In 1996 the "Hidden Agenda" brothers formed a series of tracks that appeared on Goldie's Metalheadz imprint. 5 years Hidden Agenda formed Dispatch Recordings and the label went on to release music from the most respected and innovative heads in D&B (seriously check the Discogs, it is ridiculous). Fast forward to present day and one of the Hidden Agenda trio remains and has been guiding the Dispatch fleet for some time. Ant TC1 has now lead the label to a landmark 100 releases - and bloody hell do they have a serious double pack of collections to celebrate reaching the big 1 double 0.
Nothing says happy new year better than a 33-track jungle package. Ripping into the year in the same spirit they shredded 2016 with, DITJ have delivered something serious special here as some of modern jungle's finest creative minds: the never-failing DJ Hybrid slams the hammer down with the enormous VIP of "What Else", RMS continues his rich vein of form with some dagger-like samplecraft on the dancehall scorching "Burning Up", Section conjures up the spirit of Raindance past with some crafty drum-dicing "Black Magic" while Evade will turn you inside out on his trippy-assed amen omen "Reverse"... And that's just four of over thirty moments. Trust... We can't stress how massive this is.
One can throw the word 'legend' around all day long... But few match up to the might of DJ Monk. A mid 90s instigator who returned to critical acclaim several years ago and has since re-inked jungle's tattoo to the past with authentic melting pot roughhouse clarity. Here we find his label KLP reflecting and forecasting in equal measure with a great range of names: Ray Keith duffs up the drums on his modern take of "Deal Wid It", Serial Killaz skank up the dance with a spacious dancehall shake down "I Spy", Lion-UK hits a nine on the richter scale with the slinky sub funk take on "Jungle Riddim" while Serum seals the deal with his precision balanced jungle soul on "Good Body Girl". Legendary.
Formation, officially the longest running drum & bass label of all time, battens down the 2017 hatches with an incredible package of future fire. Gloves are off from the starts as the likes of Bladerunner charges up "Pulsar" with giddy VIP energy and NC-17 tickles our classic jungle fancy with "Bronx Roller" within the first few tracks while, deeper into the selection, Sweet & Sikka go all-out tech funk naughty with "Rebuke" and Benny V, Dfrnt Lvls & Entice get you thrusting lighters you didn't even know you owned. It's great to see label founder and all-round legend SS appearing so heavily across the album with his tracks, too... "Love So True" is a masterclass in classic early 2000s style dreamy soul, "New Jazz" takes us back to an EZ Rollers era and his Soul Saverz material continue to carve its own exciting unique conscious path. No other label has the heritage of Formation.
Majistrate and Voltage: two diamonds in the D&B rough, the middle ground shared by these two titans is the holy land most producers invest years of studio craft in discovering. The riffy funk of Voltage, the sheer weight and energy of Majistrate, the cheekiness of the pair of them - both "Big Time" and "Face The Pressure" hit like you'd want them too. The former on a riff-focused bass trip, the latter on more dense, layered peak time flattener.
Ripping the heart out of 2017's kneecaps, Jedi continues his relentless proliferation of absolute gully. "Hash Cakes" wakes, bakes and shakes with a squidgy bass, sharp drums and an expertly dug sample. "There's A Better Way" follows with a really cool twist on a classic Kathy Brown vocal while "2 Drops" is straight out of the book of Playaz circa 2007 - buzzy, hooky and just on the right side of silly. Saving the best for last, "Hoo Baby" closes with one of Jedi's best vibes to date as swooning vocal coos melt into a bassline so cheeky it will have you dancing the chicken dance from here until 2019.
And so the Modified Motion & Faction onslaught continues. Shotting out peaktime hype sirens at their most prolific rate to date, they step over to Sweet Tooth with four more high grade cuts. Both the fittingly titled "Nice Tune" and the rougher, looser hurter "Escape" tap into the mid-to-late 2000s jumpy sound where the dynamics were crafted to sweep you off your feet. "Wood Pecker" takes a deeper twist with its harmonic bass and creepy string sample while "Lifeline" seals the deal with a twist on the detuned Prodigy style rave synths. Think later era Bad Company with a dash of Sub Focus - it's that heavy.
Returning to Dispatch after a series of workouts on Formation, Vandal and Addictive Behaviour, Bristol's Kyrist comes correct with four of her freshest constructions to date. "Venomous" sets the tone with its wild, jittering fluctuating funk while "Find A Meaning" is a superb space-aged deep cut with an almost jazz-like feel to the groove and Steo adding far-out textures. Deeper again "Tectonicz" is a straight-up rough-houser while "No Remorse" is a tripped-out stepper with jelly bass wrapped around sharp punctuating two-steps. No remorse, no fear. Kyrist is confidently attacking the future right here. And she's winning.
No introductions necessary: Suburban Base shaped and fuelled rave music as knew it. Uncle Dugs documents, celebrates and champions rave music as know it. On this quarter-century retrospective Dugs brings everyone up to speed as he moves through the 90s and, in turn, the development of hardcore into jungle and drum & bass. 50 seminal tracks deep, from Remarc's soundclash slewing "RIP" to Marvellous Cain's jungle blueprint "Hitman" via Q Bass and E Type's early explorations into synthesis on "Hardcore Will Never Die" and formative junglism from DJ Hype, our affable Uncle continues to join the dots with the past and the future with supreme levels of detail and knowledge.
