This week we caught up with one of the most respected names in the Drum & Bass scene Digital. The veteran of over 20 years, with one of the most distinct production styles your likely to hear. This week sees the release of "Synthesis" a collaboration album with a who's who line up of the most exciting producers in the game. We speak to Digital about the project.
Hi Digital, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, how has your week been so far?
Hello there! It’s been quite tiring because my face has been stuck in front a computer screen for the last 2 weeks fixing my social media bits for Synthesis ;-)
This week, of course, sees the release of your latest album “Synthesis” which could be described as a collaboration album or somewhat of a concept album, with a whole host of serious names getting involved, was it always your plan to release an album of this nature?
The thought never crossed my mind until I found myself feeling really about collaborating due to the social side of things plus I’d pick up loads of tips from artists like Response, Om Unit, Nomine, Spirit, Kiat, Drumsound & Bassline Smith. All these artists work in different ways in regard to the equipment or DAW they use but one thing they have in common is they have their own individual sound and they follow no one. I respect that heaps so it’s amazing working with them.
Is there any special significance behind the name “Synthesis”?
The name synthesis made sense because the album was formed by all the artists combining to make quite a complex whole. The word Synthesis has several meanings and most of them make sense in this case. I feel like I’ve accomplished something that many artists wouldn’t think of doing because it’s too much hassle, but it’s all been worth it because I feel I great that I’ve achieved Digital - Synthesis.
Few producers in any music scene could pull together such an accomplished list of producers and artists to get involved on an album project, did you have the artists in mind for the project that you reached out to or was it more a case of things falling into place?
I had no huge amazing idea lol Due to me not having a problem with driving up and down the roads of the UK, mainly because I get cabin fever due to the amount of music I make when I’m on a mission, 60/70% of Synthesis fell into place. I had heaps of fun getting the tracks together and if it wasn’t particularly fun, at least I got some dinner out of it!
I can imagine it would not be easy to work on an album like this as your studio partners will be gigging all over the world, were all tracks created together in the studio or was it often a case of firing ideas over the internet?
70 / 80% of ideas were created together in the studio and I feel it’s why this album sounds warm and organic. There were people walking in and out of Response’s studio which equalled to nuf vibes, Dissect’s mum made me cakes, Spirit’s wife Sue made me Korean food, a bit of lunch at the pub with Klute mid track, Nomine’s handsome dog Bronx wouldn’t leave me alone and I made a new friend in Villem’s 3 legged cat Betty….None of this would have happened if I was at home simply pressing upload and download via Wetransfer to send and receive song projects.
The album is a really mixed bag of styles with, all of course accompanied by your trademark super crisp, punchy Drums and Breaks – Did any music from outside of the Drum & Bass scene influence your work while creating this album?
The artists that feature on Synthesis are all very open minded so there was no particular influences myself or they spoke about however, I can safely say Techno, Reggae, Soul, Dub, Hip Hop, Electro, Jazz and Funk are all influential to all of us.
“Synthesis” certainly acknowledges the sounds of yesteryear with plenty of Jungle influence and rave stabs but it is a track that perhaps looks to the sounds of the future that has really captured our attention “War”with Kiat. It could be described as a tribal stepper that evolves into a futuristic, Jungle-Dancehall hybrid. This is a sound that we hope could really grow, do you think you will be creating more music like this in the future?
Yes there will be more music like this but I’m not one to sit here and say this is a sound of the future because it has a very old reggae step, a dub reggae bassline and old reggae soundsystem vocals. We have lots of this kind of talk nowadays, ‘This is new and futuristic’ and to further it someone will think of a new name or genre for it. For example….. When I made Deadline in 1999 (a half time track) there wasn’t much around like it so the ‘new’ half time phenomenon that’s going around isn’t new at all it’s just a touch more in fashion than it was.
Picking a favourite track on an album the nature of “Synthesis” may be a little difficult to do, but were there any studio sessions for this album that were particularly special for you?
Lost Life with Response was a blast, a blur and a good laugh. Then it ends up as one of my favourite tracks on the album. I love the randomness in this track, you can tell we clearly didn’t follow a formula so I’m proud of this track heaps.
