Three years on from his debut album Under The Ice, Dutchman Icicle commits another long player to the Shogun Audio cause in the shape of Entropy. Bass weight meets sound design on this ambitious 16-track set as Jeroen Snik offers a compelling argument for his personal development since Under The Ice. What sets Entropy apart from most D&B long players at the moment is Snik's willingness to weave different stylistic elements into his productions with genuinely thrilling results. See the relentless, grime flecked nastiness of "Isolation" and the downbeat "Superimposed" for evidence, though there is still plenty of science fiction indebted bass futurism to satisfy the heads.
If your immediate reaction to the news that Horizons have released a 17-track behemoth to celebrate their tenth year in existence wasn't total joy and amazement, you might not have a pulse. As a heavyweight label at the centre of the darker end of the scene, this LP has attracted mainstay names to come and show support, resulting in the most enviable roll call of the year. Kicking off with Break, artists as diverse and as legendary as Mako & Hydro, DLR, Need For Mirrors, Skitty and NickBee all come forth to spread the deep, dark, and at times industrial, love.
Jim Coles has previously spoken about this second Om Unit full length being "a nod to the sound" of his "teenage self". Given the fact that he's rediscovered his jungle and hip hop roots in recent years, it's an accurate description. The fact that he's also mined Goldie's sample archive to help create the sound of Inversion is also telling. While it's not a straightforward jungle set - there are plenty of wonky moments, skewed downtempo interludes, footwork influences and trips into expansive IDMterritory - the skittish breaks, foreboding noises and murky textures all scream classic D&B. It adds a little spice to an already excellent set, delivering a range forward-thinking tracks with their roots firmly in the past.
Latvia might not be your first stop for up and coming jungle stars, but Liondub International has definitely found one in Kenji. For the 10th volume of "$treet $eries", first track "Gun Proof" blasts out straight rudeboy style with bass bombs and a layered synthesizer backdrop. With tempo and temperature rising, "In Yo Crib" kicks down the door with rough bassline-led jump up. The title track strips it further back to roughneck basics with plenty of space and "Look at the Sky" deploys the same skeletal tactics in a roller. Closer "Primary Force" fills out the sound palette with warring sample layers and techy nonchalance. Think again about Latvia!
Do you want to hear a German producer get things so right you might never need to hear another liquid release in your life? Step right this way. Amaning has joined the Fokuz ranks for his first full-length LP, and within its 11 tracks are some incredible moments of pure D&B escapism. Opting to steer clear of the classic liquid route, his tunes each have a sense of his own individual sound creeping in at the corners, twisting things to another level. The "Time Warp" aspect comes from the seamless blend of faithful old school sampling and reproduction and brand new experimentations - it works and you know that it does.
As you'd expect it to, this slice of Midlands-based jungle fun comes correct with some vintage hip hop stylings to add some spice to the mix. Throw in a ton of retro vibes and "We Love Hip hop" takes off into the stratosphere, mixing in a deep sub wobble for good measure. K Jah & Vytol know their stuff when it comes to making dancefloor-driven anthems with classy old skool flavours and they haven't let us down with this one. Big, brash and booming, there's only one thing to do when this tune drops - get moving.
It's about time SR and Digbee got a little more attention and these remixes are going to be the nudge that does it. Kicking off with a stunning vintage-style VIP of "Jog On", breaks take over for a rapidfire, under the radar dancefloor destroyer. Made for pirate radio, if this came out 25 years ago we wouldn't be surprised. Next up, DJ Randall's tough, rough n ready remix of "Nostromo" brings out the big guns with deep tribal sounds adding extra tension. Callide's remix of "Supersonic" brings a touch of mainstream magic to proceedings and then DJ Vapour drags it all back to the good old ravey days of 93-95 with "Back To Basics". Mental.
All fin-bearing puns aside, Fishy brings something deep and delicious to the table (sorry, we're done now) with these few cuts of luxurious rolling D&B. "I Said I Know" in particular is a standout track, pulling deep, forward-driven bass upfront, dragging with it the soulful vocals and piano with a real feeling of momentum. Showing off a more technical side in "Still Waters Run Deep", Fishy manages to create a darker sense of mystery while maintaining those trademark rolling hi-hats. For the emotional amongst us, "Forest Sunlight" is a beautiful piece of emotive D&B, played on pretty piano and given a big bassy workover. Lovely stuff.
Jungle that's hot to the touch is rare and precious in this day and age but K Jah & Vytol have nailed it with this little diamond. Crashing through thick levels of dub with hyper snares and old school effects, there's nothing in this tune but pure fire. Birmingham might not be the spiritual home of jungle music but K Jah is making it his own personal homeland, turning his place of residence into a pivot point for modern junglists. Don't you just love it.
Did you know that Mage has a dark side? If you didn't know, get to know, because this EP is a collection of some of the darkest material ever to have surfaced on Celsius Recordings. "The Cave" acts like its namesake to produce some pitch black cavernous sounds from deep within the cold recesses of this producer's mind. "Run Through The Light" offers some cinematic sound experimentation as dynamics shift without warning. More uplifting thanks to an addictive jazz hook, the bassline on this is not to be missed. Two very different but equally necessary tracks.
Based in London, Goldman Records is a new label that prides itself on clean visual aesthetics as much as it does a dirty drum and bass sound. The best example of the label's twisted side is "Swinger", which chops mutant vocals of Busta Rhymes "Break Ya Neck" with tear out scrapes of bass, crunch and warped synths, while "Syrup" counteracts the harshness with a liquid and flowing production laced with muscular groove. "Pecker" samples more unknown hip hop (Method Man vocals the hint), intertwining it with frenetic drum machine percussion and grubby drums. This record also features a bonus track: the cosmically smooth roller coaster "Endless Blue".
Wretch 32 gets deep and heartfelt with his latest release, opting to edge away from a destructive dancefloor smashing chorus for a more emotional D&B sound. Singing love, luck and life, it's a departure from some of his other more party-centric tracks but it's definitely a welcome change. Giving Ministry of Sound its 170bpm hit of the winter season, expect this to light up clubs around the country until the clocks go forward. You don't get many positive messages in chart dance music, do you?