Five years have passed since AI's debut album Stand Alone. Five years worth waiting: After a string of universally received samplers, Glen and Zula finally unleash the whole set. Clearly in journey mode, the LP works really well as a listening experience as much as it does in the dance. From the gentle wafts and breezes of "Aroma" to the much darker DRS-drenched designs of "Pass The Buck" and the gritty, Metalheadz homage "The Source" back the majestic touches of two Dawn Wall collaborations, this is Artificial Intelligence at their most comprehensive and clear. Attention to detail has been paid to the finish of each track, ensuring a sheen and consistency that you really don't hear in drum & bass albums that often. Timeless.
Founding fathers of jump-up skank-wise drum & bass, Vital Elements and Tera return with the official mix album we've been waiting for since their Top Cat throw down five years ago. Blazing through 50 tracks, the mix is devilishly close to their legendary clubs sets. But that's just the start as many tracks and their own special remixes are being made available for the first time; the premium positivity of 2Nice's "Uprising" the gruelling drum switches of Krome & Time's "The Licence", Ras Demo's spitfire mic-wrenching on "Fire" and the straight-up nasty of SK's "Kill Tune Time" are the tip of the highlight iceberg. Complete with a selection of DJ FX tools, Jungle Cakes and Serial Killaz have created a next level junglist package right here.
What a year it's been for Shogun Audio: albums from Spectrasoul and Rockwell, new signing Karma, the epic Point Of Origin collection and killer singles from every artist on the roster. Here they wrap up the year with 34 bangers, blissers and blunderbusses. If you've been following the label you'll know just how heavy this weights in bass gold. If not, it's the best possible place to play catch up. From the Jenna G-fronted Submorphics chiller "The Divine" and the gospel-level heaven of Spectrasoul's "Shelter" to the much darker, thunderous slammers such as Friction and Icicle's "Crucifix", Fourward's "Exile" and Calyx & TeeBee's gamechanging remix of Spor's "Aztec", this is a spotless sonic calling card for the label and its many multifaceted talents.
Rumours have been rife on this for well over two years now. Refusing to hurry as much as he refuses to compromise, Rockwell has taken his time and crafted one of the most distinctive, unique bass music albums: Obsolete Medium. Referencing ghetto-tech, classic hardcore (rave and punk) and formative jungle, every track, even the skits, justifies its place: from the torch-raising Banks-style leftfield ballad "Faces" through to the toxic waste bass and paranoia of "Guts/Bloods/Sex/Drugs" by way of the unadulterated rave mischief of "Please Please Please (Play This On The Radio)" and cosmiche bass of "Technoir", the whole album is detailed, precision articulated and full of surprises. Far from obsolete.
Oh gosh... Just when you thought James Brown couldn't be repurposed, recontextualised or re-contemporised any more, along come longstanding partners in grime Wickaman and Mavrik with two insane twists: the Roll Out mix zaps and tickles with pure party jump-up electricity of "Feel Good" while the Tear Out Mix does exactly as you'd expect with more emphasis on the bassline. The reversions continue with "Plug It In", a grizzly take on Groove Armada's classic "Superstylin". Instant murderation.
Following their Fast Soul and Fast Jungle compendiums, Hospital plunder their vaults for the darkest, most physical rave sounds in their repertoire. The result is a 46-strong collection of heads-down, dark room tracks designed solely for those 3am moments when the lights are either blue, green or not on at all and someone's busted the smoke machine button so it's set on permanent blast. Going right back to the early zeroes with tracks such as Photek's remix of London Elekricity and High Contrast's "Yesterday's Colours" the collection is a reminder of how vast Hospital's sounds and artist roster is. From Dub Phizix's remix of Netsky to a rare D&B outing from DJ Madd plus Enei, Commix, Stray and many more, this is the best collection in Hospital's fast serious so far.
Longstanding Russian roustabout Command Strange returns to V with two more contrasting soul slicers. "Black & White" is a hundred shades of foggy misty grey as the drama is all in the ominous bassline that never gets above its savage station and rolls into the never-ending mist. "Desire" flips the jazz switch with big horns, keys and a demonstrative dulcet delivery from the best MC in the game: The singing Fats. Desirable.
dBridge, Skeptical, Loxy, Resound and Kid Drama: The Binary Collective was a stupidly strong supergroup in itself, but Module Eight just takes the piddle in the heavyweight stakes - both sonically and personally. Combining all player's strengths and signatures into one beautifully moody long player each cut teeters over the precipice of both timelessness and futurism. Highlights include the guttural 60-a-day bass croaks of "Ghost", the eerie twisted dancehall bangs of "Rudeboy", the mid 90s echoes and rumbles of "Legacy" and the genius processed vocal rhythm hits on "Lost Eden". These are just a small handful of highlights in an album that commands full attention both on the decks and headphones. Eighters gonna eight.
Few names command respect on a Mampi level. Even when he promises his new album for over two years, he still retains his crown. Listen to tracks like these and it's easy to understand why; "Back To 92" is a pastiche of the best detuned synths and ugliest breaks of the era, all brought together with today's production muscle. "The Spirits", meanwhile, is plain tear-out banshee business (think Ram Trilogy) The rest of the EP sees Swift remastering three Charge classics for the modern day: his Fresh collaboration "Play Me" still ruffles the finest hairs on your spine while the sci-fi tones and twangs of Friction's "3rd Planet" still sound futuristic. Finally we hit Blame's "Stay Forever". A straight-up string-drenched anthem from one of drum & bass's most interesting creative chapters, it still has total relevance to this day.
