It's a Bristol thing: Deep In The Jungle mainstay Audiomission rallies up the crew for four skank-packed jungle workouts. Together they lay down "Live & Let Live" and "Yeah Man" - the former hits with bouncy mid 90s jungle mischief, hurts with modern production and massages with a conscious vocal line while the latter whisks us back to the rushiest of rave meltdowns. Elsewhere Pull Up Collective go solo with the siren wailing jungle blazer "Big Up" a track that's transformed into a ragged edge amen war cry by Kartoon. Proper.
Guv's Dubz Audio imprint goes from the strength to strength, consistently identifying the originators in an increasingly cluttered market. "DAPVA" is the label's first v/a collection, featuring one of the label's most consistent artists (Hedex) and three label debuts from men who need no introduction. Hedex is all about the heavily coded funk in the riff, Dilate conjures up a cool subby roller with added industrial strength percussion while Ironlong brings the one-note riff hype in a similar way to Tyke or Hazard. Finally, K Motionz closes the show with some subversive drama as the build craftily teases into a hair-raising drop you'd never expect. Damagement.
Oh gosh. DJ Hybrid has been bang on point with every plate he's dropped in the last two years. Now the men who've benefited from his bullets in their sets return the favour with this first volume of remixes from last year's album Mixed Origins; Callide takes us right back to early 2000s Fresh-style savagery on "It's Murder", Ray Keith polishes up his amen knuckle dusters on "Run Away" while Benny L adds a whole new level of floating charm to "Bring It Back". Deeper into the collection Livewire and Samurai Breaks take us right back to 92 with new school techniques, DJ LAB lays down some superlative subs on "Boom In 93", Schematic twist "Beyond My Control" into a fuzzy distorted grizzler while finally Section busts up the drums in his faithful twist on "Lost In The Music". Album remix packages really don't come broader or badder than this.
Total Science and DLR... Need we say any more? DLR sets the tone with his own "Thinking About Tomorrow" where a precision balanced warm tech groove carries jazz chords to unknown hypnotic pastures. "On The Edge", meanwhile, hurtles jauntily into funky town with a bassline that staggers dangerously behind the kicks creating a tripped out groove that really shouldn't work... But does. Innovative and true to the craft - Dispatch never disappoint.
Chimpo on Exit. Is the world ready for this? Probably not. But since when did that stop guys like these? Especially with Trigga and Fox going toe-to-toe on the motorway-shredding rampage session "Ram Dance Man". Elsewhere "Bedsprings Riddim" warms up with sultry, jazzy come-to-bed tones before dropping into squeaky dancehall hanky-panky dopeness, "Suga Rush" has a touch of the old schools to its pads, breaks and pitched up vocal sample while "Stanna Stairlift" eases us into the groove with soft goosebump pads before dropping into some broad canvas stroke breaks which wouldn't have gone amiss on an old Big Bud record. Magnificent.
Frequently flexing around A.M.C's signature Titan sound (but not afraid of a little liquid soul when the time is right) Dub Motion reminds us who's boss with two more muscular peaktimers. All riff and iron trousers, "It Can Hurt You" is a real barnstorm banger with jump-up energy but techy weight. "Into The Dark" takes a deeper route with evocative synth arpeggios, a breathy vocal but equal gravity in the drums and low end. Two sides to one very heavy coin, Dub Motion's currency is high right now.
20 years old and still sounding centuries ahead of the game, Optical's repertoire is a lesson in D&B history and future. Celebrating his influential tenure to date, here we find Optical selecting highlights from drum & bass's most formative era. Benchmark-setting cuts such as the Metalheadz-released spiralling paranoia jam "Raging Calm", the slinky Prototype-released stepper "Moving 808s" and the alien funk odyssey "Dark Skies" on Matrix's Metro are all present and correct, as are his solo highlights from his and Ed Rush's game-changing album Wormhole. With such a rich legacy to cherry pick from, these volumes could go on for days and remain relevant for years.
Most discerning D&B fans have been anticipating this one for years now but it's safe to say few of us had any idea just how soulful and widescreen Mutated Forms' debut album would be. From the soft-touch pianos and yearning vocal sample of opener "We Belong" it's clear the Estonian duo mean business. Highlights hang off every corner like casually baggy threads; the cosmic flutters of "Alright", the rising hype build and deep throat bass and halftime drums of "Amazonica", the overwhelming exuberance of the horns on "Revelations", the 22nd century R&B of "Heaven Sent", the list goes on. Both as singular tracks for DJs and as a whole body of work, this album really does confirm everything we've suspected of Mutated Forms for years. Exceptional.
They just keep on coming... Zero T and Fierce are smashing out some of the most concentrated, thoroughbred drum & bass this year. But then what did you expect from two legends of this calibre? Both bringing out contrasting sides to each other (Zero T highlights Fierce's funk while Fierce encourages Zero T's darker side) each track has been a guaranteed killer. "Scatter" punches with sky-scraping drums, classic FX and a stretched MC vocal. "Inhibitor" plays the perfect foil as the wasp nest bass takes the lead role and the drums roll gently in the background. Timeless.
