Week 49: Essential Releases [December 2014]

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After technical difficulties took us offline for a few days we are back at it with our Essential Releases for Week 49.

ANNIX – DIGITAL EP [PLAYAZ]
Hype and Pascal’s golden boys turn up the heat on this massive five-track banger that feels like the soundtrack to some futuristic horror film where murderous robots have come undone. From the filthy title track on through to the wobbling beast known as “M33” and the dizzying Alice in Wonderland-inspired “Have a Party,” there’s no doubt that this is a release specifically designed to have the kids pounding the walls begging for more while the old folks call the cops in to keep the noise down. The standout tune of the bunch is Decimal Bass’s “Betrayal” which steps and stomps its way through an ever-evolving landscape of futuristic bleeps, squeaks and pongs atop a growling wall of bass that’s sure to be peeling the paint off the walls.

MAZTEK – THREE POINT ZERO [RENEGADE HARDWARE]
Hailing straight from the heart of Italy, Maztek is the man of the hour as he unleashes his massive 16-track debut that has already been causing a stir on the VIP circuit. With razor-sharp precision and a crisp attention to detail, steppers like the aptly titled “Stomper” and “Memory Leak” are more than enough to establish Maztek’s prowess but it’s tunes like “Three Point Zero,” “Interlude” and “Anunaki” that make you realize you’re in the hands of something much more than just a neurofunk master. “Anunaki” in particular grabs hold with its stutter-stepping beat atop a haunting atmosphere that is a play on the contrasts of cold and hot, dark and light, hard and smooth. The title track is a proper cinematic thriller sure to standout but Maztek proves he knows how to merge hip-hop and dnb like no other when Coppa enters the scene with the untouchable “Like A Boss.” Riding that beat perfectly, it’s the first salvo in what is sure to be a long and memorable career. As if that wasn’t enough, heads like InsideInfo, BTK, and Audio all make appearances on what is already being touted as a future classic.

PSIDREAM – SKIN RETURN / SNITCH [DUTTY AUDIO]
Absolutely running things in the 2000s with his signature future-tech sound the Vancouver-based producer known as Psidream returns after a short hiatus from the scene with yet another banger, this time on BTK’s Dutty Audio. If dirty tech-driven grooves are your thing then head straight to “Skin Return” where a funky bassline and spiraling tension unleash a dancefloor burner of the highest order. “Snitch” quickly makes itself known on the flip as it kicks and claws its way to center stage in its own battle for dancefloor dominance. Centered on a catchy call and response groove that plays each layer off each other, this head-nodder is the one to hit to fan the flames into a full-on inferno.

V/A – PLANET VIP [V RECORDINGS]
This one should need no introduction as it’s been one of the year’s most highly anticipated releases. Drawing upon the voluminous catalogue of imprints like V Recordings, Liquid V, Chronic and Philly Blunt, ‘Planet VIP’ hands them over to established and new-school artists alike for the remix treatment. The result is pure bliss as classic bits from Roni Size, Die, Dillinja, and Krust get a new look from heads like Nu:Tone, TC, and Need for Mirrors & HLZ. This is not to say it’s all flashback territory as heads like Unreal, Command Strange, DJ Chap, Dr. Meaker, L-Side, Savage Rehab, and so many more represent the entire spectrum of the ‘Planet VIP’ family. Standout bits include Jucieman’s re-vision of Roni Size’s “It’s a Jazz Thing” and Kabuki’s VIP of his own “Just Hold On” with the uplifting vocals of Jenna G bringing on those goosebumps. The most controversial cut off the compilation is North Base’s tempo shifting take on Dillinja’s classic “Grimey.” When the audio surfaced of the duo dropping the classic twister into 140 bpm range the internet had a meltdown and the verdict is still out whether it’s blasphemy or sheer genius. Whatever your feelings, there’s no doubt that this is a must-have compilation rammed with essential listening.

SPIRIT – REALITY / BABYLON CALL [WARM COMMUNICATIONS]
The Texas-based Warm Communications has been on a roll this year securing heavy-duty releases from the likes of Total Science, Break, and now the original badman himself, Spirit. Both tunes from Ipswich’s finest are in that classic deep and deadly warehouse style that Spirit seems to pull together so effortlessly and well. “Reality” takes things nice and slow, seducing you with a gentle sweep of pads and minimal percussion before flipping the dreamscape into something far more haunting and dirty. On “Babylon Call” Spirit builds the pressure one bar at a time as the old-school flavours bring on a monstrous dark hook that is sure to bring on the flashbacks for all the old-school space travelers. Sinister mentasms and a ragga-tinged vocal echo throughout as the slow unwinding of the atmosphere hypnotizes and pulls you in close for the kill. Approach with caution.

