Pitch Black
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Pitch Black

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"Ape to Angel review"

New Zealand might just have the most perfect music scene in the world. Yes, the country’s weenie; yes, it’s sparsely populated; and yes, it does actually have more sheep than human beings. But it still packs enough musical punch to contend with larger, more ‘urbanized’ countries.
Dub and reggae have long been a mainstay of the country’s soundscape, ensconced deeply enough within the cognoscenti’s subconscious to have been appropriated and re-invented as something called Pacific Dub.
The lugubrious pulse and complex structure of dub naturally provides a metaphor for the laid back lifestyle and shape-shifting tectonic activity of Aotearoa, though where acts like Fat Freddy’s Drop and (recently disbanded) Trinity Roots allow their dubwise tapestries to unfurl organically, Pitch Black – Paddy Free and Michael Hodgson - filter their sound through the pumping prism of club culture, propelling their cavernous bottom end with steely breakbeats and smothering it with acidic synthwork.
The last eight years of recording and live shows has gained the duo a cult following at home and word-of-mouth appreciation around the world. While their first two albums did well - their debut Futureproof made it to the top of the electronic charts at home, their second album, Electronomicon, gained rave reviews all round – Ape To Angel, their third studio project, has “crossover” written all over it.
The title cut inaugurates the album with a choppy rhythm punctuated by soft background bass-crashes that sound like descending molten rocks. Nebulous layers of acid swish mellifluously around mellow but muscular breakbeats, introducing the duo’s equal passion for gentle grace and bellicose bass.
Only eight tracks in total, the album is constructed not as a series of individual cuts but as a complete listening experience – a chemical journey to the digital otherworld of their studio’s circuitry.
Following a languorous double-track build, third track ‘Freefall’ takes us up to breakbeat tempo and introduces Sandy Mills, a vocalist who has worked with the likes of Gary Numan and Basement Jaxx. By track four, ‘Big Trouble‘ is mocking semantic genre divisions with a pulsing dub/tech-house crossover cut that sounds like an Auckland skyscraper wading ferociously across the Tasman sea.
Then the intensity dims: ‘Lost In Translation’ fuses dancehall with dub and samples of Latvian satellite transmissions, adding to the sense of an alternative hidden universe being reported, while ‘Flex’ brings us down - way down – from the skies to a field of silky ambience whose fluid contours leak surreptitiously through to ‘Elements Turn’, all orotund bass and soporific soul.
The great thing about Pitch Black is that, as sinewy and strong as the production can be, ghosts occupy the empty cavities and secret tunnels within their songs: echoes and reverbs bounce back and forth behind wraith-like vocals; walls of sound crumble; basslines deliquesce. The threat of dissolution hangs in the air like weed smoke. The album ends on a live version of their dub/jungle hybrid The Random Smiler, a vibrant and optimistic cut.
Crossover or not , Ape To Angel seals the duo’s growing reputation as producers capable of welding together the questing spirits of luminaries like Richie Hawtin and King Tubby while creating compelling sound-universes. - DJ Magazine

"Frequencies Fall review"

Pitch Black's Ape to Angel album won the duo many fans, with its spaced-out dubness perfectly pitched at anyone who loves a bit of bass and echoey bleeps.
Frequencies Fall, builds on the success of Ape to Angel, by serving up a collection of remixes of tracks from the album. Remixers range from familiar names (Youth, and Big Chill Recordings' own Alucidnation), through to new (to me, anyway) Friends Electric, son.sine, peak_shift and Ithz.
While the remixers pull things in tangential directions, one minute D&B workouts, next minute techy midtempo, next minute deep watery dubs - the source material's insistence on heavy bass and dubbed out effects keeps this collection of remixes consistent - with thoughtful programming and sequencing ensuring a genuine flow.
None of the tracks on the album are showstoppers - but big, loud and in-your-face is not the Pitch Black way. The grooves get under your skin, the atmospherics float around your brain, and synth whoops, thips and whooshes push the compilation along.
Finally, when Alucidnation brings it home with his sublime mix of Freefall, you blink and wonder where the last hour went. Oh yeah, I was listening to some lovely music… - Bigchill.net

"Rude Mechanicals review"

First album in 3 years from Kiwi dub duo.
Somehow dub trance never went away in New Zealand, Pitch Black spearheading a scene - alongside Salmonella Dub - that recalls the heady days of the early 90s when Megadog was king of the London clubs.
Pitch Black are no stoned revisionists, however, the sinuous grooves and stabbing subsonic beats of Sonic Colonic and Harmonia, or the monstrous stomp of 1000 Mile Drift so sharp thay they sound fresh, modern and impossibly hypnotic. It might not be the hippest genre on the planet, but in Free and Hodgson's hands it can still set the pulse racing. - Q Magazine


1999 Futureproof
2001 Electronomicon
2002 Electric Earth and Other Stories
2004 Ape to Angel
2005 Halfway
2006 Frequencies Fall
2007 Rude Mechanicals



Pitch Black are award winning multimedia artist Michael Hodgson and Salmonella Dub producer Paddy Free. Having pumped their way through New Zealand’s electronic music scene since their inaugural performance at the annual Gathering New Year's eve festival in 1997, they have spent the last eleven years rousing dance floor punters, generating rave reviews, winning awards and gaining thousands of fans across the world.

Hard to box into a single audio 'genre', Pitch Black is a combination of musical journeys. Their sound is distinctive; ranging from organic ambient beginnings and layered soundscapes to skanking keyboards, cutting acid riffs and thumping rhythmic grooves, with dub being the glue that holds their sound together. One critic has described them as like "Orbital meets King Tubby, or Rhythm and Sound in Technicolor".

Their debut album, Futureproof, was released in September 1999 and rose to the top of the New Zealand electronic charts, despite no marketing or advertising. Electronomicon followed in August 2000, and led to a sell out 30-date tour of New Zealand and Australia. Both albums spawned remix projects, featuring mixes by local luminaries such as International Observer, Epsilon Blue and Downtown Brown.

Their third baby, Ape to Angel, was released in New Zealand on October 4th 2004 to critical acclaim. The Ape tour was the biggest yet, with 42 shows across the world, including their debut performances in America. The album was then released in Europe thru Dubmission in July and in America on Waveform in August 2005, with a Japanese release in May 2006.

Their last album, Rude Mechanicals, came out in New Zealand and Australia in August 2007 and the rest of the world two months later. Possibly their most accessible album to date, it ranges from chilled out dubs to trancefloor grooves and ambient drum and bass, and was lauded by veritable music institution Q Magazine as “the sound of the future”!

It is their live show that really makes Pitch Black stand out from the rest of the crowd, both sonically and visually. Their tracks take on an added dynamism and their performances reveal the dialectic behind the band - Paddy wants to do it for the crowd, Michael wants to do it to the crowd. Visually they are in another dimension due to Mike's cutting edge visuals, which he manipulates at the same time as mixing the sound! Not for nothing have they been hailed as the "Hexstatic of New Zealand" and have been warmly embraced by England's Big Chill community - playing 3 times at their annual festival.

They have toured the world relentlessly for the last seven years, playing everywhere from Amsterdam to Zagreb and the streets of Las vegas to the Australian outback, supporting acts such as Coldcut, Easy Dub All Stars and System 7 along the way.

Over the years they have also found favour among many DJs, both radio and club, including John Peel (Radio One/BBC), Nick Luscombe (Xfm), Greg Roberts (Dreadzone) and Pete Lawrence (Big Chill). Their music has been used in fashion shows, computer games and films, including the Oscar nominated Whale Rider.