP takes the character of an endless and unbroken curse. As a pure listening experience, the Crushin EP has an unusual appeal. Even so, the release is better regarded for what it is: four hypnotic dubstep tracks begging their chance to enchant the dance floor.
From any perspective, Akai Headbutt stands out as the centerpiece of the release. The EP’s second track is emphasised by design: it echoes the mischievous verbalisation that personifies the release as a whole. “Don’t be afraid” — the words hardly promise authentic reassurance, but from the inside of a curse, we’re left with no options but to believe. The ominous words ring with a sincere suggestion.
Their message is surely meant to penetrate the sound-system induced state of pre-conscious meditation that dubstep’s spell inspires. On the decks, Sleeper is a master of such revelatory moments, where the collective submission to primal instinct leaves us vulnerable to the powerful language of human consciousness. His productions are laced by the quiet power of words, and his affinity for careful eloquence is reflected elsewhere in the Crucial Recordings catalogue (notably Oxossi’s poetic Reflections EP). A full release crafted to empower the incantation feels not only justified, but natural.
To seasoned fans of Sleeper, the vocal should sound familiar. The same mantra — “Don’t be afraid!” — is featured in the 2013 tune Species. Aside from this line, Akai Headbutt shares little in common with the Chestplate track. The refurbished vocal seems to signify Sleeper’s decided shift away from the label’s heavy, aggressive signature. Akai Headbutt is suited to the style of the artist’s current sets; as they creep through the tune’s immersive musical elements, even the words themselves ring with a re-negotiated weight. Whatever his intent, the tracks reveal both Sleeper’s creative evolution and his consistency.
In lieu of feigning a conclusive analysis of Sleeper’s Crushin EP, I offer the eighth instalment of the Crucial Recordings podcast as its primary interpretation.
Sleeper’s artistic ingenuity birthed yet another 140 bpm gem. Now, the EP’s full value will be determined in the dance at the discretion of the DJs.
Peace, love and respect.