Releases — Dubstep Allstars Vol.11 – Mixed by J:Kenzo / Various Artists / Tempa CD022

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Dubstep Allstars Vol.11 – Mixed by J:Kenzo

Various Artists

Tempa CD022
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Liner Notes

Dubstep Allstars Vol. 11 opens with a call to arms: Kryptic Minds & Killawatt’s technoid ‘Cunning Juncture’ explodes into a dubbed-out colossus of a track by AMIT. It’s a powerful moment, setting out J:Kenzo’s store for what’s to come in the mix, as an experience rooted in sound system culture, felt viscerally as much as heard. But there’s also a clue in AMIT’s track title that highlights the ethos behind not only Kenzo’s mix, but also dubstep’s re-emergent underground: ‘Don’t Forget Your Roots’.


The last three years have been transformative for the genre first born in South London’s bedrooms and bassbins, and which spent last decade hybridizing into all manner of weird and wonderful shapes. One arm of dubstep skyrocketed into the global pop consciousness, packing stadiums worldwide in a phenomenon that would have seemed impossible even a few scant years earlier. Another slowed tempos and drew in techno, grime and funky, birthing new, mutant forms of British house and techno. But throughout that time a steady undercurrent of producers, DJ’s and dancers remained connected, as AMIT’s track attests, to the genre’s foundations: sub-bass led impact music, housed in a 140 bpm skeleton. Now, with dubstep’s mainstream dalliances waning, this underground scene is again growing.


Indeed, it’s notable that, unlike all but one of the Dubstep Allstars instalments to date, Kenzo’s contribution to the series doesn’t include a single track from the genre’s pioneers, the likes of Skream, Benga and Digital Mystikz. Sonically, it retains strong links to those innovators, but seeks to recognise - and emphasise - the potency of dubstep right now. “There’s a new wave of producers coming through that are making more progressive music, and I wanted to represent that,” Kenzo agrees. “It’s good to showcase how far dubstep has progressed over the years. A lot of people have gone out of the scene now and are doing other things, but these are the top artists and the top tunes that still keep it locked to the roots of the sound.”


Alongside other luminaries such as FWD>>/Rinse FM’s Youngsta, J:Kenzo, who has been producing and releasing music since mid last decade, is one of the figureheads of this community. In recent years his Tempa releases, including depth-charged tracks such as ‘Ruffhouse’ and ‘The Roteks’, have been deadly weapons in the deep dubstep arsenal, pouring across dancefloors with the unstoppable force of a tidal wave.


Appropriately, it was early dubstep 12”s on labels like Tempa that inspired Kenzo to start producing. He had first become attuned to electronic music while growing up listening to soul, reggae and rare groove at home. “I didn’t know what making music was about at that age,” he remembers, “but I loved the sounds which I now know came from an 808 drum machine.” These drew him into Chicago house, before he fell in love with jungle and hardcore while at school. “I was going out spending my money I’d earned in my Saturday jobs, buying vinyl. There was a record store in Maidstone in Kent - about 5 minutes from where I worked - so I’d get my money, boom, go to the record shop, get my tunes.”


Later he became enamoured with UK garage, before being drawn into the dark garage and early dubstep sounds developing at FWD>> and DMZ. Something immediately clicked. “It was really varied,” he recalls. “When the halfstep rhythm came in, it slowed a lot of things down, there was more room to do what you wanted. You could put a lovely soundscape of crazy synths on top and have this mad bassline running through the middle. People took that on board, and it was like, ‘wow, experimental music being played out in a club!’ It kicked my arse into going ‘right, why not do it yourself?’”


Nearly a decade later, dubstep’s underground has come full circle, once again combining sonic experimentation with full-body bass immersion. In fact, it’s now at a juncture that will be familiar to followers of other styles such as drum & bass: no longer the hype-fueled flavour of the month, it’s become one of many elements in a broad UK club music ecology.


This has produced mixed results. On the one hand, the thrilling restlessness of early dubstep has waned, the sound now locked into a fixed structural state. This, however, has presented new opportunities for it to refine itself, and absorb influence from elsewhere without deserting the genre’s conventions. Many producers cut their teeth in drum & bass, bringing a sci-fi tinged toughness to the table. A killer run in the mix highlights this aspect: all metallic ambience, rolling rhythms and airlock roar, Ulterior Motive’s ‘Tien’ gallops into tracks from Skeptical, Ipman and Thelem, before abruptly plunging into the abyss of Killawatt’s ‘Unit 51’. It’s a startling moment of visceral, alien power, one that begs to be heard on a well-tuned system.


“With this music you have to forget about big synth lines or obvious uplifting styles, you have to just go in and absorb it,” enthuses Kenzo. “It’s what you feel from the music, how you feel in the dance, the impact. All these tunes are tried and tested, they work well on a sound system. For this mix I wanted to encompass the emotion of the tracks and their heaviness as well.”


It also encompasses the variety within the genre. The mix is bookended by tunes that connect to a dub lineage, beginning with AMIT and ending with DJ Madd’s rootsy ‘Murder Dub’. And along the way it nods towards everything from techno and ambient, to drum & bass, jungle, two-step and grime. Kenzo’s own tracks in the mix epitomise these angles of attack, from the beautiful, Blade Runner synths of ‘Enter Valarak’ to the percussive whirlwind of ‘Ricochet’.


