Week 50: Essential Releases [December 2014]

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Kmag’s Ryan Origin talks about the most essential D&B releases for the 50th week of 2014.

VARIOUS – FUTURE BEATS: THE ALBUM [31 RECORDS]
I’ll come right out and say it: This is my favourite single D&B release of 2014. If anything deserves the descriptor “essential”, it’s this compilation.

Diversity and style abound everywhere you look within this stacked 24-track album. The incredible hyper-Jungle, subterranean halftime, banging growl-fests, moody soul, and 80’s synth-pop found here all represent the many facets of what can only be “Future Beats”.

I’m a long time fan of both Doc Scott and his label, and have been following his Future Beats Radio Show since it’s first editions. His podcast has become a platform for exposing the world to new and innovative music, and this album is the logical expansion and intensification of that idea. Doc has reached out to some of his favorite producers to contribute to this project, and everyone involved is 100 percent in top form.

That said, let’s talk about the music. This is no easy task with two dozen tracks on offer, but I’ll do my best to highlight the tunes I feel are most worthy of attention.

American bass-ninja Sinistarr combines floaty synth magic with fierce 808 minimalism in “H3xx”. On a similar page is Ital Tek’s “Vector”.  It is the absolute essence of halftime, and has more in common with early dubstep than anything else on the compilation. A simple, undulating bassline provides foundation for the relentless beats, and the results kill the dance every time.

Continuing with the halftime-esque rollers is “Talisman” from J:Kenzo. As per usual with Mr. Kenzo’s work, the engineering and subs are out-of-control fantastic, but the true wizardry here is within the composition and progression of the track. It’s wonderful when an artist can create something that rewards repeated, extended listens, and everything about this tune supports that idea. More crunching, manic hip-hop vibes include Thing’s “One Million”, Loxy & Resound’s “Purity”, and a more textural version in Sam KDC’s “Incarcerate”.

The track that I immediately fell in love with upon first getting this album a while back is Hidden Turn’s “Dream of Tron”. One of the most unique voices in D&B today, Hidden Turn has somehow synthesized futurism and nostalgia into one beautiful, textural, emotional blur. I’ve likely heard this one 25 times by now, and it feels powerful and new every listen. Some more standout tunes are Moresound’s “Rahstok”, which I’ve already heaped praise upon in my “Best of Year” write-up, and the vocal techno-weirdness of the House of Black Lanterns’ hypnotic stormer, “Take Control”.

Vromm also deserves mention for his contribution “The Key”. Clanging, precise beats play counterpoint to the undulating synth bass to create a package that is both hypnotizing and energetic. One of the best sound designers in the business flexing his talents for all to enjoy.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the music on this compilation, but apart from the obvious quality of the tracks, I’m even more excited about what this release represents. It’s the dawn of a new and diverse time for D&B, and “Future Beats: The Album” is the first true and complete embodiment of this progress.

Do yourself a favour. Buy this, then listen to every track on the album. You will thank me later. Released December 15th.

What I’m playing: “H3xx”, “Vector”, “Dream of Tron”, “Talisman”, and “Rahstok”

PEDESTRIAN & JASPERDRUM – KALAKUTA (ALIX PEREZ REMIX) [2ND DROP]
Rock-solid halftime jungle vibes from the one and only Alix Perez. I’ve heard his rework about 10 times now, and it’s clearly quality work from head to toe. The house stabs and textures pulse in waves over grand periods of time, eventually ramping up to a razor-sharp break and subline that perfectly sync into one, glorious vibration. If I had 20 tunes like this it would be too few, and I hope Mr. Perez’ contemporaries take heed of the Pandora’s Box that has now been opened with this new take on a classic feeling.

TREI – EMPIRE EP [TECHNIQUE RECORDINGS]
Technique has been a consistent source of well-honed dancefloor D&B since 1999, and this 4-track EP from Wellington, NZ’s Trei continues that lineage in high-style. “Empires” begins with jazz-laden cinematic textures, then smoothly escalates into a stomping percussion workout worthy to begin any big-room set. The bottom drops out of the intro to reveal a scathing bassline and slamming drums, surely causing a mosh pit or two somewhere.

“Masquerade” sticks to the steppin beats, but takes an updated Ed Rush & Optical approach to the sound design with complex, weaving synths and long, intense buildups. If you dig the first two tracks, you will be feeling Trei’s collab with Fader, “Identity Crisis”. Airy, cutting, and everything you want when you need to give the ravers something to freak out about. “Born Killer” rounds out the EP as an average of the first three tracks with the addition of some creepy horn stabs. If you like any one of these tracks, you will probably dig all four, so go get on that internet and support quality D&B!

GRAPHS – POSTHUMAN EP [COSMIC BRIDGE]
Om Unit’s love letter to the subterranean vibes of the new sound, Cosmic Bridge, presents a 4 track EP from Boston resident, Graphs.

“Posthuman” is textural beauty of the highest order, equal parts growl and shine. Mechanical, piston beats keep cyclic time while fractal, alien strings tell the story of a time long since passed. The frenetic percussion assault of “Falling Inward” can get a bit hectic at times, but ultimately comes off like a continuation of what began with the Autonomic Podcast.