Full length albums in Drum & Bass becoming more and more commonplace, especially within the past 5 years or so, you have long been a proponent of the LP even when releasing a body of work over a series of EP’s and singles was the done-thing; do you find an album gives you greater space for expression and what do you what do you attribute the wider emphasis on LP’s in the Drum & Bass scene to?
I’m sure some artists don’t care about albums but I certainly do 100%. If you only make screamers or poppy dnb there’s no point in making an album because you might as well space those kind of tracks out because they generally have the same dynamic however, if you want to show some diversity as an artist, an album is where it’s at and I think it’s always been that way. Synthesis has worked well in this sense because working with different artists means there are different approaches to each track.
Something else that is becoming more commonplace in lots of dance music scenes is remix albums, do you have any plans for a remix package of “Synthesis”? We can’t imagine the remixer roster you could pull together for it given the line up on the album.
Look out for the remixes EP late September. I won’t go into who the remixers are as I need to hold this to my chest at the moment!
Any final thoughts or shout outs?
Shouts to all who’ve supported myself and Function Records, Spirit, Om Unit, Nomine, Kiat, Response, Mad Vibes & Audio Habitat, Total Science, Sofi Mari, Klute, Drumsound & Bassline Smith, Need For Mirrors, Villem, Theory, Flava, Dissect, Resound, Sight Unseen. Storm, Sahra, Sue, Lynda, Y.T. ,Voytek, Stretch, Double O, Mantra, Djinn, Mark Lighta, Adam Owen, James Jessop, Launch Collective, Ill Figz, Minnie Fanselow Brown, Unearthed Music
Everyone remembers their first smoke... All coughs and splutters and general false feelings that the illusion of big time adulthood can only bring. Here we find jungle next-genners Dutta & Bou looking back over their first puff with an introspective, harp-plucking, sample-flexing exercise in timelessness. It's joined by an equally well-measured sense of depth on the hip-hop laced "Running It" and a awesome balance of shade on "The Barrons" as tripletty jump-up gutterage switch to dream dynamics on the fills and breakdown. Those looking for a straight up blast on 20 filterless tar-ticklers should jump on "The Game"... Something which Dutta & Bou are currently big in.
Longtime Headz affiliate and frequently Goldie's co-pilot in the studio, Heist returns to the label with his largest EP to date and its business from of the off as "Violent Rain" oozes Timeless era synth tones and drums so live and sweaty you can almost see the drummer's sweat coming from your speakers. Dig deeper for Heist's most versatile showcase in years: "In Pursuit" is all stripped back and slinky (think Enei but wider), "Sierra Mist" is a sci-fi stepper that nods towards Riya's soulful style, "Unauthorised Transmissions" is a cheeky underground squelcher, "Grebe" is thoroughbred alien funk with just a sly nod towards his more standard jump-up signature while "Ghost On My Shoulder" closes the show on a beautiful glitchy vibe that's somewhere between Culprate and Squarepusher. Properly unique, creative and immaculately produced, Heist has smashed it on this one.
Ginger maestro Philth continues this year's all-out assault with a return to Dispatch. First we hit "The Circle" as he teams up with Wreckless for a minimal stepper that's all growls and gurgles over a dagger-blend two-step. "Yeti", meanwhile, reminiscent of the late 90s, Bad Company era of distortion and real machines and the hivemind heaviness of "Sphere Of Influence" is a dense weave of ghostly tones and precision engineered dynamics. Those looking for more of an emotional uplift and feel-good pay-off should jump straight on Philth's remaster of his own 2014 Dispatch debut "Your Love" while those looking for a barbed happy slap with sharp shards of emotional uplift should jump on SCAR's remix. What a package.
Serum isn't messing around at the moment. Not like he ever messed around before, but it's clear he's upped his game even more this year. Making his debut on Doc Scott's 31, "Species" is a rattling dark stepper with loose, swinging drums and a droning ghostly bass gurgle that groans in and out of the mix with raw paranoia. "Red Blood" continues the dark drone theme with more heads-down messages. Rocking a Jim Morrison-style sample from The Zodiac, there's a nice touch of psychedelia amid the gritty dynamics. Proper.