As well they would, given that Kenzo grew absorbing such a rich array of different musical styles. “It’s been a nice progression,” he reflects, “because I got to witness these UK scenes and feel them, how they were growing. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s taken me some time to reach where I aimed to be, but for some people it does; I’m in it for the longevity. Personally it’s been the right thing for me. I’m quite happy to be part of an underground UK scene that continues to evolve and experiment. Things may change in the future, but [dubstep’s] never going to be to that scale when it went mainstream. Even then, though, we were still pushing forward. We’re in it for the sound, we’re here to play good music.”


Rory Gibb London, July 2013
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Wen & Parris Caught / Collide Tempa 091

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Biome Cromos Tempa 090

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Nomine Enma Tempa 089

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AxH Destroy Tempa 086

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Truth How Strange Tempa 085

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Youngsta & Seven Architects / War Cry Tempa 084

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J:Kenzo Magneto (Feel It) / TVR Tempa 083

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Truth Chicks & Drugs / Empire Tempa 082

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J:Kenzo Eyes Wide Open (Remixes) Tempa 081

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J:Kenzo Bloodlines EP Tempa 080

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Killawatt & Ipman Darkplace / Sur Place Tempa 079

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Nomine Nomine's War Tempa 078

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Proxima Thermal Vision / Valve Wars Tempa 077

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Truth & Yayne Devil's Hands / I Belong Tempa 076

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SP:MC Declassified EP Tempa 075

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LX ONE & Youngsta Responsibility / No Cure Tempa 074

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AMIT Acid Trip / Don't Forget Your Roots Tempa 073

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Skream Skreamizm Vol. 7 Tempa 072

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Nomine Nomine's Sound / Searching Tempa 071

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Youngsta Destruction / Poseidon Tempa 070

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Proxima Lie Detection / Brainstem Tempa 069

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Soap Dodgers ill Minded / Contact Tempa 068

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J:Kenzo Invaderz / Depth Charge Tempa 067

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Consequence Injunction / Chamber Music Tempa 066

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Truth & Yayne Dreams / Last Time Tempa 065

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Proxima Formal Junction / Grunge Tempa 064

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Skream Anticipate feat. Sam Frank Tempa 063

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J:Kenzo Ruffhouse / Therapy Tempa 062

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Skream Skreamizm Vol. 6 Tempa 061

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SP:MC & LX ONE Hunted / Oh My Gosh Tempa 060

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Horsepower Productions Justify / Good Ole Dayz Tempa 059

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Horsepower Productions The Lost Tapes EP Tempa 058

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Dub War The Funky Deal / To The Depths Tempa 057

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J:Kenzo The Roteks / Protected Tempa 056

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Coki Boomba / Carbon Aliens Tempa 055

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SP:MC & LX ONE Down / Judgement Tempa 052

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Cosmin TRG Now You Know Tempa 048

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Headhunter Prototype (Remix) Tempa 046

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SP:MC & Joker D Taiko Dub Tempa 045

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Horsepower Damn It / Kingstep Tempa 042

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Skream Skreamizm Vol.5 Tempa 040

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Headhunter Prototype Tempa 038 Proto

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Headhunter Grounded Tempa 038 Ground

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Headhunter Physics Impulse Tempa 038

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Benga Pleasure Tempa 037

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TRG Decisions Tempa 036

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Skream Midnight Request Line Remixes Tempa 035

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SP:MC Trust Nobody / Future Tempa 034

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Skream Skreamizm Vol.4 Tempa 033

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Headhunter Initiate EP Tempa 031

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Benga & Coki Night (Zinc & Digital Soundboy Remixes) Tempa 030 R

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Benga & Coki Night Tempa 030

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Various Artists Tempa Allstars Vol.4 Tempa 029

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Skream Skreamizm Vol.3 Tempa 028

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Headhunter Futurebound / Descent / Entity Tempa 027

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D1 Trial Run EP Tempa 025

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Coki Tortured / Shattered Tempa 024

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Benny Ill & Kode9 Fat Larry's Skank - Remix Tempa 023

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Skream Tapped / Dutch Flowerz Tempa 022

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D1 Missin' / Cocaine / Firin' Blanks Tempa 021

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Skream Skreamizm Vol.2 Tempa 020

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Various Artists Tempa Allstars Vol.3 Tempa 019

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Skream Loefah Remixes Tempa 017

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Skream Midnight Request Line Tempa 014

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Various Artists Tempa Allstars Vol.2 Tempa 012

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Albums

Proxima Alpha Tempa CD023

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Various Artists Dubstep Allstars Vol.11 – Mixed by J:Kenzo Tempa CD022

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Various Artists Dubstep Allstars Vol.10 – Mixed by Plastician Tempa CD021

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Various The Roots of Dubstep Tempa CD007

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Youngsta & Hatcha Dubstep Allstars Vol.4 Tempa CD006

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Kode9 Feat. The Spaceape Dubstep Allstars Vol.3 Tempa CD005

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Youngsta Dubstep Allstars Vol.2 Tempa CD004

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Horsepower Productions To The Rescue Tempa CD003

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