Passport? Check. Space suit? Check. Anti-gravity decks? Check. Welcome back to Planet V. First visited in 1999 with groundbreaking, benchmark-setting force then returned to in 2013 by the captain Bryan Gee himself, we make another voyage. And we've packed enough tunes (60+) to fire us twice around the known universe and have enough to juice to spare. From future-primed versions of classics (Juiceman's loose and slappy remix of "It's A Jazz Thing") to brand new gully creepers (L Side's "Riddim Dancer"), slipper-shuffling soul (Paul SG and Carter's purple-hazed "Jazz Cigerette") jump-up jazz funk ("Forgotten Funk") via all manner of tried and tested V classics, this really is the biggest, most creatively far-flung and comprehensive collection V have ever released. Ready for take off?
The first volume of remixes to come from Numa Crew's 2014 debut album New Underground Massive Alliance, Liondub take the skank-spanked opening tracks and commission a brace of on-point versions. "Impossible" version highlights include the classic bubble-bass jungle flare of Brian Brainstorm's twist, the sheets of overwhelming distorted bass on Samy Nicks' shake-up and Numa Crew's own dubwise strip down. "Kill A Whole A Dem" version highlights come from none than Vadim (piano-wise hook with Nextmen levels of funk), Serial Killaz (hype-charged steppery) and Upgrade (straight-up unashamed dancefloor hair-raising). As far as remix packages go, they don't get much heftier.
The wait is over: Metalheadz have been teasing us with the prospect of a Mikal debut since at least 2012. Naturally the Swedish skirmish starter hasn't disappointed. 16 tracks of grazingly fresh designs we range from the sci-fi laser ballad opener "Patterns" by way of dagger-sharp dark tech ("Ruff Life"), elastic space drones ("Segunda") and even slinky, sassy funky drummer work on his ode to the master ("JB's Groove"). Complete with cameos from Break, Xtrah and Buraka Som Sistema's RIOT and Chimpo, this is the type of debut album you'd take home to meet the folks... If your folks understand the virtues of precision engineered drum & bass, that is.
The best part of three years has passed since Jacky Murda and Aries's all-star Wanted album dropped. Now comes the remix package. Highlights fly from every version: the harmonic sing-along vibe "Worldwide Traveller" gets a subtle update by the men themselves, Dope Ammo adds a whole new level of horn-heaved funk to "Girls Dem Dada", King Yoof lays down an authentic classical dub twist on "Have You Ever" while Run Tingz alumni J Man rolls out "Holla Fi We" so smoothly you'll think your ears are covered in fine silk. And that's just the tip of the remix iceberg... Murderation!
Astrophonica don and all round break-chiselling demon Fracture returns to Exit with more of his signature loving touches. "Makin' Hype Tracks" says it all; a halftime/rolling hybrid with tank-wide bass and a precision positioned hip-hop sample. "Black Pearl" takes us back the mid-90s with majestic Good Looking feels and break edits so detailed you get lost inside them. "Acid Claps" is a 160 trip back to 89 by way of Detroit while "I Just" closes the show on an insistent percussive tip with subs so fat you need a Visa to play them. Near-on perfect... Feel the hype.
Soul Trader has swiftly established itself as a force to be reckoned with, having launched less than a year ago and dropping pure gold every EP. Saxxon takes the title credit with the powerful piano-rolling jazz jam "Blue Harbour" that's underpinned with just a mild mischievous wobble. From here Spearhead bossman Bcee takes the wheel and drives the rest of this multi-artist EP behemoth home. "Only You" loops up the funk with Troutman proportions, "Understanding" is a full-on male vocal workout with big gospel guts while his three-way with Saxxon and Surplus "Tripped Up" takes a minimal synth Q&A and peppers it with spacey vocal echoes and light pianos. Soul Trader's stock is high right now.
UK south coast filth-flinger Operate has been stealthily dropping twisted science on us for several years, including a debut album last year on Hostile Bass. Now stepping up to the ever-reliant Murda Sound platform he's delivered four more potty mouthed dark exercises; "Futher" is total grainy, distorted, chaotic paranoia, "Scatter" is lean, mean steppery with some chiselled bass groans, "Z Word" is a choppy, slap happy break frenzy with more cool squiggles and giggles than a chocolate-sponsored nursery. Finally "Uncertainty" shows Operate's spacier, star-gazing side. But don't get all too caught up in the smoky and lazers, there's a droning bassline to chow down on.
When Mob Tactics ask you to "Get Dirty", you just do it. Rip your clothes off, cover yourself in Marmite, hop into bed with your neighbour... Just do what you have to do to fulfil their demands or they'll pummel you with seismic bass until you no longer recognise yourself in the mirror. Hungry for more of said seismic bass? Jump into the "Shark Tank" where hammerheads, copper sharks and wobbegongs nibble and chomp at your ears with no fear of retribution. Snappy!
When music hits you feel no pain. Right? Wrong... When Maji's in town you feel every ounce of his hurters. And we wouldn't have it any other way. One of the most consistent and long standing rave merchants in D&B (20 years and counting), here we find him taking his last EP and giving each track a raw VIP scuffing. Some VIPs flex subtle melodic twists in the hook ("The Truth Hurts") while others enjoy completely new bullet proof coated basslines ("Destroy") and out-and-out reworks ("Work For Nothing") On-point VIP science and huge potential for DJ creativity if you already have the originals, Maji knocks us out once again.
