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South London dubstep veteran Benga operates on several (next) levels when he plants himself in front of a synthesizer keyboard and a hard drive of edited drum patterns. The producer's Diary of an Afro Warrior, in its array of divergent sonics, speaks to how far this key player has come in the years since establishing a celebrated dubstep sound. On 2006's Warrior Dubz compilation, Benga's reluctant "Music Box" finds bass wobbles, chopped strings, and organ mingling tastefully in a web of delay effects. It's one of the collection's strongest entries; but a year later, Diary's "Night" is a stunner for entirely different reasons. With aid from Digital Mystikz's Coki, Benga's "Night," a late '07 pre-album single, landed a universe away from "Music Box"; its cascade of stuttering synth tones and shuffling beats holds fast to the rich endeavors on Diary. "The Cut" utilizes the Ginsu-edged grooves that Appleblim laced his "Mystical Warrior" with, but Benga's rest against a backdrop of swooshes and assorted percussion. Not only communicating enthusiasm for techno on this go-round, Benga works jazz into "Zero M2," and, with "Light Bulb," paranoid, ambient sequences that say a lot for a guy in front of a keyboard and some drum patterns.

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Dominic Umile

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