Apparently released on the same exact day as Burial's much-lauded sophomore release, Underwater Dancehall was lost in the two-step shuffle of the dubstep world's single-minded orgasm over Untrue. This is quite sad, as Pinch proves on this album to be amongst the top tier of dubstep artists, presenting a cavernous style well worth getting lost in.
An important note, before I start - Underwater Dancehall is a two-disc release: both discs contain the same music, but the first disc features some songs with singing, while the second disc is a purely instrumental affair. On the whole, I found the singing to be pleasant, but detracting from the music itself. I did particularly enjoy the tracks with Juakali (except for "Gangstaz," which is the worst of all the vocal tracks), but I prefer to go without. I think it's a nice option to have, especially since some people will enjoy the vocals more than others, so I will be judging the instrumental disc only, viewing the first disc as a thoughtful bonus for those that want it.
There really is no better way to explain the sound here than by the album name; Underwater Dancehall is a self-fulfilling description. Palpitating beats pulse their syncopated rhythms across an enveloping realm of warm currents, lit by the wan illumination of synths diffused through distant layers of memory and emotion; dark, abyssal bass rumbles and warbles up from far beneath it all with a ponderous threat. Minimal and vast, Underwater Dancehall is a swaying, drifting pool of sound to cleanse the mind in.
Pinch achieves an excellent balance here, with enough heft on the low end to appeal to the club aspect of dubstep, yet enough feeling to make for an engrossing listen. Underwater Dancehall doesn't lose itself to a repetition of heavier and heavier beats, which seems to be a problem with many dubstep artists who have given up their menacing roots for a far less intelligent heft. However, although I really enjoy this material, I don't think this is the height of Pinch's skill. With more focus to the songs, whether through the use of samples or more interesting singers, I could see him putting out a masterpiece. As it is, this is excellent work worthy of being on any dubstep fan's playlist.
Verdict: Win [4/5]