Now officially a solo act, NFM continues his consistent slew of heads-down rollers. Returning to Horizons, here we find Joe Moses on fine form with three far-reaching bass escapades. "Curtains" (penned with Concord Dawn) rolls with a filter chord sequence that fluctuates softly and soulfully while "Chandelier" is an example of NFM's lean fusion of jungle drums and unnerving bass adorned with warm Detroit-style synth tones. Finally we hit "Monument", a sleazy swinger with a jazz bassline and woozy, dreamy chords that wouldn't have gone amiss on Full Cycle back around 97 or 98. Beautiful.
Jungle upstart Bostron bosses it up once again: "Man Of Livin" is a straight up homage to Haile Selassie I. Powerful vocals, clash dynamics, raw soul - it's one of Bostron's finest cuts to date. "Ruff It Up" takes a deeper, more sensual twist with honeyed vocals draping themselves over a slinkier roll and a purring elastic bassline that melts out a melody subtle enough to ensure the full focus is on the girls fronting. Serious vibes.
Aided and abetted by Digital, ST Files and Ingredients in recent months, relative newcomer Response ups the level once again with his debut Commercial Suicide. Fitting title, too: this type of toxic, cliff-thick, grainy dangerous sounding D&B isn't OK... It's incredible. Both the drumfunk title track and the rolling "I Don't Want To Go Outside" are straight up late 90s grizzle bizzle. "Let's Pretend" takes us even further back, beyond the horizons without so much as a whiff of unnecessary nostalgia. No arguments, Response is seriously talented. More of this please.
Three D&B titans collide on the legendary Quarantine: this is heavyweight from the spec alone. With its breezy chords and lilting elements "Going" rolls with a deeper air than you'd expect, but beneath lies a sizzling bassline charged by 50 substations that gets more powerful the bigger the system you play this on. Flip for "Profile", an unabashed hurter with pummelling industrial strength drums that are so hard they'd make Dom and his trusty Roland blush. Premium.
DJ Limited's stock just went up by a few quid: previously flexing on Fatman's Bio brand, Sigma have signed up the UK producer for two blisteringly rushy cuts. File under moment: "Your Love" is a synth-licked whirlwind of a stepper that rises and rises with euphoric urgency. "Everyday" provides the all-important contrast... With chubby-boi subs, rattling breaks and dancehall vocals from Dominator, it takes off where Sigma's "Rudeboy" left us. Both sides have serious potential; have Sigma found the next Sigma?
Longstanding London selector Denial steps up to Dispatch with two black belt tag team finishing moves. "Missions" sees him taking a 130mph drive in a jet black M3 in the dead of the night: Stealth-like, dangerous and unstoppable. "Poison Light" sees Denial and DBR UK take off where they left us on Soul Flex a year ago: spacious, pensive atmospherics over a classic rattling stepper rhythm and just the right amount of haunted thanks to its classic eastern prayer call. There's no denying this one.
Modern auteur James Clements is back with more fascinating explorations of the grey zone. Starting out with the psychotic acid experiment of "Ignite" it is then business as usual on the title track, with its dark atmospheres and industrial textures contrasted by a belting gabber style beat; it's pretty brilliant. On the flip "Reveal" is another furious 170 BPM experiment, innovative as much as it is utterly confronting, while final track "Vanium" switches to cruise control on this mysteriously bleepy sci-fi epic somewhere between Sahko and the Autonomic sound. Sounds good enough right?
With previous on Program and Spearhead, Battery now take another bold leap and make their Metalheadz debut. Three tracks deep, each one showcasing their stark, spacious sound. "NoNo" is a 150mph drive down country lanes blindfolded. No escape, no surrender, no seatbelt. "Air" is slightly deeper with more of a human element thanks to subtle vocal touches from Rumour. Finally we hit "Hornsey Dub", a heads down roller laced with dense drum textures, tight edits and sneering toxic sub. Killer label debut and definite radar-lockers for 2016 hype.
Barely a month has passed since his emerald "Really Alive" EP and Furney returns to Soul Deep with two more understated, classy rollers. "Mercurial" hits hard and hits persistently with a meticulously weighted kick and loose live bass groove. "I Just You Walk Away" softens the punch just a little in favour of an ethereal vocal sample, planet-chowing arpeggios and gentle harp plucks. Classic Furney, classic Soul Deep.
MLH president Danny Rich returns with another late night soul-edged roller that fuses down the best elements of various styles; the bassline has just a smidgeon of jump up grit, the star-gazing synths and purring bass have that deep, cosmic texture while the vocal element adds the right amount of liquid charm. A really cool transition tune that no playlist should be without. Remix-wise DJ Direct lays down a chunky bass-tech house twist a la My Nu Leng. Vibey.
Fresh from tearing down the walls at Dynamic Audio HQ, Supreme Being makes his mark on Wild West. "Savages" is a one-note wonder with a lean bassline that's so naked you feel every nuance of its sporadic hits while the drums roll dead centre. "Jungle" is more of a traditional Supreme Being cut with a balls-out bassline that runs at you screaming before suddenly stopping for a breathless breakdown. Serious jungle juice.