After an (unintended) long period of absence, we’re back with the latest instalment to the 30 Minutes of Bass Education series. Our goal is to revive the series to the same level, frequency and spirit as in previous years – we’ve no good excuse as to why it’s taken so long to get #26 out but the upside of this delay is that we’ve got some great mixes lined up for you.
In previous features, we’ve done our best to document the stories of artists passing through the scene, artists who’ve influenced the dubstep sound to get us to where we are today. It’s a symbiotic relationship – one that goes both ways: artists’ development has an influence on the sound and the sound subsequently influences artists ‘willing’ to identify themselves with it. It’s a near-constant struggle between conformism, avant-gardism and rarity. To master this struggle is a skill – and few have mastered it like Commodo…
Sheffield-based (well, most of the time) Dominic Tarasek does anything but conform to a single genre. In an interview with Fabric last year, he stated that he sees himself as “exploring the 140bpm/dubstep template and UK underground bass in general and incorporating my own influences, the music that I was listening to growing up, like hip-hop, you know, sample-heavy boom bap hip-hop kind of shit, into that.”
You may be unsurprised to learn Commodo started his musical career making grime back in 2006, alongside some “really bad drum and bass” and hip-hop. While he’s explained he thought his DnB sounded like he was ripping off Dillinja, Commodo took influence from the pioneering DnB producer’s ability to process both drums and basslines. Dom discovered the dubstep sound when hearing Plastician’s Shallow Grave...
Unlike many others in the sound, Commodo’s music is mainly sample-based which only adds to its rawness. The samples somehow transplant a part of the soul of the original track into the new material. Good examples of this gritty, raw influence can be found in many of his releases, perhaps most recognisable in the intro of the humongous Space Ca$h.
While he unintentionally took the name of a carnivorous Indonesian lizard, we’d suggest Commodo’s music is more akin to that of a chameleon. With its shapeshifting qualities and near-perfect timing when going in for the kill, a chameleon may be more fitting for Dom’s sound than the komodo dragon. The tonal colour spectrum may change, but a Commodo tune, in all their various guises, is still undeniably recognisable as a Commodo tune. The Sheffield-based artist confounds, delights and inspires with every piece of music he creates and while Commodo definitely has a signature sound, it’s clear he follows his own path when creating music as it sounds unlike anyone else.
Another thing that stands out when listening to Commodo material is his love and broad knowledge of underground music. Perhaps thanks to his sample digging, where he’s spent significant time looking at “obscure jazz and prog”, a strong connection with jazzy influences is noticeable throughout the Commodo discography. This influence is perhaps most present in two B-sides: 2010’s The Rec Room and this year’s Solid Gold Telephone. These two tracks are technically very different but both feature a jazzy influence, transporting the listener to a smokey jazz cafe in the early hours, but not in a nostalgic way – perhaps, not even in an earthly way (he is not even from the earth y’know).
Dom’s first releases appeared on the (sadly deceased) Untitled! Recordings – an imprint connected to one of the most iconic dubstep nights in Antwerp, Belgium. The label signed Green Piece on a 12” alongside DJG and Sines in 2009 and released the debut Commodo 12” with the now classic UNTITLED!003 the following year.
The releases continued with Uprising and Saracen appearing on DEEP MEDi in 2011. Both tracks featured heavy percussion with a dark atmosphere and Saracen‘s snare placement still feels pleasingly similar to Loefah’s anthemic The Goat Stare. Shortly after MEDi044, Commodo released on Cyrus’ Origin Audio with the iconic Dokument/Eastern Bloc.
What stands out in early Commodo releases and remains key to his sound is the percussion. Rather than looping, the drums seem to have organic changes and variations, as if a musician was playing an interpretation of the arrangement. Buckwild‘s crazy drum rhythm is a prime example. This percussive expertise seems to culminate in 2012’s Commodo EP on DEEP MEDi. It’s still surprisingly hard to pick a favourite from the four tracks on the release.
2012 was a fantastic year for Commodo releases. We would be doing the producer and you guys a disservice if we failed to mention BLACKBOX030 – easily one of the most iconic releases within the dubstep sound. This two track EP is a divine collaboration between Commodo and Bristol’s Lurka which gave us Capisce? with its horrid 9-second intro (out to our fellow DJs) that meanders through an atonal bass journey and hats that were absolutely unheard of; and Glue Sniff Riddim, a track that to this day will tear down any dance, with its pitch-gliding bass monster that could have only been created by these two masters.
Moving on to 2013, Dom surprised us with the release of the now-legendary Space Ca$h EP, featuring a B-side with two beats on different tempos, Straight Reptilian and Wish. Rather than calling it a stylistic switch, the EP was an indication of what dubstep would become in the years to follow; far more organic, raw and grimey than anything heard before (arguable a strong representation of the Commodo sound).
Mala surprised us all by pressing the Miracles remix (a dub going off nearly everywhere at the time) on the 2013 DEEP MEDi white label alongside Distance‘s mighty Changes remix. 2014 brought with it a further outing on DEEP MEDi with (and without) grime legend JME with Shift and the astounding HOTLINE004 with Good Grief/ F*ck Mountain.
Since then, Dom’s managed to keep his fans happy with a multitude of remixes and original material. The Pocosink, Free Focus and Nook Shot remixes all highlight the producer’s skill with reworking someone else’s tune. And then there was the well-kept secret (multiple sources refer to the extensive effort Kahn, Gantz and Commodo put in to keep it under the radar) of Volume One, the first outing from the trio on DEEP MEDi last year.
As if that’s not enough, Dom had also found time to create his debut album. How What Time, is due to drop in April, with Set it Straight (featuring Rocks FOE) and Solid Gold Telephone teasing the release in February. And who can forget the royally superb My Liege? The new album looks as if it nods to a broad BPM spectrum (as we’ve come to expect from Commodo), once again shining new light on the signature sound we’ve come to know and love. Not long now…
I once had the pleasure to meet Dom, playing at the infamous Dubstep Bastards night in Stockholm. Much like his stellar producing skills, Commodo’s DJ skills are as technically refined (with tunes always in key) and on point, to the point where his DJ sets just seem effortless. Straight Reptilian, not even from the earth.
Click to DOWNLOAD (80MB) Track list:
- Commodo – Straight Reptilian [MEDi071, 2013]
- Commodo – Buckwild [MEDi061, 2012]
- Commodo – Wish [MEDi071, 2013]
- Commodo – Dokument [ORG003, 2011]
- Commodo – Hyperreal [free, 2014]
- Commodo – Shift (instrumental) [MEDi082, 2014]
- Commodo – Set it Straight [ACRE060, 2016]
- Commodo – Saracen [MEDi044, 2011]
- Commodo vs. Lurka – Gassin [BLACKBOX015, 2011]
- Commodo – Space Ca$h [MEDi071, 2013]
- Gantz – Free Focus (Commodo remix) [MEDi090, 2015]
- Commodo vs. Lurka – Capisce? [BLACKBOX030, 2012]
- LAS – Pocosink (Commodo remix) [BLACKLIST002, 2015]
- Commodo – Solid Gold Telephone [ACRE060, 2016]
- Commodo – Rec Room [UNTITLED!003, 2010]
- Commodo – Querky [UNTITLED!003, 2010]
- Commodo – Uprising [MEDi044, 2011]
- Commodo – Northern Soul [MEDi056, 2012]
- Earl 16 – Trials & Crosses (Commodo remix) [free, 2013]