Following a few singles and split releases, this year saw Owen Darby, aka Wen, drop his debut album on Dusk and Blackdown’s thriving Keysound imprint. Grimey melancholy meets static urgency on Signals, an album that picks up where Logos left off with 2013’s Cold Mission. Instrumental grime is the order of the day, yes, but Wen chops up vocal samples like most people do dinner, peppering his tracks with simple phrasing and repeated mantras in thrilling fashion.
‘Galactic’ sees him attempt to soundtrack a sci-fi horror starring the kids of the London underground as they visit the bright lights of Tokyo, while ‘Lunar’, featuring Blackdown, is all heavy basslines and eerie string patterns. ‘Persian’, as its title might suggest, is riven with middle-eastern melodies, exuberant percussive claps riding through while deep, sinister basslines pulse through to the listeners very core. ‘Play Your Corner’ features the rollicking vocals of Riko, spitting fire over more horror-laden strings, while it all comes to a conclusion with disembodied Bollywood vocals over haunting bells and the broken line of a solitary MC. All this terror and dread could just be a conceit, but the album is no less entertaining or danceable because of it. This is an album as involving as it is built to make a party move. For an artist so young, this shows great promise. Let’s hope there's more to come.
As featured in the Mid-year Roundup 2014