Bristol's premier purveyors of blissful DnB, Intrigue are celebrating 14 years of sweaty dancefloors and sweet beats. Their latest anniversary collection surpasses all of the label’s previous output, and what stellar output it has been. We take a closer look at some of the key members in Ben Soundscape's Intrigue family.
The brains behind Intrigue, Ben’s vision of deep, soulful DnB became a cult club night specialising in sweaty dancefloors and sweet beats and later spawned the record label, both have played host to some of the most respected names in Drum & Bass over the 14 years. The Intrigue collective's vibe, spirit and energy is what has created such a unique movement and all of this stems from Mr Soundscape.
Joakuim is a talented artist hailing from Marseille in the south of France, he currently resides in Mexico. A multidisciplinary sound man who produces music for natural history documentaries by day and crafts deep drum & bass at night. With a firm focus on jazz elements and atmospherics it is no wonder he has become one of the key members of the Intrigue family.
If jazz, soul and sophistication is your thing, then the Lurch sound should be right up your sun-soaked street. The multi-instrumentalist has appeared on a who’s who list of liquid DnB labels but it is as part of the Intrigue family where he has been most at home, with his strongest output saved for the label.
Yeovil-based drum & bass trio Superior Selectionz have managed to remain one of the scenes best kept secret due to their frustratingly sparse output over recent years. They can be forgiven for this as they have been busy organizing and managing Rebirth’, a major festival in the south west showcasing the leading names in the drum & bass scene. Their progressive take on DnB has gone down a storm at Innovation in the sun and Random concept in the past and we have been reliably informed that the triumvirate have a whole host of new material that they are ready to drop in 2017.
The Insiders are Ben Soundscape and Static, and the Bristolian boys have released music on some of the most respected labels in the drum & bass scene, including Renegade, Metalheadz. The pair have a spectrum spanning sound from soaring cinematics to dancehall experimentations, whatever the flavour the lads remain on point and it is that kind of form and versatility that garners regular support from the likes of Marky, LTJ Bukem, Friction, Goldie and Hype.
The mighty Maji takes the controls at his own Sweet Tooth imprint with four peaktime bumpers. Longstanding singer Jessica Luck features twice on the super-hooky "Pressure" and the creepier, sultrier "Dangerous". Elsewhere we have two straight-up slayers: the soaring samurai bass of "Back Up" and the glitch-tripped data spiked bass of "Guillotine". Massive.
Unstoppable dark vibe maestro Joe Moses returns to V with five more of his signature understated, scene-uniting constructions. "Dimmer" plays the lead role thanks to its Krust-style drum savagery and ultimate groan bass riff. Highlight b2b highlight b2b highlight follows as the whole EP hits the kill switch.... The rolling Symmetry minimalism of "Kids", the creepiness and subtleties of "Suction" and the unabashed croaks and toxicity of "So Below" are just a few of the standout, hair-raising dynamics at play here. Essential.
Belgium meets UK: Bass Boost's Basstripper makes his debut on Propz & Rowney's ever-shreddy G13 and he's really not messing around. Covering all shades across both sides of the scene he treats us to spiked-out high pitch paranoid riffage on "Safehouse", classic fuzzy bass hookiness on "Fur Dich", weirded-out robot-funk on "Level 1" and ridiculous harmonic switches on "No Laughing". Like we said... There's no room for messing around here. Crucial.
Men of the moment Serum & Voltage press the red button on Serum's nuclear new label: Souped Up. The results are as bright, bashy and bad-ass as you'd hope them to be: "8-Bit" hits with a nasty rasping riff that grizzles on the top-end and sizzles on the bottom while "Gunfingers" shoots and whips with an anthemic bass melody that's so strong you feel you've known all your life. Already massive in the dance with those lucky enough to have it dub, this is the way all new labels should launch.
Paul SG's Jazzsticks returns to their irregularly regular Hidden Tunes series with a second instalment of restrained rollers from understated up-and-comers and friends of the label alike. If you know the Jazzsticks sound, you'll already know the sterling vibe: dusty, soulful, warm and organic from some of the sharpest talents in the game. Highlights include the big jazz whirlwind of Soul Deep founder Scott Allen's "Soul Desire", a 97-style horn-melting stepper from Decon ("Cool Breeze") and Pulsaar's dreamweaving shakedown "Room For Two". What once was hidden is now found... And will remain in your playlist until the next instalment lands in years to come.
