Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: Ninja Tune
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Techno, Club/Dance, Dubstep
Like Hyperdub’s Kode 9, Washington-based producer Martyn runs a label (3024) and specialises in progressive bass music. This third LP is jumpy and beat-driven and banishes the memory of the dubstep scene he emerged from. Opening with the watery ‘Forgiveness Step 1’, it immediately changes pace: ‘Glassbeadgames’, which features Four Tet and is propelled by a UK garage kick, is claustrophobic.
When Martyn released his debut in 2009, many were calling his music a throwback to the '90s drum and bass that was found on labels like Ninja Tune and Warp, but this may be because he's an authentic product of that era. Starting out as a DJ in 1996, the Dutch-born producer cut his teeth in front of live audiences, helping his music gain an exceedingly fluid and reactionary feel. On The Air Between Words, his third LP, Martyn has crafted a sleek hybrid that blends the low-end groove of dubstep with his own style of shapeless melodies and structures.Martyn's move from Brainfeeder to Ninja Tune comes off almost symbolic, as the former label's jazz tendencies and the latter's rubbery reflexes are equally represented.
After Ghost People, the 2011 product of his brief association with Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label, Holland-born, Washington, D. C. -based producer Martijn Deykers studied Taoism and junked his software.
While any sweeping generalisations about eras and movements can be picked apart and knocked down with ease, it is safe to say that the explosion of first dubstep, then post-dubstep, then everything even remotely bassy that followed was one of the more important musical developments of the modern era. It was upon this wave that Martijn Deykers - aka Martyn - rode into the public consciousness with 2009’s Great Lengths. Two labels and two albums later, he returns with The Air Between Words, venturing, as he is wont to do, in yet another musical direction.
Dutch producer Martijn Deykers' debut album as Martyn, 2009's Great Lengths, marked him immediately as a synthesist, the album serving as a flash point in bass music's adoption of more traditional rhythms and structures. Deykers has since fashioned himself into a bit of a dance music vagabond, moving freely between labels and styles while running his 3024 imprint. He's part of the firmament of underground dance music at this point, something he's accomplished largely by sticking his fingers in a lot of pies.
There’s always some danger in claiming an album as your “most natural sounding”. Tricky did that with Vulnerable, calling it his “most honest and open record,” and it isn’t remembered as a highlight of his career. Washington, DC based musician Martyn falls into this trap on his third full-length release in the past five years, The Air Between Words.
Martijn Deykers' music—be it the drum & bass of his early Revolve:r sides, the genre-skirting bass of his late-2000s run or the more straightforward club music he's settled into recently—has always sounded impeccably wrought, stylistically in-the-know and peerless in a way that's tough to put your finger on. Martyn's tunes will often make others sound amateurish by comparison: few producers can be as simultaneously brilliant at sound design, hook-crafting and genre-stretching. If the latter is Martyn's most thrilling skill, then his latest album, The Air Between Words, doesn't feel entirely whole.
In 2007, had someone asked what the title of a forthcoming Martyn album would be, The Air Between Words would have been a very suggestive answer. Since the beginning of his career, the displaced Dutchman, now a resident of Washington D.C., has made it his occupation to fill in the areas between musical subgenres with vivid life. It started in the early 2000s, when he colonised the gap between bleak tech-step and liquid funk drum & bass, and it found a natural continuation when grime and garage grew gradually darker and fused to become early dubstep.
If you want to know why Martyn resists musical classification, the opening hook of “Drones” is a good place to start. A sound not entirely unlike a keyboard falling down the stairs, it takes a few listens for the madness to resemble some sort of method – at which point another track will probably have convinced you that, when it comes to club tracks, Martyn is not to be fucked with. The Air Between Words may sometimes seem a little off-kilter, but it also packs a punch harder than a Mantis Shrimp.
Why is The Air Between Words not gripping me? Dutch-born, Washington DC-based producer Martijn Deykers has released some fine music over the years, lurking in the liminal spaces between house and techno, drum’n’bass and dubstep without making firm commitment to any, and the list of labels he’s recorded for – Brainfeeder, Apple Pips, Tectonic, Ostgut Ton – speaks for itself. I got plenty of play out of his contribution to Inga Copeland’s 2013 EP Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going, which set the Hype Williams chanteuse’s vocals adrift amidst woozed-out synths and dubby undercurrents. Their partnership, which extended to Copeland’s recent Because I’m Worth It, is rekindled again here on album standout ‘Love Of Pleasure’, a sensual plea from the heart that draws glowing lines between piano house and spaced-out acid klonk.