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By Tom Murphy
Saturn started a minimal techno outfit called Socks and Sandals but had one more major contribution to make toward pH10. It was he who introduced Betts to Sarah, the woman who is now his partner in both music and life. Betts ended up sticking with pH10 and started a fruitful collaboration with MC Pete Miser. Together they produced "Needless to Say," a track that generated a fair amount of interest and got play on college radio. The collaboration with Miser continued through the next album, the varied Helmutvision, through the remix album BK United, which focused on the hip-hop end of pH10's sound, and on through Betts's latest effort, Well Connected. The hip-hop material that emerged from that joint project is among pH10's strongest, but Betts doubts he'll be moving toward hip-hop production full-time.
"Most MCs, even famous MCs, they're just not good," he offers. "They're full of shit, the rhymes aren't that good. It's hard to find good ones. The two that I've found [Miser and I-45] that were worth working with have been making records as long as I have."
The material on Well Connected is, arguably, all over the map. There are some tracks, such as "Bulldozin" and "BK United," that put the focus on the MCs and function as fairly straightforward hip-hop. Then there are tracks like "Serious Delerium" that hew pretty closely to the drum-and-bass sound, and finally, odd ducks like "Yiggplant," which introduces some guitar and is almost a throwback to the glory days of industrial.
But throughout all of these varied styles, there is a consistent aesthetic that favors thick, twisted analog timbres bathed in grimy, buzzing distortion and riddles the whole mix with pop-culture samples both obscure and recognizable — including an absolutely killer use of a Barry Manilow interview. It's an approach that's honed to near perfection on tracks such as "Intro" and "79MC" that slow the tempos down, putting the emphasis on the ebb and flow of sound around the rhythms. It's not an easy sound to categorize, but Betts is used to critics not quite getting his music.
"Reviewers say, 'These guys don't realize that drum and bass is so over,'" he explains. "What we get a lot of is, 'If this came out ten years ago, this would be as big as any of those bands are — but it's not ten years ago.' I feel if I go ahead and make this record with all of the slower stuff that's hard to classify, then that's a good thing. We were never really even drum and bass, anyway. That was just the closest thing."
Whether or not the new sound is embraced by critics and audiences, Betts himself is certain he's finally found exactly what he's been reaching for all along. "I haven't been this excited since the first record," he admits. "I can't wait to make the next record. I think this sound is what pH10 will be known for."