Full throttle jump-up business, Dominator and Nu Elementz finally deliver two of the subgenre's biggest ID requests this year so far. "Dimension" rides with a pulverising drill bass that fluctuates through the tones on every eight. "Spartanz", meanwhile, adds a cheeky breakbeat swing in the background as a darker, oakier bassline takes the lead with a Q&A riff before dropping into a string-laced breakdown from out of nowhere. Deadly.
We're unsure how many parts are in this series but, reading between the lines, this could well mark the start of a new album from The Upbeats. Five tracks of raffish, stripped back sweatiness, there's no holding back: "Dr Kink" takes sonic surgery to dangerous new levels, "Pharaoh" sees them colliding with Ivy Lab to show their deeper, rolling, pensive side while "Dungeon" and "Doom" are straight up slap-fests of the highest neuro order. The hazy, soft-focus textures of "Elevator" provide the soft cushion as we crash back to reality. Looking forward to part two... And maybe even part three!
Here come the remixes: Dub Damage look back to last year's four-year birthday album with two barn-burning twist-ups. Annix get their paws mucky on Blackmarket and Chapo's already-stunning "USS Enterprise" by switching out the classic Urban Takeover sub rolls for something altogether eviler and sharper. Meanwhile Harvest takes T>I's stripped back stepper "Grudge Fcuk" and injects it with jet engine reese that's so wide and overwhelming you might have to have a sit down after hearing it. No messing around at all on this one.
Cruising in the slipstream of Micky Finn and Voltage's artfully punned Finntage project comes more Finn fire. This time he's rolling with one half of Serial Killaz, Vital Elements and they've cooked up two enormous bangers. "So Good" looks back to the early 2000s - Grimy-era Dillinja, Safari-era Bad Company - its two note bass hook is an instant hype hair-raiser with a great balance of drama and unpolished edge. "True Guidance" is similarly heritage-minded with more of a "Nightflight" rolling vibe but with added dubby dynamics. Complete with various edits of "So Good", this is a dynamite package from two of the scene's most authentic veterans.
Version excursion: Liondub return to Numa Crew's 2014 album and issue a selection of on-point artists with remix orders. The sharp steppy jump-up of "Bass Hater" gets an added muscular murking from Sub Killaz, a classic jungle roll from Brian Brainstorm and a heads-down growl twist from Samy Nicks. Meanwhile on the dubstep side of Numa Crew's output, "Control" enjoys even more remixes from the likes of Piezo & D Operation Drop (rolling paranoia vibes that border on thoroughbred techno), Lost City (mystic dancehall business) Badjokes (dark style breaks), Liondub (grimy skanks with added voicing from Dirty Smirks) and Meeku (classic jungle Omni Trio feels) Genuinely something for everyone here.
A giant among badmen: following the onslaught of his epic "Big Tune" EP last autumn, Mampi returns with another fresh exercise. "I Exist" hits with a "Gold Rush"-style hook - all electro-edged and naggier than your other half with a nasty hangover but added weight and classic D&B menace. Meanwhile on the remix Rene LaVice takes the classic "Soldiers" and gives it his own unique twist as the evocative hook that all card carrying junglists will know instantly is switched from battle mode to war mode. Batten down your hatches.
Cologne-based craftsman and one quarter of the Jazzassins, Decon delivers his debut LP on SG's Jazzsticks. Covering the deeper, slinkier and soulful styles in great detail and character, highlights across this accomplished set include the hazy, cloudy textures and dubby bass of "Rough & Fast", the incredible drum work of "Simple As That", the lolloping jazz majesty of "Sugar Drop", the early 2000s liquid style string swoops of "Heavy On Your Head", the classic breaks and gully jungle wriggles and spills of "The Jam".... The list goes on.