Formerly one half of Need For Mirrors, HLZ (known formally as Emilio) unleashes his debut solo EP and it's every bit as stark and dark as you'd expect it to be. "Theia" is all about the 1.21 gigawatts bassline that pings us back the headiest days of jungle before hurling us back into the future. "Rem World" takes a subtler approach as hurricane pads wrap around the two-steps while "Roads" juggles several fine-tuned basses around a similarly slim-line dynamic. Finally we hit "Nebulosa" wherein a cloudy clutch of star dust elements sprinkle the most industrial strength rhythm section of the EP. A brand new chapter for HLZ begins...
Swedish sound controller Seba has dented 2015 with continuous and consistent releases, re-issues and remixes. This could quite easily be his best yet, though; "Jungle Music" is an ode to the era he first made his name. Dark, twisted and dangerous; there are many jungle tributes around right now but this is definitely one of the most authentic. "Cloudless" flips the switch with rolling soul style. Comprising warm humming subs, floaty trumpets and star-gazing synths, it plays the consummate counter to the devilish lead banger. Classic Seba.
Keystone jump-up flexor Mr Maji gets busy on Logan D's LDD imprint. "Pick Em Out" shows a deeper, more restrained side to his abilities as a distinctive Urban Takeover style bassline slinks itself around a punctuated two-step and a MC vocal snippet. Think Aphrodite circa 98. "Angry Onion" brings us back into the robot ruled future with both an award-winning track title and, most importantly, a sheet metal bassline hammered with one-note precision. Sharp.
Returning to their spiritual home Mutated Forms (now a duo rather than a trio) come correct with four cuts that take us back to their earliest, pre-"Wastegash", foundation era. "Let You Go" rolls with classic mid noughties bassline (think Brookes Bros) with a well-placed vocal that never goes OTT while "They Know" starts off as a really middy, fuzzy waspy stepper before dropping into honeyed vocals from Luke Truth. "Your XTC" is a timeless soul roller that's not dissimilar to an Artificial Intelligence and Steo jam while "In Your Mind" brings us to a hypnotic finale with a dense texture of vocal samples that bounce back and forth over each other to mesmerising effect.
He may only release, on average, an EP a year, but you can always rely on Scottish artist Aesthetics for premium all-corner escapades. Often grizzly and unruly, always fine-tuned for floor flattening, each cut hits harder than a judge with a titanium hammer. "Ghetto Shit" is all about the Tyke-flavoured bass, "Soundman" is all about the classic mid 90s Headz vibe while "Night" is all about the similar era on Goodlooking. "Honeycomb" maintains the classic dynamics with overwhelming sub pressure, a surging vocal sample and classic breaks. Finally "Galaxy" brings us back to earth with a precision balance of reese charged bumps, softened by breezy, floaty pads.
Mysterious Manchester collective get lively on V with three dark dancehall damagers: "Bury Dem" rolls with a Chimpo-style vocal loop and Dub Phizix-esque sparse but hooky ingredients. "All Dem Sound" is much full-flavoured stepper with classic 2009 Rusko style obesity on the bass and a soulful singer who sounds very similar to DRS. "For The Fallen" closes the show with the steppiest drum arrangement of the EP, elements of rave and Fox-style vocals. Proper fusion: Each cut sounding genuinely fresh and unique.
It's been a massive year for Drumsound & Bassline Smith. Kicking off the year with "Come Alive" they then proceeded to savage the dance with the likes of "Spring Heeled Jack" and their monstrous VIP of the classic "Ladies Night". Murking done, they're bringing it back to the more anthemic radio-friendly side of their style. Armed with epic gospel vocals, it's an instant sing-along unifier when dropped at the right time. Remixes range from D&B grit (Cyantific) to gully 4/4 garage (TC4) to chugging electrohouse (Ku De Ta). Fearlessly epic.
The "Junglist Sound Killer" remixes just keep on coming with nine more versions stretching further and deeper than the previous release packages. The warm reggae feels of the original "Junglist Sound" are highlighted in both Bluntskull's and Sticky Joe Roots' remixes. "Kingston 11" gets a nostalgic soulful Jamaican pingback to its 2005 roots while Macky Gee rips "Meditation Time" down and rebuilds it into something much darker, twisted and nigh-on impossible to meditate to. Finally "Chatty Mouth" gets authentic rolling jungle injections from Social Security and Raz Jungle. Widespread.
Russian roustabout Mr Frenkie steps aside from his Phlegmatic Dogs house project with two pristine slabs of dynamic drum & bass. "Pathfinder" wouldn't go amiss in a Break or DLR set thanks to its spacious drums and well-placed synths. Less is most definitely more on this one. "Foundation" flips the vibe for something a lot harder and techier. Think Xtrah or Mefjus but a tiny bit more understated.
Not to be confused with Roger Sanchez's S-Man alias, S Man is all about the heritage jungle vibes. Making his Sub-Woofah EP debut, here he lays down four unruly examples of D&B damage. "Rava Flava" lives up to its name with detuned synths and a bassline so full fat S Man needed doctor's approval before bouncing it down to audio. "Fire" twists up ragga chats with big jazz chords in the same way Jumping Jack Flash did 20 years ago, "Brain Funk" tickles with a funkier stick and an array of strange, twisted sound design while "Give You" tugs on the emotional heartstrings with its delicate piano and whirring shakers. Rewind.
Soul Trader bossman Surplus recruits likeminded creators Audio Sketch and Drifta for an extensive collection on the ever-reliable Soul Deep. "Critical" comes with that Marky-style roll to it thanks to expert placement of shakers, "Inner Peace" pays homage to Good Looking' glory days while "Feel Me" combines jazzy chords and subtle but deadly bass twists. Dig deeper for the deep dream dynamics and trumpet-toting of "Utopia" and the John B-style electroisms, Danny Byrd-ish vocal chops and mild rave connotations of "All Night Long".