Lynx is hammering them out right now. His once-dormant label Detail now charging back on turbo cylinders, he's returning to a wide range of archive material and finally giving it the life it deserves. Each cut unique and repping a different side to the longstanding artist, it's Lynx at his most unpredictable and exciting: "Street Lights" rolls with a TC-style vocal charm and stretchy, elastic bass groove while "Jungle Side" is a far-out trip down future's memory lane with its stuttering FX and staggered breaks. True originality.
One of 2016's most exciting success stories in drum & bass, GLXY have truly gone from strength to strength with every release. With appearances on UKF and support from all the right soul selectors, it was only a matter of time before Spearhead snapped them up for a selection. Each cut as silky and slinky as the last, the EP is an emotional showdown that ranges from the breathy whispers and yearns of Peta Oneir on "Expressions & Impressions" to the lilting piano waves on "Remember To Forget" by way of the spine-melting humanised instrumentation on "Luminescence" and the twinkling cosmic gospel of "Seductress". Each cut justifying GLXY's ever-rapid rise up the liquid ladder.
It's been a few years since Belgian duo M-Zine and Scepticz last jumped on a Dispatch despatch. Since then they've peppered the playlists of all discerning dark D&B selectors, gradually accruing serious stripes in the process. Here are two more examples of their studio prowess; "Nether" rattles with a ravaged, full spectrum Headz-style assault while "Obviate" takes a more stripped back, steppier tactic where a bouncy-ball bass pings between the razor-sharp kicks and snares. A perfect fit for Dispatch's distinctive, no-messing signature.
Time is closing in on us; pretty soon Dom & Roland's seventh album will crash-land into our lives like some juggernaut driving through our front doors, completely demolishing everything we know and understand about D&B albums in 2016. Hot on the heels of the guitar-riff hurricane "Tone Poem" and touching vocal stampede "Sirens Song" comes two of the album's heavier, full-frontal drum tracks. "DMT" (a slow-cooked collab with Hive over three years) is all about the Bluenote drum wizardry where no rules are considered whatsoever while "Inna Soul Jah" takes us deep into the belly of the Metalheadz beast with steel foundry sonics twisting themselves around more meticulous drum thunder with molten menace. Bring on the album.
Manchester duo Shadre & Salvage hop over to Vienna for some strong-armed Switch! antics. Four tracks deep, each cut reveals a different edge to their angular energy both collaboratively and individually; "Hostage" stretches the concept of harmonics within inches of its life with uncompromised melodic defiance and "Unbalanced" sees the duo go heads-down with a bouncy workout that ping-pongs seven shades of bass in an addictive Q&A style. Elsewhere Shadre goes solo for the creeper-style stepper "Explanation" while Salvage's "Hung Fu" takes no prisoners with its scratchy, glassy riff pressure. Beautifully ugly.
Historical heaviness: Digital & Spirit have relaunched their seminal label Phantom Audio and are about to scatter gun with scene with its remastered back-cat, which has never been released digitally before. We kick off with their launch collaboration "Phantom Force / Backlash". 17 years old and still raw and uncompromised, both cuts still smack of the future. Everything from the drums to the sculpted fear-textures in "Phantom Force" makes every hair stand on your neck while "Backlash" is a quintessential tech step damage session. Unabashed soundsystem business - these will crunch in 17 or 170 years' time.
Two Soul Deep regulars German Dub Defense and Hungarian Drum Force 1 collide for four superb dub-tinged rollers. "Soundbwoy" says it all with its layered harmonic horns providing constant rising uplift in a similar way to "Mr Majestic". "Beauty Dub" takes us on a dubbier tip with all the fluttering reverb, thumping sub line and FX and "Knowledge Dub" brings us back home with a soft stripped back landing as vocal textures whisper across the spectrum. "Floating Dub" takes us straight to bed with its cosy heartbeat synths and reassuringly warm bass palpitations. Sweet dreams.
On-point future feels from Audio Addict pillar Kumarachi as he teams up with Shy FX and Chase & Status collaborator Liam Bailey: "4am Where Are You" is an all-out vocal soul record with the big hooky emotion. Armed a warped, slightly trippy edge to the musicality, it's a subversive twist on a classic formation. "Shifting Sands" is more of a heads-down roller that pummels with same disregard for your health as Renegade Hardware tracks did around the early 2000s. Again, with some creative techniques applied to the vocal aspects, it's clear a lot of attention has been invested. More of this please Kumarachi.
LA looks towards mainland Europe for its next fresh talent excursion as Czech and Slovakian artists Dephzac and Smote take up a track each on this soul-rolling doublet. Dephzac takes us back to early 2000s Creative Source material with his one-strike piano hook, subtle soul vocal texture and texturally elastic bassline. Smote backs up previous Good Looking and Secret Ops backing with a delightfully emotional string sweep and chord structure that swoons with natural ease of the tight rolling shaker-sprinkled break. Stunning.
Representing Frankfurt, Soul Brother Twintone steps up to SDD with five touching compositions fine-tuned for late night roll-outs. "Riviera" and "Buzzkill" are hurricanes of soul blown from the iciest galaxy as breezy pads do the sci-fi thing with the perfect levels of emotion. "Dakota" is a unique funk exercise with some great late 90s feels to the double bass and all-round brushed drum jazz aesthetic while "Cave Paintings" maintains the jazz spirit but with more of a Latin feel to the groove and momentum. Finally "Ocean Drive" signs off with a rushed out vocal texture, humming subs and a subtle melody in the percussion. Tingles.