REVIEW: Blackest EP by Deft

A few years ago, Croydon based producer of everything Deft gave me feedback via a mutual friend on some music I was producing at the time. So, when I saw him in the smoking area of Phonox in Brixton a couple of weeks ago I had to go and thank him. I also had some questions (admittedly slightly obsessive) regarding the track names on his latest release, Blackest EP (released earlier this year).

I was right about the lead track, ‘For Sudden’ – it was named in dedication to his friend, Croydon based hip hop artist and turntablist Oliver Sudden. I’d also correctly predicted that the second track, ‘Cronx’ is a reference to Deft’s hometown of Croydon and a play on the Bronx as the place of hip hop’s origins.

Beyond the opening two tracks though, I frankly have no idea what he’s on about – but it doesn’t matter.

The Blackest EP is dark and deliciously riddled range of sounds that take you into the deeper side of the dance music spectrum. Elements of grime, drum & bass and hip hop make up the foundation blocks of this release, with melodic bass and rapid wobbles, with Latin inspired percussion and gaping sound design padding out the wider corners of the EP’s sonics. This means atmosphere, power and movement.

‘For Sudden’ opens proceedings with esoteric south Asian vocal samples floating on top of Deft’s signature gritty bass and rhythmic percussion. This weighty opener sets the precedent for the rest of the EP as you’re slammed through apocalyptic soundscapes and fat (with a ‘ph’) bass, reminiscent of dubstep’s pioneers and fellow Croydoners, Skream and Benga.

‘Cronx’ and ‘Ivory Tusk’ make up the main bulk of the EP, showcasing Deft’s exemplary talents in production, sampling and sound design. The latter track still has me flashing back to hearing Deft himself chucking it through the utterly astonishing sound system at Phonox.

The last two tracks of the EP find a slightly slower pace. Producers Tehbis and Touchy Subject feature to bring an almost trap-like vibe to the penultimate number ‘Sesame Street’. Finally, in ‘Cats Like Thief’, Deft channels the likes of Burial and Calibre into an uplifting and prosperous (but a little bit out of place) finale to what is overall a cracking EP.

Having previously tackled a variety of genres, Deft has covered serious ground in the past few years. This release feels very much like an accumulation and realisation of talent and ability. Having gone from dubstep to house to half-step and everything in between, this EP has drawn inspiration from every corner of his repertoire. So as Deft builds on his host of associations with labels including WotNot, Civil Music, Ivy Lab’s 20/20 Recordings and Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood, I’m confident we’ll see more live shows and collaborations over the next year.

And I can’t help but feel there might be an album on the way.

For Sudden – Deft:

Blackest EP is available on vinyl from 20/20 Recordings Store and also available to stream on Spotify and Soundcloud.

Follow Deft on Soundcloud.

Words by Will Paintin.

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