Review: Drum&Bass Arena: The longest-standing, and one of the most respected, platforms for all things jungle D&B celebrates an impressive 20 years in the game with this ridiculously hefty document that pays respect to the genre's every twist and turn. From scene-shattering megahits ("Tarantula", "Feel The Love", "Rock It", "Afterglow") to unarguable historical underground scene-smashing megabangers ("Machete", "Aztec", "Nasty Ways", "The View", "Champion Sound", "Turbulence", "Up All Night", "Deadline", Ram Trilogy's remix of "Pacman") by way of tracks that may have slipped under the radar ("Defcom 69", "What's Wrong", "Song For Lovers") the whole album is loaded to the lips with some of the most important records the genre's enjoyed in the last 20 years. Time to get nostalgic, time to fill those holes in your collection, time to educate your dancefloor. Here's to another 20 years!
Review: V Recordings do some of the best compilations in the business and their brand new Foundation series is a natural recognition of that fact. They're not being hyperbolic with the usage of the term 'Foundation' either, because this is truly an overview of some of the scene's most foundational producers. Old-school Dillinja, Krust, Roni Size and DJ Die, amongst others, make up the roster of acts that formed an integral part of the genre back in the day. The new crew is also represented, however, in the form of L-Side, Think Tonk, Nasza Linez and loads more, all of whom bring some of that V-style heat. Wicked album - one for the heads.
Review: LSB and DRS: combos don't come any stronger than this! We already know this from incredible tracks like "The View" and "New Day" but The Blue Hour is a whole other level of their soulful prowess. Jazzy, smoky, thoughtful and blues to its very core, there's a musicality and spirit to this album that transcends any genre thanks to both Del's disarming lyrics and barbed charm and Luke's natural soulmanship and sense of groove. From the smoke-stacked horn-based dream "Umbrellas" to stunning cosmic risers like "Keep The Time" and "Could Be" and to every other planet that orbits in between, this is one of the best albums in the D&B sphere this year. We will look back on this as a timeless classic. Essential.
Review: DRS will be known to many as the voice of countless productions from the likes of dBridge, Alix Perez and LTJ Bukem, but here the Manchester MC (real name Delroy Pottinger) shows a different side to his musical character as he brings us a full album's worth of introspective, soul-drenched hip-hop. The album was inspired in part by the loss of close friend Marcus Intalex, and it shows on tracks like 'Clipping My Wings', 'A Little Too Much' and 'Serial Escapist', which see the mic veteran musing on his fatigue and frustration of the daily urban grind atop beats from producer Pitch92 that never push beyond the midtempo mark.
Review: One of the scene's most reliable beatmakers Foreign Concept returns to Critical Music with his most accomplished work yet. The Make Meals EP is, by his own account, a fresh approach to D&B, featuring explorations into more diverse and dynamic sounds. It's truly fantastic to hear someone who was a promising new artist take the huge strides necessary to become a voice to be reckoned with. Taking huge chunks of influence from hip hop in "Make Meals" and the darker side of electronica for tracks like the sublimely skewed "Ask Yourself", it's a real insight into Foreign Concept's creative world. You can hear what makes him tick in here; you can also hear that each track has had a real focus. He's not just into making heads nod now, he's got purpose.
Review: Russian D&B supremo Enei returns with his first full EP since his epic debut album Machines in late 2012. As you'd expect, it's yet another masterclass in solid rhythm and industrial strength sound design. "Goliath" opens the ceremony with a distinctive sermon from MC-du-jour DRS. As the title suggests, it's majestically monolithic. Further in we're bombarded with demonstrative dynamics; the techno-like loopiness of "Hotplate", the dramatic, rim-shot-striking tantalisation on "The Artefact" and the slimy, sludgy half-time twists on "Prometheus". Will Enei ever make a bad record? We somehow doubt it. Get to know.