ENiGMA Dubz – Awakening
For over a decade, James Vine has found himself at the fore of the bass music boom. Better known as ENiGMA Dubz, Vine has been pushing the boundaries of what bass could be since cutting his teeth on the dubstep scene. He’s the sort of artist who’s anything but an essentialist. He makes ambient music under the moniker Itona, and he welcomes exploration into sonic palettes outside of his signature style. It’s palpable in the sound; Vine creates with a sort of unbridled creative freedom that allows influences from across styles and genres to colour his music with a diverse spectrum of textures and motifs. On his latest album Awakening, he’s stretched even further than before. Grounded in future bass, Awakening sprawls into bass adjacent offshoots like trap and grime, but also touches the serpentine breaks of current garage and drum’n’bass. The result is an eclectic LP that is at times a touch unfocussed, but works best when Vine manages to synthesise his points of departure into something forward thinking.
Awakening’s top half is mostly filled with the sort of thing one expects from ‘future bass.’ On I’m A Ghost with Hedara, the track’s wailing synths take on the jagged, staccato structure of the Flume formula while Bump In The Night is pitch perfect post-dubstep bass. Replicants edges precariously close to whomping dubstep, but never quite throws itself off that ledge. Still, there are a few unique twists on the form here. Vine explores grime on the excellently menacing Up In The Safe with S.O., a writhing drill’n’bass bassline slithering like a leviathan beneath S.O.’s rap. Lost Souls is glossy trap with garage bass throbs, while on Out of My Mind, Vine gets lost in the jungle and finds drum’n’bass. It’s the album’s second half that is its most successful, and on here things truly begin to blossom. It’s these slower burning, more dextrous tracks that showcase Vine’s mastery of pushing the boundaries of form and style. With its microbeat garage pulse and breathy, wistful vocals, the gorgeous ASMR with Queen Of Hearts sounds like Burial doing pop. The Sunken Place clashes together dubstep, drum’n’bass, and future bass while maintaining a careful, melancholic energy, while Enlightenment pivots in the opposite direction with sunny, lush garage. Afterlife featuring Coma is less distinct, recalling the post-dubstep trap ambiguity of Nicolás Jaar and FKA Twigs. It’s notable that these tracks also speak most toward Vine’s ambient proclivities, and when he indulges these instincts in his genre bending bass the results are often ones of richness and gravitas.
Awakening is an album that plays into Vine’s greatest strength; his willingness to bend the rules and ability to do so informed by technical skill. It may not be completely reinventing bass music per se, but it does offer moments of evolution for the genre’s mainstream. The album’s stronger bottom half is testament to this; a diverse yet grounded exploration into the places ENiGMA Dubz’s bass could go.
Listen to ASMR with Queen Of Hearts from Awakening below.
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