V/A – 10 YEARS OF SHOGUN AUDIO [SHOGUN AUDIO]
Friction and K-Tee celebrate a decade of Shogun Audio with a massive nod to the artists that have helped shape the imprint’s quintessential sound. Label stalwarts like Rockwell, Icicle, Technimatic, Spectrasoul, Joe Ford and Fourward all step up to showcase the diverse and often eclectic sound that we’ve come to expect from the crew. Perhaps no other tune captures that ethos better than Rockwell’s “Play Some Normal Music” which pokes fun at those unable to wrap their head around the renegade aesthetic of the crew. Calibre, Etherwood, and Fourward take on remix projects of Alix Perez and Spectrasoul, with Fourward’s half-time relick of “Dark Days” featuring the Foreign Beggars emerging as one of the standout tunes of the compilation. Of course we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Calyx & TeeBee’s blinding remix of Spor’s “Aztec” or label boss Friction’s own contribution to the cause in the form of the punishing “Chimera.” Wait there’s more, there’s Icicle and Prolix, LSB, and what about Total Science and S.P.Y.’s wild and raucous VIP of “Gangsta”? You get the message. Turn up the speakers and bang it out.

MEFJUS – EMULATION LP [CRITICAL MUSIC]
Capping off a massive journey that began when he tried his hand at making instrumental hip-hop beats with two Akai samplers and a 16-track mixer, the Austrian wunderkind delivers a jaw-shattering knockout punch in the form of his debut LP for Critical Music. From the toxic atmospheres of “Saturate” to the dizzying “Suicide Bassline,” Mefjus brings on the heavy dancefloor punishment with ease. Head straight to the head-nodding halftime “Change of Mind” and “Taking” for a change of pace before dumping straight into the grimey hip-hop/tech fusion of “Godzilla” with Dope D.O.D. Still, for most heads, it’s his collaborations with Phace and Misanthrop on bits like “Impulse” and “Stutter” respectively that are the kind of sci-fi technoid thrillers that have earned his spot in the upper echelons of the dnb scene. “Surrounded” remains my favorite off the LP, with its dark cinematic intro cascading into a powerful release with a winding, twisting hook and fat chest-trembling bottom end that’s sure to please even the most battle hardened neuro-tech warrior.

DOSE – SANCTUARY / THE SUMMONING [ABDUCTED LTD]
Still buzzing off the success of his “Mind the Future” album, Dose touches down with the ever-impressive Abducted family for what is no doubt one of their strongest releases to date. Hustling right out of the gate with his razor-toothed floor-thriller “Sanctuary,” Dose flexes on the tech-funk side of things with a chunky hook and running beat before transforming “The Summoning” into a straight-up dirty growler worthy of its name. The bottom ends bubbles at a boil while the call and response of the kick and stabs shiver and shake in all the right places before lurching off into the heart of darkness best known as the dancefloor.

FRED V & GRAFIX – UNRECOGNISABLE [HOSPITAL]
It’s no secret that remix albums are usually reserved for artists with long and storied histories in the scene; the remix LP being a sort of retrospective look back and celebration at a long and healthy career. Yet for relative newcomers Fred V & Grafix, the remix album feels like anything but a retrospective journey and more akin to a testament to the power of Hospital’s youngest and hottest firepower in their arsenal. Old and new faces from the Hospital family represent as they reload the boys’ acclaimed album that was released earlier this year and give it the full-on remix treatment. From Hugh Hardie’s exquisite remix of “Let Your Guard Down” to Logistics’ take on “Sick of All Your Secrets” on through to Etherwood’s sublime “Forest Fires” remix, there’s no denying the heat the Hospital family has up their sleeves as each tune is powerful and moving in its own way. Still, there’s some choice surprises when Emperor twists “Recognise” into a nasty little neuro number or Taiki Nulight drops “Forest Fires” into housey two-step garage territory in an impressive way. Still, it’s Keeno’s take of “Better Times Are Coming” and Chords’ version of “Hydra” that will no doubt be taking center stage for the festival crew. Both tunes build on the already powerful originals in a way that squeezes even more emotion out for the hands-in-the-air crew waiting for that bass to drop.

V/A – 10 YEARS OF CO-LAB [CO-LAB]
Over the past decade the Co-Lab collective and imprint has leaned heavy on the jump-up flavours but much like label boss Heist’s own productions, it continues to surprise and impress with the level of versatility and range of styles it represents. To celebrate their tenth year in existence the crew pull together for a monstrous album rammed with fresh bits that definitely deliver the gritty, wobblicious bits courtesy of heads like Heist, Majistrate, Pleasure, Yatz, and Voltage. But again it’s the darker minimal bits from Flaco, Serum, Harvest, Seph, and Oz that are sure to catch the heads off-guard for their surprising power built on a sense of restrained control and minimalist finesse. Flaco really delivers with “Furnace” and Heist’s remix of Flaco’s own “Got To Have” stands tall as a top-notch gem sure to make dancefloors across the subgenre divide calling out for more.

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