Kahn & Neek // Lupus et Ursus
(Kahn & Neek)

The keepers of the dubstep flame in Bristol prove their non-conformist tendencies with a seismic debut album.

Transmitting wayward signals from within the Young Echo firmament, otherness is hardwired into Kahn & Neek’s approach. Ostensibly they could be considered a kind of grime operation – certainly their earliest drops on their Bandulu label were seen as provocative twists on the genre, not least the savage, internet-baiting opening shot ‘Percy’ with its iconic “every soundboy shut up!” sample. But given their work on other myriad projects spanning steppas, dub, dubstep and tape-looped ambience amongst other approaches, they’ve never felt beholden to a singular vision of what grime-informed soundsystem music can be. 

Now they arrive with a debut album which in some ways affirms their mutant instincts. It’s not presented as a Bandulu release even though it easily could be – instead it’s billed as the first entry on a self-titled label. Clearly the pair want to separate this project from the Bandulu output, and from the opening shrouds of ‘Missed Calls’ with its ominous death-drones and snaking bass synth formations, we’re heading into a more evocative kind of soundsystem music. 

There are ample strong MC-led cuts on Lupus et Ursus, with Flowdan and Riko Dan lending some power to the icy wastes of ‘War Start’. It’s pointedly apocalyptic, deadly and physical but not upfront in an obvious way. Rather than leaning on the build-up / drop tension of dancefloor dubplates, they’re painting a more cinematic picture which comfortably leaves obvious drums behind. At times you can sense the smoky malaise of Bristol’s ill-defined (and contentious) ‘sound’ in the atmospheric touches. ‘Bad Luck’ comes on as a slow, trap-speckled grimoire while ‘Delayed Atoms’ teases melancholy with a touch of the sad-hearted beauty you might associate with Neek’s work in O$VMV$M. There’s even a shot of noirish RnB on Rider Shafique-featuring ‘Shallow Grave’ – a crossover anthem for a scorched earth. 

In its widescreen scope, Lupus et Urpus logically extends what Kahn & Neek have built up to this point, hanging together as a proper album should. It flows in a unified direction while taking you to disparate points on the map, offering up a bassweight music like nothing else out there right now.