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Essential Listening: Mala

Essential Listening: Mala

Nicole Raymond | Features & Interviews

Little more can be added to the conversation when it comes to Mala, such is the extent of attention that he has received in his illustrious career. Founder of Deep Medi Musik and co-founder of DMZ, Mark Lawrence sits among a small group of producers regarded as the originators of dubstep. Deep, rumbling numbers marked his style as unique from many of his peers, though his dread-inspired works still demonstrate a versatile and creative producer.

Returning to centre stage again for various festival appearances in the coming months, Mala is the latest artist to be celebrated in our Essential Listening series.

Not everyone can sample someone as talented as Alicia Keys and flip it for a whole new audience, and that’s exactly what Mala did with “Alicia”. Channeling a calmer and more sensual vibe, especially with that driving bassline and minimal drums, Mala simply lets the melody and the vox be the main focus of the track. For me, this is one of those “game-changing” tunes, especially in the real of chilled dubstep and future garage. If a smile doesn’t come to your face when this plays, you’re just wrong.

Miracles (Commodo remix)
I think this was the first Mala tune I ever heard (...I know I’m a philistine/latecomer, calm down)... Pretty sure this was played at my very first SubDub...and rightly so! To me, the drums and percussion are rhythmic enough to suggest a drummer just played them in live, especially when the various bass tones and rhythms kick in. It’s always fun to mimic playing the drums whilst you’re skanking hard, wearing the universally accepted “bass-face”.  This track is one my favourites, and when played on an insane system, you’ll see why.

Changes (James Blake Remix)
I’d say this is one of his more ethereal and unexpected bangers to ever grace wax and peoples’ ears. Credit where it’s due: the original is a banger as well, but I personally prefer this atmospheric rework. With this more melodic, strange and somewhat ambient take, James Blake transforms “Changes” into something alien and certainly unexpected. This is the kind of tune that can make a statement at any point of a set: it could throw the crowd off onto a new section or reinforce the “innocent-but-dark fairytale” vibe it cultivates so well.

Lean Forward
By now, it’s fair to say Mala has a thing for swing hi-hats. That’s not a complaint, it works! Especially with “Lean Forward.” I’d say this is one of the more beat driven tunes in his repertoire, giving much more focus on the drums, percussion and sound effects. To me, it’s reminiscent of Benga’s style of production: people might have confused this track for one of Benga’s, and that makes sense to me. The melody is there too but it takes a back seat this time to the other elements...that is until around 3 minutes in when everything changes and the playing field is leveled out again. The structuring of this tune keeps you guessing whilst the bass guides you through the journey, resulting in more bass faces and gun finger salutes on the dancefloor.  

Blue Notez
I’ll be honest - I hadn’t heard of this one until doing this review...but i’m glad about that… WHOA.

I think this beat is much more reminiscent of early grime tunes...it’s probably been used on Fire In The Booth. This is another of his more beat driven bangers but obviously has his signature sound… but when that horn comes in to accent the minimal melody, you’ve just found yourself skanking to another glorious part of one of his masterpieces. Next time I hear this getting dropped somewhere, I know what part I’ll be skanking to just to throw people off.

Hardly short of festival experience as it is, Mala will get plenty more this year, starting off with a spell at London’s Hospitality In The Dock at the end of this month. Moving into the summer months, both Dimensions and Outlook claim his services at Fort Punta Christo in Croatia at the start of September.

Photo courtesy of Mala and Earth Agency

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Essential Listening: Mala

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