Agro - or Mr Aggravation if we're going to be all formal - returns to DJ Hybrid's Audio Addict with a walloping all-style five-tracker. Ranging from deeper, classically informed jungle shock-outs like "Bust Dis Ting" to creepy, toxic groaning rollers such as the Serum-style "Teasin'" and the loose-pants Full Cyclist wobbler "Culture", once again Agro is cooking up some truly authentic flavours that will work across both the jungle and jumpier sides of the dance. And that's before we even get to the killer remixes. Addictive. As always.
If there's any tune that can truly say I'll be back it's Hizzleguy's screech-funk stepper "Terminator". Released in January, it has returned in both VIP and remix form... And the results are even more hair-raising. The former is pure mimetic poly-alloy T-1000 with its stretched out bass textures and unnerving sense of danger while the latter (courtesy of Nu Elementz) will take your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle with its added grizzly bass tones and looser sense of funk. Terminated.
Remix time... Sub-Liminal look back over the last few years of releases, pick some of their many great rolling moments and get the artists to remix swap. It's gully grooves from the off as Hybrid adds a much darker dynamic to "Super Bad" and breaks up the reggae sample while Too Greezey injects serious drum muscle and switches out Hybrid's signature junglized basslines on "Kung Fu Master". Leaf follows with a darkened, clipped and steppy twist of Agro & Too Greezey's dubwise "Don't Mek Me Get Dark" and finally Agro smooths out the angular attitude of Leaf's "New Life" with a lower swung, funkier perspective. Great concept, killer versions.
Longstanding jump-up merchant and Good 4 Nothing bossman Complex comes barging into your summer with another sledgehammer selection. "Anubis" hits with a bassline that's impossible not to compare to early Clipz. All whistling and fierce but funky, you'll be kicking yourself in the anu(bi)s if you don't pick up on this quickly. Highlights punch and bump every twist thereafter... The plucked note riff on "Real", the melting bass textures on "Ask Frank", the show-stopping wobbles of "Legohead" and the iron skank damager "Sneak Attack" all hit serious spots.
Monday, Tuesday "Fappy" days. Wednesday, Thursday "Fappy" days. The weekend comes, our CDJs hum, ready to play this tune. Yeah... That's how good Heist's latest dispatch is for Low Down Deep - we can just murk up Happy Days lyrics. A massive record for Heist and Logan in recent months, you already know how big this is. "No Cure" takes us down dark pastures with more techy textures and just a mild twang of Belgium to the hook and plenty of Heist funk in the weight and swing. These "Fappy" days are yours and mine yo!
Hugh Hardie's rise up the Hospital ranks has been nothing short of astronomical. Cruising into the game at top speed with "Tearing Me Apart" in 2014 he's since gone from strength to strength, strategically dropping a cool balance of soulful and heavier cuts. His debut album backs up every bit of the hype as we're pinged and popped between his finely polished vibes. Highlights include the IA-style gritty funker "Talk The Talk", the all-out gully jams "Sound System Dub" and "Viridian", the soulful space-hopper "Reflection" and the Goodlooking homage "Camera Obscura". With all spaces between consummately coloured, Hugh's delivered a remarkable debut album right here. Essential for all flavours of junglist.
It's been a few years since Ulterior Motive last delivered original material on Headz but these two ageless designs more than make up for lost time. "Step Change" is the assassin of the two: one click head shot business, this is a run for cover brock out with all the grit and aggression we need in these dark, paranoid times. "Get Close", meanwhile, proceeds to soften our edges. An unnerving, droning stepper that's restrained, but gradually built with measured menace, it's quintessential Ulterior Motive.
Two rising soulful D&B stars on one of the most reliable and on-point deep labels in the game with cameos from golden-toned Steo and hotly tipped newcomers GLXY... This EP ticks so many boxes you might run out of ink. "A Minute After Always" is a subtle-star gazing space soul number that's brought together immaculately by Steo's distinctive dulcets. "Lovin U" maintains the vocal velvet alongside blissful keys but a stern and weighted groove, "Serenade" (with GLXY) translates to soul grenade with its surging vocals and cosmic undertones and "Still The Same" vibes out with a futuristic Commix-style step. Comes complete with an instrumental of the title track... Just in case you needed even more boxes ticked.
