As LionDub International charges into 2014 with new releases and a newly-unveiled Street Series, we welcome their latest newcomers, REDS, a recently-minted East London drum and bass duo who proudly offer their solo debut featuring vocals from India's Delhi Sultanate and remixes from Canada's jungle don Marcus Visionary, the inimitable Mungos Hi Fi out of Scotland, and Dublin's Dirty Dubsters. Switching through bouncy dancehall vibes to the deep, dubby sway of Von D's delightfully filthy dubstep mix, there's plenty to get those feet moving here. Raise your hands and lower your caps, it's about to get messy.
Fresh from their scavenging mission on New Moon, Dutch trio The Illuminated land on FKOF, a platform that's supported them since their earliest incarnations. With four tracks to showcase, FKOF have given them their biggest opportunity to date. And as each track pushes their own and the genre's boundaries beyond expectations, they've clearly not wasted the opportunity. Highlights include the insanity riff spirals on "Psychonauts" the pulsating heartbeat subs and dubbed out percussion on "Vintage" and the synth and sax sensuousness of "HMU". Illuminatingly lush, FKOF's label operation just keeps getting better and better.
Bassman extraordinaire Thomas White steps up to the ever-impressive Paradisiaca Recordings for a filthy, romper-stomper of an EP containing four tracks and two nutty remix jobs. "Au Ciel" and title track "Ariose" are our top picks and are both smooth, warm-blooded bass curdlers prepped for the dancehall. Night Slugs' own beat maverick Helix steps up with our pick of the reworks, a noxious, side-winding retouch of "Ovation", a track which features Dear Lola on the vocals.
The last time we heard from Belgium's premier bass peddler Digid, he was getting all Biblical on us. This time round though, he's sticking to a template of deep reggae delivering a seven-track mini album of spaced out dubs. His production skills are fearsome with tracks like the synthy "Silky & Smooth" displaying a gleamingly pristine finish, "Righteous Soldier" incorporating a faint ska influence and the title track having a forward-looking anthemic quality.
Polishing beats isn't Cardiff-based Stagga's way - he prefers the smash-it-up-and-re-arrange method. "Who Ya Gonna Kill" proves this method seems to be giving him the magic touch, as the title track moves from para synths to strangely-appointed beats with a sneaky snippet of an old familiar sample giving the track its name. Taking bass down to obscene levels on "Wots That", it switches through dub and swaying, grimy, uneasy filth to bring a tune made for packed-out, darkened club corners. "Buff Gyal Riddim" is a booty shaker, as you'd expect, winding and grinding through middle-eastern sounds and samples, it sounds part vintage computer game on some trippy ancient Egypt level and part fresh-as-owt bass music. Make up your own mind.
Deep Medi Musik introduce K Man with the machine-gunning Electro Magnetic Destroyer EP. In terms of sub-bass and gnarly musicality it rates up there with recent releases from familiar artists like Goth-Trad, Mala, Commodo and Kahn. The title-cut is an industrial-tinged and deep dubstep melee of warbly basslines, growling synths and beefy drums all wrapped up in a sinister rhythm. Then there's "Propaine", the perfect weapon to wake up the neighbours, and even though its groove is broken, it remains fluid and very duurty.
In a broadening of signings for Deep Medi Musik, A Taste Of Struggle (to give them their full title) are a fresh duo with a distinctive cocktail of R&B, dubstep and trip hop that manage to channel the strongest facets of all those genres and arrive at something distinctly leftfield and utterly sensual at the same time. A blunted haze hovers over the low slung beats and woozy chord tones, the heartfelt vocals cutting through the mix with bittersweet tales of modern urban living. Managing a classic approach whilst being surprising at the same time, the wildly fractured piano funk of "What I Need" says all that needs to be said about what a strong debut album this is.
This latest release from London-based deep dubstep crew Deep Heads is undeniably picturesque, but pleasingly steers clear of saccharine sweetness. Vocalist Segilola's honeyed tones tumble seductively over the sparse, head-nodding rhythm and dreamy, woozy electronics of Nottingham duo Congi (AKA Gareth Frost and Alex Tulip) and Milton Keynes-based studio don Occult (AKA Oliver Lock). It's unflinchingly atmospheric. Remix-wise, there's some fuzzy, crackly, downtempo fare from Tuesday Born, a deep dubstep roller from Sweden's Audialist, and a jazzy, upbeat take from Bambooman. The intoxicated, super-deep "Autumn Leaves" - all cascading chords and occasional vocals - completes a superb package.