“Broken Legs” just wants to punch you in the face with it’s skulking and relentless wobble. This plays counterpoint to the syncopated future tribalism of “Sever the Heart”, a wormhole in song form if there ever was one.

One of my favourite discoveries of the year, Cosmic Bridge continues to innovate and rise above the crowded music world of 2014.

VARIOUS – RAM ANNUAL 2014 [RAM]
This compilation contains a hand-picked selection of previously-released tracks from the past year, the complete list of which is available via the Soundcloud link below. There are three exclusive tunes on offer, so I’ll be discussing those in particular.

Mind Vortex’s “Hotbox VIP” starts things off with arpeggio-heavy synthwork and a hands-in-the-air melodic style sure to get things rolling into the face-melting drop quickly. Note that the build on this one is clever-as-heck and worth the price of admission alone.

Sexy vibes from the Gerra & Stone piece, “L.I.E.S”. The pulsing on the bassline here is completely infectious, and has made me consider putting some more liquid into my sets, which is no small feat. Plus, that “Outer Space”-style snare roll still gives me the feels. LoKo & Chords meld a classic vocal with some seriously pounding low end in “Diamond Light”, leaving us with a truly likable way to round out the exclusive material from this massive compilation.

BREAK – TEMPTATIONS/RIGHT NOW [SYMMETRY]
This guy is a wizard. He has somehow figured out how to make a Jungle break swing in a manner I’ve never heard before. “Right Now” just starts with the beat in full force as if to say “You don’t need any clever trickery here, listen to how sick these drums are”. Make your way into the drop and you should be wondering how he can make a 3-4 note bassline sound completely fresh. Throw in some completely insane edits every 2-4 bars and you have one of the finest tunes from this man since his rework of Dom & Gridlok’s “Moodswings”. Absolute fire.

Check out “Temptations” for a completely different, but equally great number. Opening with a beautiful soul-textured halftime section, you are quickly taken to a place where words defy how a 2-steppin track so minimal can rock so very hard. The bass sounds are totally unique. Growling, animated, but almost techno-like and completely fascinating. It’s truly hard to put into words how visceral and innovative this release is, but I’ve done my best, as there aren’t currently any audio clips online as of this writing. Do check it out as soon as you are able.

What I’m Playing: Both!

MAUOQ – GREY SCALE/ITCHY WAY [TERABYTE RECORDS]
I’ve been seeing this guy’s name a lot lately, and with good reason, he’s crafting quality stuff. “Grey Scale” juxtaposes creepy, atonal piano/strings with slapping, stepping beats to leave us with a moody, driving whole. The bassline growls as well as it knocks, and the vibes are strong. My only criticism is that the track is a bit samey in the center, but if you are mixing, this could be a godsend.

“Itchy Way” infuses a bit of melodic paranoia into the mix, and the monsters are trying to get your attention from the very start. The bassline has a subtle mechanical sheen to it that is very unique, and probably sounds ridiculous in a warehouse at 3:30 AM.

TUFF TOUCH – SCRIPT/BREACH [MAYAN AUDIO]
Sometimes, you just want your face ripped off. Thankfully, we have folks like Tuff Touch out there, providing the exact sort of melting intensity that many of us are after.

“Script” starts off innocently enough, before quickly turning into a skip-step grindout reminiscent of early Sub Focus. It’s hard to imagine this one not killing the dance at any rave anywhere. The switches to halftime / drumstep don’t hurt its chances of rocking the dance either.

Overall, a hearty recommend if this is a sound you’re after. “Breach Feat. Jayel” is a bit more pedestrian than the first side, but the the clever vocals make up for the track’s semi-random edits. Strong stuff from a name I’m sure we will see pop up again in the near future.

CRISSY CRISS – TRINITY EP: PART TWO [TECHNIQUE RECORDINGS]
The second banging release on offer this edition from Technique brings us part two of Crissy Criss’ Trinity EP. I’m not usually one for super-big sounding D&B, but the tracks here are so well-produced that it’s impossible to not find something to love. Take “Go Hard” for example. The mega-epic intro and build makes way for an initially confusing, but ultimately completely awesome twist on the growling bassline template.

Imagine somewhere in-between “Creeps” era Virus and the “Ram Raiders” collections, but blasted violently into 2016. Impressive, as I’m pretty jaded to this sound, and this track feels super-fresh even still. Continuing with the updated-throwback vibes, “Monday” sounds like a combination of Dillinja in his heyday, plus “Shot Down on Safari”-era Bad Company, but again, reformatted for the future.

I swear I’m not being journalistic-ally lazy, this guy just understands how Drum & Bass works and can channel all these historical vibes into something that works in 2015. I think I’m a newly-minted fan! Dead Exit on Drumstep-type remix duties for “Everybody”. Superior production, tastefully clever synthwork, and a neat way to transition into or out of drumstep, should that be something you need to do. I’ll be following Crissy Criss more closely going forward. Sorry for being late to the party.

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