Having paid homage to cult Mexican gangster film Mi Vida Loca last year, 6Blocc takes time to celebrate another classic movie Boyz In The Hood with another concept album. Taking samples from the film and weaving them into gully floor heaters, 6Blocc shows us his darkest skills with a palette of sounds. "Church Booty" refuses to quit with its relentless back/forth sub ripples, "Crenshaw & Century" is a Tom & Jerry level jungle joint full of twisted amen edits and Ice Cube freshness, "In The Hood" slinks and tickles with "Pulp Fiction" style minimalism while "Mark" flips the mean and moody halftime bird with cosmic grit. These are just a handful of highlights.
Contrary to popular belief, Wolfie isn't just fine...He's in the rudest health possible. Hells, he's fighting so fit he can accidentally crush your bones when he shakes your hand. Serious production muscles: "Evil Within" twists and shakes with a crafty off-beat funk while "Possessed" takes us deep into a midnight crypt where ghosts of jump up past, present and future make us question our every atom. "What You Need" brings the soul back with a classic vocal snippet that shatters into a million pieces when the rasping bass twists into the mix while "Respect" crushes on climax with industrial strength bass. Wild.
Blueprint business: few tunes are as influential, unifying and iconic as "The HitMan". So durable and versatile, in fact, Cain's RIQ stable are celebrating it with an all-star series of remixers old and new. On this particular EP we get tripped out by Jinx, Kenny Ken rolls us out like the filthy minded junglists we all are while Toronto Is Broken sends fi de hacksaw with a message of pure bass venom that's arguably one of his best remixes to date. Finally Inna Culture brings the dancehall badness with a stripped back halftime stepper that will melt down every floor from here to Notting Hill.
Metalheadz take their first bite out of 2017 with an on-point two-tracker from two of the UK's sharpest D&B minds. Phil Tangent cuts the first slice of bass cake with a deep and breezy timeless roller; "Bardabunga" is driven by pensive detuned synth tones on the riff and powered by swift, skippy Bladerunner style breaks. Pennygiles joins the fray for "Crossing The Rubicon". A precision balanced creation of shades; one minute we're floating in beatless suspension. The next we're in Gully City. Population: YOU.
A cheeky teaser ahead of his second maxi-EP chapter from The North Quarter, Lenzman lays down another delicate soul sermon. "In My Mind" is a salubrious roller sprinkled with deft keys, pinned by a treacle-thick sub and coated with a velvet vocal that's delivered with a cool off-beat jazz-like way courtesy of Manchester's rising neo-soul star IAMDDB. Following in the spirit of his huge Children Of Zeus remix, it's yet another crisp, heart-warming original from the Dutch craftsman. Bring on the full EP.
Having shut down 2016 with two massive album projects, Dub Voltage return to the heavyweight EPs for 2017 with an absolute belter from System. Armed with dangerously addictive clipped riffs, both "Action" and "Translocation" hit hard with rasping, metallic space-aged hooks that punch perfectly through the mix while "Sticks N Stones" is a rougher cut with more distorted, almost woozy textures to the bass. Skantia shuts this particular EP down with a gritty twist on "Action". Game over.
One of drum & bass's most enduring craftsmen, Seba returns to his own Secret Operations stable with two more instant vintages. Flexing his distinctive drum dynamics from the off, "Stasis" is all about the rhythm intricacies as the drums play wildly over soft dreamy beds of synths and faraway spacy vocals. "Inner World" follows on a darker flex with some wonderfully warped bass tones, fickle drum switches and cold, crispy Headz style aesthetics.
More black magic from Hocus Pocus conjurers Dawn Raid. Consistently on-point, here we find the Northern duo expressing two perfectly contrasting but equally explorative vibes: "Fatal Attraction" hits hard like an old Moving Shadow joint with its Dom-style drums, bellowing subs and soulful vocal. "One Brick" continues the heritage tones with a jungle style sample-n-subs twist up where a dusty hook drops into pure amen energy. Timelessly class.
Consistently fresh: Intrigue slide into the new year with two beautiful slabs of deepness from two familiar faces to the label - Joakuim and Lurch. Lurch rides solo on the dangerous, jungle-minded "Rudeboys". With its far-away horn and flute sample over sub-laden breaks, there's a cool air of Future Cut to proceedings as we dig deeper and deeper into the molten step groove. "Thoughts Of You" sees the pair combining forces with a delicate dusty old sample where pianos lilt and flutter around woozy horn textures. Stunning.
Bronski and Critical Event's Mode:Funktion project returns to Soul Deep with another rich collection of deep D&B. "Those Sunday Blues" kicks off with a Jazzstick feel - all hazy and smoky in the vibe department. "Beautiful Life" is an instant uplift with major chords rising into the clouds but anchored by stately subs. "Overthinking" flips for a more introspective twist where the clouds turn to sober jazzy mists. Finally "Fly Girl" lays down the 411. Woozy soul, vocal touches and keys and horns so delicate you need gloves to handle them. Superb.
Demand's "Selects" series continues with stark, dark, creative abandon: label newcomer and impressive up-and-comer Grey Code appears twice as he sets the scene with a brilliantly loose drum roll and tripped out spacious bass textures on the Noisia-supported "Making Marks" and returns with Skylark for a darker trip into sound design where the bass groan with animal-like feels. Elsewhere Wingz carries a deep funk in its punctuating kicks that cut through the alien tones on "Echelon" while Owneath returns with an expertly freaky arrangement that sits somewhere between Fre4knc and Tobin. On point.
Redeyes isn't messing around with Vandal's first release of 2017. Naturally Nymfo delivers on both occasions: "Nothing To Lose" is a knuckle scuffing, heads-down roller with a Dispatch style edge in its lean elements and construction and dark funk. His remix of Quadrant & Iris is equally on point as he retains the dreamy, cloud burst ambience of the original while stretching out the bass with pure elasticity. Subtle, restrained and beautiful - it's the perfect balance to the lead track grit.