Review: Critical premier neurofunk connoisseur - Emperor - is back on the imprint with one of his most audacious, ferocious and diverse offerings to date. It's hasn't been too long since his Bloodsport EP last year, and Mantmast features once more on the title tune - 'Boxcutter'. His vocal talent is equally menacing this time around, laid out on 'Boxcutter' with a precision befitting the instrumental's sharp, biting quality. 'Sosig Thing' is probably the most downright dirty of the bunch, with thunderous atmospherics and a punishing, pulsating back end that ricochets about the range. Emperor shows he can make minimal with the best of them on 'Silenced', which makes up for its overt devastation with subtle sub bass wobbles and energetic fluidity. Another stellar release from the Critical camp.
Review: He's back! It feels like an eternity since his "Shadow" EP but now we know what Conor's been up to - he's been getting into cage fighting and "Bloodsport" is his gritty, steppy ode to the gentleman's game. Elsewhere he grows sharp "Claws" with a twisted, glitched out jumpy riff bender, he debunks logic and maths with the beautiful, pensive and delicate soul of "Half Makes Whole" and he takes us out over choppy sense-blurring seas with the white knuckle paranoia jam "Navigante". Bloody marvellous.
Review: As the dust continues to settle from Emperor's deeply personal debut album Dispositions, along come four unique versions that add whole new narratives to his tracks: long-time friend and all-round legend Phace flips "Haste" with a whole new dynamic of funk that's almost jump-up in its nature and attitude. Ivy Lab lay down serious halftime heat with the brilliantly slouching, lolloping g-style twist of "Jounce" while Klax switch up "Made Of Light" with different, more dramatic style of halftime. Finally we hit the most interesting curveball of all - a touching, unplugged take on the evocative "Made Of Light" where SOLAH's vocals tremble with even more poignancy against the piano. Emotional.
Review: Halifax heavyweight Emperor finally unleashes the long-awaited beast that is his debut album and it's 50 shades of awesome. Rather than dish out a collection of the dark, tearing bangers he's become known for, he's licked up an all-armed hurricane of sounds and ideas; from the pixelated lift-off of "I Was" to the sweaty Upbeats drums of "Shapeshift" to the big breezy vocal drama of "Dispositions" and the rolling soul of "Thunder", this is a whole new creative level from Emperor as he plays by rules we've never heard him play by before. A proper album.
Review: Yorkshire's darkest D&B talent Emperor steps up with yet another forthright slab or triple-track grit. "Passed Up" has a bass presence that's near-overwhelming thanks its bulbous drone that refuses to quit. "SMPL" strips things back and looks more towards the late 90s Ed Rush & Optical style techstyle - loopy with real mechanical bite, it's a surgical shamanistic heads down affair. Finally "Mind Games"; a ruthless bass ripper that's almost jump up in its attitude, you can't help but think of Ram Trilogy at their finest when this pops off. With potential to unite all sub genres and sides of the D&B dance, Emperor has well and truly smashed it here.
Review: A D&B newcomer, but one who could definitely make a big noise if these two new tunes are anything to go by. British producer Emperor gets shifty and grimy on "The Sovereign", with time-stretched snares mixing up against rising sine synths and a dirty low-end. On the title tune "Warface" however, things are kept solely for the floor thanks to some almighty kicks and a winding bassline. A must-buy if twisted D&B is your game.
Review: Not seen since his debut album Machines was released on Critical in late 2012, St Petersburg's best drum and bass exponent Enei resurfaces in double plated fashion with the Liberation EP. Despite the absence, Aleksei Egorchenkov is on fine form for Critical here, experimenting with new tempos and new collaborators without any hint of sacrificing his skills for raw, next level drum and bass. Fellow Critical producer Emperor, Mancunian vocalist and producer Chimpo and singer songwriter Sam Wills feature across the two slabs of wax, with the tempo shifting "Headtop" featuring Chimpo a standout track.
Review: Ivy Lab provides Critical Music with its first physical release of 2014 with a four-track EP. To begin with there's the piano-ambient introduction of "Missing Persons", which in a way sounds like a highly sped-up Burial track combined with Frank Carter III's vocals full of a similar sounding soul heard in Storm Queen's crossover hit "Look Right Through". The drums remain super-quick on "Live On Your Smile" alongside warbled computer bleeps and melancholic female vocals, while "Sunday Crunk" is a hip hop-inspired, MPC-styled slow jam that may well take its inspirations from southern rap. Lastly on this deluxe package, Project: Mooncircle and 2nd Drop artist Deft touches-up Ivy Lab & Emperor's "Pepper" for something verging on heavy dubstep mixed with some growling, Fis-like effects
Review: Two of the most rated men in D&B's next generation league, Emperor and Mefjus collaborations are always worth your time. Neither happy to conform to the rules established by peers, both relish in ending tracks with wry skits, both seriously on point with everything they've done in the last few years, naturally this follow up to their collaborative debut "Hello World" is just as firesome. All loaded with heavily sprung bass funk and oddball noises and designs that come in from nowhere, both originals are as original and distinctive as you'd want them to be. Comes complete with two long awaited versions; Emperor gullying the dickens out of "Dissuade" and Mefjus taking a hammer to "SMPL", rebuilding it in his own twisted way. Gloriously dark.
Review: Neosignal is celebrating 10 years and they're doing so with four instalments of remixes and brand-new originals. This is the second part and it's just as big as the first, with five stellar remixes from Mefjus, Yunis, Culprate, Joe Ford and Buunshin. The former is the standout, unsurprisingly, with the Austrian giving Phace's 'Basic Memory' a onceover that'll leave it permanently improved. A glitchy, spacious structure gives Mefjus' arrangement room to breathe and you can soak up this tune in all its technical wonder, each phrase bigs up the last and the whole experience gets progressively more intense. These tunes are all huge - go cop em.
Review: Double trouble: Riya's critically received debut album from summer 2015 enjoys a deluxe twist with double the amount of tracks on. As well as the album itself there are 13 fresh cuts including new originals such as the Gill Scott-style street soul pieces with Maverick Soul "Bittersweet" and "We Belong", the perfect piano-powered gospel roller "Everything" and the grizzly, groaning techy roller "Silhouette". Killer new remixes such as Pola & Bryson's subby switch of "Lost Friends", Break's spotless drums on "Confessions" xxx . Plus a few floor-melting VIPs: the relentless bass pump of "Fear Bites" and the cosmic touches to "Wears Me Down". Deluxe and demonstrative - this is a great addition to an already remarkable album.
Review: Not just one of drum & bass's most iconic female vocalists, but also one of the most respected... Riya's work behind the scenes goes back around 15 years. As a result she's got serious reference points, a genuine understanding of proper drum & bass and a really impressive debut album that features some of the best names in D&B. Ranging from the sci-fi soars and twinkling synths of "Misunderstanding" to the out-and-out gutter slaps of "Piece Of Me" via the soul jazz jungle lushness of "Don't You Know" and the already massive lighter-raiser "As Soon As". Released at a time when a lot of female features are popping up in D&B for all the wrong reasons, Riya is the real deal... And so is this album.