Both Annihilate Audio and Outbound are currently on respective rolls, so it seems to make a lot of sense that both the label and the producer should finally join forces. They've do so in fine style too with this contemplative Nottingham beatmaker delivering three epic works - the dreamy Mediterranean-tinged post dubstep of "Temple", the twitchy, flighty beats of "Sacrificial" and the deep and haunting "Rebirth". Quality cinematic sounds.
Nine months have passed since Boka last graced us with any audio goodness. The wait, however, has been worth it. Manchester's Compa returns to to the fold and Ipman is his plus one. Between them they've created a unique jam that oozes space science and an alluring sense of foreboding dread as a relentless riddim drives and wriggles underneath high pressure pads. With a mighty halfstep switch midway, this will freeze any dancefloor in its tracks. "Earth's Orbit" sees Compa return to his solo role with an even deeper composition. Here the percussion is more fractured, taking a backseat as metallic synth stabs weep tearfully over grazing bass and alien groans. Spotlessly dark.
Instigate launched last summer, unveiling their take on the dubstep sound, which although more mellow, is thankfully still all about those deep subs. Now they're back with this sublime three tracker by Eese & Aztec. It's all about the head nodders with this pair and who are we to argue? "Gonna Be" is a fuzz-out full of delayed vocals, slow beats and bass snarls. "Episode 13" continues on this theme but adds more synth swirls and "Gyatso" delivers deeper shades of wobble, some vocal snippets and even some tambla-style percussion.
Caspa takes it back to the old skool with a ravey, breaks-laden anthem to light up dancefloors everywhere. Not content with his own path of destruction, he's drafted in remixes from The Others, D&B legend Break and RS4, each destructive in their own ways. The Others take things down and dirty, wrenching up bass from under the floorboards. Break takes his softly-softly approach and attacks the track in a calm and calculated dub-based assault, leaving Diane Charlemagne's majestic vocals to shine. RS4 breaks out the 4x4, clapping and shimmying through a totally transformed edit of the original. Top form from everyone.
Caspa's law enforcing talent squad gather for a speaker-slashing 2013 debriefing. Highlights include the funky riddim modulation and heaven-sent synth riffs on Subscape's "Close Your Eyes", the techno-like tenacity on OIKI's "Ratchet", the trap grizzles and tight 808s on Antiserum & Mayhem's remix of Caspa's "Setting Sun" and J:Kenzo's show-stopping soul subversion of The Others. A great chance to catch up on any Dub Police jams you've missed in the last year - you'd be criminal not to pick up on this!
Pull up! Badman JME returns to the Boy Better Know ensemble with some straight up grime straight from the heart of the block. "Taking Over?" is an utter stomper: fast beats, gritty melodies and quick-firing lyrics to rhyme along to in the dancehall. You get an instrumental too, of course. Don't miss!
Canadian dub evangelist Levi Nicoll (aka L Nix) has stuck with Phantom Hertz for another release, newie "Wake Up". Despite the title, these two tracks as slow, intricate headnodders designed for a more contemplative listener. Beautifully constructed, the title track features gentle, shimmering sound effects and mournful pads married to a dubby reggae jam. "Hostage" on the other hand features myriad scuttling micro beats, throbbing bottom end and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Run DMC sample.
Oiki's third release for Dub Police is a one track piledriver that's sure to set your dancing feet in a twist. Mixing together elements of dubstep, breaks and more, the Russian producer had really done it this time. It's a true monster of track. Hold tight, Caspa and the Rinse crew...
Psaphyre are on a roll as of late, releasing filthy nu-jungle stompers for the next millennium. Their latest mass of squelching, rip-roaring fury comes courtesy of Dubthugz and it's a two-track scorcher - "Doomsday" is the one for the head-nodders and "Roll Call" adds even more layers of low-end delight. Fans of Hazard won't be disappointed...
Pure sonic sickness: Nauseous Vibez unleash their first release of 2014, and it's one of their most extensive and daring outings yet. Outsider pays homage to the likes of LFO with an unruly slab of acid hardcore that's so ruthless it will melt faces of people who are walking past your club, let alone on the dancefloor. Feonix, meanwhile, returns to the roots with a smouldering homage to the deepest dub pioneers. Elsewhere we find Grafta getting his two-step on and label boss Seraph subverting Outsider's "2002" with elements of swaggering dubstep. Make no mistake: this is massive.