Review: Everybody loves a good VA, it's just wicked getting a whole big album full of tracks from different artists - the definition of a kid in a candy shop. This one from Uncommon has a cool combination of bigger and smaller acts, from the mighty Kasra to lesser known quantities like Resist. Kasra's 'Needles' is a standout, a fiercely minimal slapper that gargles and gurgles its way straight into your brain, and for anyone that is into the Critical sound: this is the tune for you. Kanine, another rising star, hits hard on 'Searching', a tune that reminds us of the recent Klippee tracks over on Lifestyle Music. All in all, this is a very solid little VA - yes yes!
Review: Hospital Records do compilations better than most, partly because there's always something for them to celebrate. This time around it's the second year of Hospitality in the Beach, their new 4 day exercise in beach-based beats, featuring some of the best artists in the game. A huge album, the LP has 33 tracks - 25 of which are brand spanking new. Whiney's remix of Etherwood's 'Begin By Letting Go' is a highlight, the original's smoothness roughly transformed into a pummelling display of techy force. With Bou, Kasra, BOP and others making an appearance, this LP has all bases covered.
Review: 2018 is the second year in a row that Critical Music dropped a surprise release for us on Christmas Day, 2017 seeing the Modified Sonics album full of VIPs and exclusive remixes. New Energy Vol.1, however, is a totally different deal and that's because it's 18 brand new, exclusive tunes from those deep inside the Critical camp and those just entering it. The whole roster is represented: Kasra, Enei, Mefjus, Emperor, Foreign Concept, The Upbeats - and so on. But, excitingly, there's new talent in the form of Bou, Synth Ethics, Simula, Kanine and more. Mefjus' remix of 'Projections' arguably takes the cake as the best tune on here - absolute murderation. This is Critical's statement of intent for 2019.
Review: St Petersburg drum and bass producer presents us with his fourth album of high tech engineered drum and bass, guaranteed to deliver some serious future shock. There's some real dystopian themes overshadowing this album, but Aleksei Ergachevnov has the right knack for sound design to pull of the concept and album as a whole. There's some undeniable influences from some of the masters of the craft, such as Ed Rush and Optical and Peshay, but he's definitely representing the new garde of breakbeat science pretty damn well. Highlights include the subterranean sonar transmissions of "Iron Curtain", the jazzy liquid breaks of "Moment Of Now (feat Frank Carter III", the evil futurist minimalism of "Just One Look (Feat. Charli Brix)" and the peak time destroyer "Between The Split". One for the heads.
Review: A king selector and respected label director first and foremost, Critical bossman Kasra doesn't dish out sonic sermons very often. But when he does, it's always worth paying attention. Especially when Russian demon Enei is on board, too. Five tracks in total, we range from the swampy half time sludge of "Inside The Box" to the early Metalheadz ice and depth plunge breaks of "Words" via the peaktime heads down stepper "Arcana". The real highlight, though, is "Overthinking". Haunted pianos, ghostly breakbeat flickers and paranoid poetry from everyone's favourite MC, DRS, this is up there with "Count To 10". Yeah, it's that good.
Review: Always on top of their game, Critical's mastermind Kasra rips two hard-hitting tracks from his personal collection of pre-release dubs and makes them available to mere mortals. First track "Signalz", by dark neuro powerhouse Mefjus, is a stroppy, storming blaze through time and space. Faster than the speed of light and nasty enough to give the Neosignal guys a run for their money, it's already detonating dancefloors the world over. Kasra's own darkly dangerous stepper "Cypher" takes the flip, combining dirty synths and cinematic tension to create the most perfect drum and bass skank-along track this year has seen so far. As with all Critical releases, bag on sight.
Review: What with Critical celebrating their ten year anniversary this year it's only right and proper that there should be a landmark album, looking back on their success to date. Enter Critical X; featuring a carefully curated selection from Critical's past, present and future (watch out for some cracking unreleased material), this is a must buy for deeper D&B heads. Stand outs from across the 16-track album include Breakage's awesome "Staggered Dub", Spectrasoul's iconic "Organiser", and of course jungle revivalist anthem Bladerunner's "Back To The Jungle". Make sure you check out the remixes from Mefjus and Enei, which add the final cherry on the cake for this superb and frankly rather essential release.
Review: Hold tight Critical crew; Kasra's got a new series in the pipeline, as Critical Presents: Sequence One. Bringing together four gems from some of the hottest artists who have gravitated to the London label in 2011, this is a must buy for the discerning D&B fan. Russian-based emerging star Enei, with the hypnotic, ominous bass-laden "Obsession" (feat. DRS) features, as do Bournemouth duo Ulterior Motive with their suitably tech-ed up monster "Divergence". Also on there is Neosignal's Phace, live and direct from Germany with the punishing, neuro-tinged "Freedom Of Filth", and finally label owner Kasra makes an appearance with Jubei on "The Rift". Big, bad and heavy.
Review: Fresh from his recent excellent outing on the Shogun Audio's Way Of The Warrior compilation, Brighton-based Foreign Concept weighs in with three heavyweight tracks for Critical. Kicking proceedings off, "Mob Justice" is a heads down, stripped back roller underpinned by deadly subs. Label boss Kasra joins in the fun on "Show Me" which intros with a Robert Owens style vocal before the darkness descends. Finally, "Babyfaced Battleaxe" is a dubstep monster with a catchy old skool vocal hook. Yet another sterling effort from the Critical camp.
Review: Critical boss Kasra never misses a trick. Having built his label up to be one of the leading lynchpins in D&B, now he takes to the studio hot seat and teams up with S.P.Y for a couple of killer collabs - incidentally his first EP since 2002! "Surface" gets things started with a snappy two-step break, driving, warped bassline and echoing, distant vocal snatches. It's got that all-encompassing, attention grabbing finesse, with Metalheadz style touches and a deep, rolling vibe. "Control", however, takes things back a decade or so, with some classic old skool breaks and classy, stripped back sultriness.
Review: Kicking off with a VIP of one of the killer 90s jungle nostalgia anthems of 2010 - Bladerunner's "Back To The Jungle" - it's a great start to the next Critical compilation. Moving through the tough, percussive sounds of Break, soulful dub tinged efforts of Breakage, the blissed out Calibre in "Rockafella" to the sounds of man-of-the-moment, hotly tipped Enei with his fantastic "Forgive Me" around the halfway point, it's immediately apparent why Kasra's label has garnered such respect from his peers. Lomax - one half of Loadstar - provides a deeper incarnation to his Ram bangers in "Innocent X" and elsewhere, Rockwell's "Underpass" makes a re-emergence as does ubiquitous anthem "Redlines" which closes this utterly superb compilation.