Bristol’s Stumbleine may be a third of the dubstep group Swarms, but he’s also a formidable force for good in his own right. His Spiderwebbed proves this in a haze of clipped beats, atmospherics and effects.
As a debut, this record does the job of introducing Stumbleine to the listener in a way that sets him apart from some of the more antagonistic aspects of dubstep. This could conceivably be considered a beat-heavy chill-out, I suppose, although the musician seems to go to great lengths to challenge easy categorization.
It makes sense that the downbeat stuff plays with the less laborious fare of fellow Bristol acts like Portishead and Massive Attack. And it’s clear that Stumbleine is familiar with that curve of musical antiquity; he’s been taking notes while “Britain’s most musical city” has been casting its tentative net across the lands.
In setting his path, he seems evidently concerned with atmospherics. The other details come later, which might be why much of the music features equivalent waves of heavily-edited vocals and why most of the beats sound identical.
Those slender criticisms sometimes drown in the sea of beauty that is here, though, but the magic washes away as soon as the last impressions have coursed through the headphones.
“Cherry Blossom” introduces things with waves of synth and a fairly pronounced beat. The heavily-edited vocals are slight and par for the course (and listeners better get ready for more), but the filmy and groovy track mostly works. Stumbleine proves that he knows when to move certain sounds in and out of the mix, sliding a synth chord here and dropping a scintillating surge there.
“Solar Flare” features similar dynamics, featuring more augmented vocals of the sped-up variety. This time, Stumbleine uses them with some delicacy but the beat still pushes.
Steffalloo helps out on the Mazzy Star cover “Fade Into You” and almost carries a straightforward shoegaze tune. Stumbleine buries her voice and mimics the acoustic strumming of the original, fading it in and out with more synth breakers.
Spiderwebbed is a solid if mostly ordinary debut. Stumbleine stoically sets the pace, but there’s not a lot of dissimilarity between tracks. The vocals are alike throughout and the beats, despite changing cadence, seem very much part of a larger uniformity. Perhaps that’s the point, though, as the bellicose toil of dubstep demands time to take a little breather now and then.