South coast soldier Vital makes his debut on the turbo-charged young label Bulletproof who are already 17 releases deep after seven months of ops! Living up to his name once again, each cut tickles a different corner of D&B's dark underbelly: "Skank Out" is plain lethal with its MC sample, open-hand slap bassline, loose drums and iced textures, "Bossman" fuses a little jungle magic and soundsystem samples with a nagging bouncing riff while "Murder" goes in for the kill with its lower, grumbling bass hook that refuses to quit. Finally "Walking Dead" adds a little mischief as a carnival bassline sizzles and pings its way around a swaggering, mildly skanked two-step. Vital by name....
UK meets US as two critically peer-respected yet criminally underrated roller merchants lay down some utter gold for Soul Deep. "Settle Down" shakes, rattles and soothes in equal measure thanks to precision breaks, a thundering sub and beautifully hazy jazz chords. "Here Comes" murks up the dance a little skank savagery and a dubwise vocal that will singe every hair on the back of your neck. Beats waxing each and every time.
Funky jump-up is the order of the day as Bou and Dispoze collide for the first time on Smoke Signal Audio. Sparking up with a light bossa-style synth pattern and sparse string twangs, we're then blasted off a devilishly cheeky bassline that's straight from the Kartoons playbook. Simple but deadly and fractured by rattling drum fills, this will work in pretty much every double drop scenario imaginable.
The don-dadda, badman Santa Ray 'renegade' Keith returns with four brand new jams. Each one tickling a different underbelly of the dance, it's the full Dread experience: "Feel Some" lashes out with barbed jungle soul, very much like a Break track but in Ray's distinctive style. "Do You Wanna Cook?" is the flip-switcher with its tripped, melting bassline swung low under the drums. "Zion Dread" takes us right back to the Dread's jungle roots while "Virus" is an iced-out techstepper that wouldn't go amiss on Headz. Consistently denting the dance since day one, Ray remains king.
All hail our new leader! Monotype's "Queen Of Blood" is here, and she's ruling with an iron fist! Make that six iron fists... "What Is Going On" is a screeched out danger-stepper, "Queen Of Blood" slaps with a trippy woodblock rhythm and a densely packed bassline of multi-layers while "No Double Checkin" and "Mutated Beast" are much muddier, grumbling jams for those all-essential heads-down sessions. We close on two monstrous collabs: "Step Back" (with Lupo) is a hurricane of warped textures that really comes into its own on the second drop while "Science" (with Mamoet) brings us to a techy climax with raw alien soul. God save our (blood) queen!
His first substantial body of work since his agenda-setting debut album on DJ Hybrid's other label Audio Addict, Kumarachi jumps over to Deep In The Jungle with four bundles of absolute breakbeat bliss. "45" sets the scene with bashy amen cuts, a smoky ragga sample and basslines so rude you'll need new trousers. "Move Up Your Body" continues the lewd factor thanks to its Blackmarket-style bassline that rumbles with ankle-slapping lowness while "Buss It Up" plays the consummate end boss with its rough and rusty amen slaps and punches. "So Listen" closes the show with even nuttier drums, this time on more of a Dread bass timestretched flex. Impeccable and true to the craft.
Two Mind crash back into our lives with another full-fire VA collection on their own Big Freaks imprint. All-out, balls-out business once again, every track hammers home some serious messages: "Heavy Weight" lives up to its name with savage jungle strength, "Champion" nods towards the old Bingo-era with its bubbling bass riff, "Trying To Kill" is a stone cold necksnapper with its chiselled two-step and poisonous sub bass while "I Don't Believe In Ghosts" jumps and wriggles like an old Formation stepper. Moscow mandem Cluster Bones makes the final play with two epic damagers - the spooky groans of "Close Quarters" and the screaming high voltage bass of "Slaughter Final". Big bad and freaky, Two Mind are crushing us right now!