It truly is the end of an era as MethLab wraps up its last releases with two new remixes by Exept and IHR and this surprising choice, a brand-new EP by a brand new artist, Deerhill. The idea that the pioneering label would end on a note such as the Upstream is a testament to what MethLab was and is still about: curating different and interesting explorations of sound and space regardless of name, fame or genre.
Deerhill is a Canadian artist with fresh yet slightly retro leftfield vibes and his debut Upstream EP shows great promise. With a very clean and crisp use of sound design and ambient space, Deerhill creates a sonic landscape that’s experimental, interesting, emotive and melodic all at once.
Upstream opens with a trippy, beatless yet somehow not exactly ambient track called “Do You See It?” which sets the tone for the synths in the EP but not the beats. Following, “Bound” has a tempo midway between dubstep and D&B but the way the beat is looped it sounds like it could be just a very chill dubstep. The synths here are very minimal and the sound design is ambient forward yet the track has a nice dancefloor quality because of the beat.
“Mind Incursion and “Zero-G Fire” go beatless again and have a similar retro synth feel to “Do You See It?” but with their own spins on retro synths. While “Mind Incursion” is again quite ambient, “Zero-G Fire” has a harder edge and a sort of Misanthrop Analog feel. “Starfield” goes back to having a beat and it’s probably the most danceable on the album at 150BPM. As it’s so snare-heavy, even though it’s slower than “Do You See It?,” the track sounds more steppy. After all this, the closing track “Void Fall” may be the most intense and EDM-styled on the EP despite also not having a beat. It has an implied beat with the way the synths are written and the tempo is right in that leftfield sweet spot.
Deerhill’s work on Upstream shows a great potential for producers to get more and more “leftfield” with the emerging leftfield genre and still be well within the limits of danceable music. MethLab’s mark on curating this style of music cannot be understated; here’s hoping there is now enough of a platform generally in bass music for artists like Deerhill to continue to push boundaries and thrive.
Upstream is out now on MethLab Recordings and can be purchased on Beatport and Bandcamp or streamed on Soundcloud. Be sure to check out the final remixes out soon by Exept and Inward, Hanzo & Randie as well as all of MethLab’s back catalog and remaining merch on their Bandcamp page.