Have you ever known a Fourfit EP to be bad? No, neither have we. Following the likes of Adred, Calibre and LSB, Seba continues Soul:R's age-old traditional of innovation and forward-thinking aceness with his take on the label's four track EP series: "Hide The Tears" is the emotional heart-string snapper of the set, "Dark Horse" showcases Seba's absurd drumfunk science, "Fade To Red" takes the halftime approach and gives it a toxic twist while "Desire" closes the show on another emotional flex as swooning chords counterbalance hoover-style stabs in style. Seba on Soul:R... As you'd expect, it's a winning combination.
Long term collaborators Villem & McLeod return to Bcee's Spearhead with four more stunning moments in soul: "No More Games" is all about the deep dream textures while "Seamless" takes a big filtered hook and loops it up with a relentless, techno-like dynamic. Also included are two collaborations with one of D&B's most consistent and skilled vocalists since Diane Charlemagne. "Dance With Me" jumps and flexes with a jazzy twist while "Get To Know" engages with a much more sentimental, soft-focus allure. Stunning.
Uprise supergroup LSN step forth with their debut album; a stylised rummage through the genre vaults to paint a picture of the most exciting edges of bass music and how everything tessellates. Just within the opening four tracks we're treated to Massive Attack style barbed dub soul ("Oblivion"), rolling breakbeats ("Shelter"), subverted jungle ("SMBU") and deep, pneumatic dubstep ("Vibration") Deeper again we hit restrained space-aged poetry ("Earthtone") sci-fi Autonomic soul ("Demons") and deep, Samurai-style D&B ("Stillness") And that's just a potted selection of this highly accomplished, consistently detailed and arranged album. Whatever shade of bass you're rooted with, LSN will join the dots for you.
Young Dutch firebrand Maduk continues to scorch the D&B landscape with his first full length body of work. Showcasing his full spectrum, we stretch from barbed-soul, heads-down rollers such as "One Way" to the poppier, song-based hand-raisers such "The End" and the pumping filtered funk of the title track by way of off-tempo side swipers such as the 150 breakbeat cut "One Last Picture". A highly accomplished album: As the entire scene watches his every move, the Liquicity champion continues to make all the right moves.
David Zowie collaborator and all-round badman Da Fuchaman applies his gutsy, gravelly soundsystem sermons to the Run Tingz template for two savage drum-drenched jungle workouts. Gold Dubs switches the dancehall switch with a steppy, tripletty, stripped back jam while Levela jumps in and does what he does best... Smash the place to pieces. Authentic jungle business.
Some fierce drum 'n' bass from the darkside that deconstructs and reconstructs jungle era breakbeat science on the Give Me A Dub EP by Nottingham's (now London based) Soul Intent on Tempo. Appearing for a change outside of his usual home, Lossless Records, he throws down three killer tracks here. First up the title track smashes through the audio spectrum like a battering ram with the kind of drums that even Dillinja would stand up and notice. "The Dread" is more minimal and stripped; the kind of stuff that DJ Krust was throwing down back in the day. Finally "Heaven" is definitely the most highly engineered offering; a futurist techstep journey with an emotive atmosphere and liquid breaks.
Shogun soldier Sergeant Ford steps up with four more heavyweight slapshots: sitting somewhere between tech and jump-up, "Let It Out" is a militant march into the coldest frontiers of the known D&B galaxy, "Ionize" takes us deeper into tech territory with a Phace style militancy while "Caution" is the ultimate sandpaper jam, all scuffy and coarse with distorted data spikes and sudden drops into deeper, stripped back dynamics. Finally we hit "Transpose" where Joe returns to the more cosmic, funkier side he showed off on "Time Is Limited" earlier this year. Full spectrum vibes ahoy.
Serial collaborators from Moscow; Bert H and High N Sick complement each other neatly with their shared eye for spatial, star-gazing dynamics. Previously their tag team work has been spotted on Liquid Tones but here we find them making their collaborative debut on Soul Deep. "Dreaming" is the hazier cut of the two thanks to its far-away vocal placement and thick, otherworldly pads. "Dare" is more dancefloor-direct thanks to its prominent humming sub, tight two-step and ace repurpose of Nexus and Veela's 2013 "Another Dare" vocal. Strong.