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: Following on from last year's incredibly popular instalment, Shogun Audio have brought back Point of Origin for a third time. This series emphasises the rolling, minimal-ish side of the scene from some younger, more hungry producers and boy, is it a good formula. Exemplifying this is Revaux with 'Ibex', probably the nastiest tune on the album and arguably the best, as its crunching bass tabs inject fantastic groove. Rizzle and Malaky add something more sultry with 'Solstice' and 'Requiem', the former focusing on the vocals of Sydney whilst the latter opts for a more instrumental roll-out. Gerra & Stone represent the old guard amongst the newbies, holding up their end with a growling amalgamation of low-frequency force. This is an exquisite album of D&B, with every corner covered and every flavour recognizable - special props going to Shogun for supporting new talent as well.
Review: Hello there Klax. We've been expecting you. Just as they ripped 2016 a new one last January, they're doing the same this year with four more severely on point cuts: "Risk It" is a whole new drumthink paradigm with an arrangement that is genuinely unique. "The Sway" showcases the hot new soul sound of the year 2305, "Rekanize" turns neuro motifs inside out with the trippiest halftimer of this year so far. "Fluro Riddim" closes business with a straight-up ageless grizzle session. Exceptional.
Review: Following Etherwood and Fred V & Grafix, S.P.Y is the next to step up to the "Hospital Mixtape" series with a walloping 31-track mix of which almost half has never been released before. As you'd expect from the bazillion dollar Brazilian, the range is wide with tendencies to gully. Essential exclusives you'd be an absolute madman not to check include his deep-swing twist on Digital's seminal "Deadline", the insane sub bass slipperiness on Random Movement's incredible "In Space No One Can Hear You Funk" and the "Up All Night" style late 90s slap down with his brother Unreal "Enduro". A proper mix and a previously unobtainable selection that's yours for the taking... What's not to love here?
Review: Since emerging on Renegade Hardware in 2014, Klax have yet to make a bad move with every track delivering something different and fresh. This new Systems edition is no exception. In fact, weighing in at three originals, it's Klax's biggest release to date. "Ritalin" lives up to its name with schizo drums, subtle rave samples and percussion from another planet. "Hotline" toys with the current halftime resurgence in a similar way to Ivy Lab but with subtle references to trap's more discerning qualities. For many, though, it's "The Level" that will score highlight prize thanks to its savage dancehall drums and devilish vocal shots from longstanding mic master MC ID. Complete with a Foreign Concept remix of Klax's breakthrough bust-up "Blackball", this is a huge release... And a cracking way to kick off 2016 for Critical.
Review: Dub Police's MyStyle mix series has become a force to be reckoned with in dubstep, an annual showcase from some of their most exciting artists, each outing appears deeper, more involving and widescreen than the last. The Others has clearly gone to town here with a whole heap of his productions and collaborations. For mix lovers this is a must; 28 tracks all seamed together tightly, it explores the darkest corners of the scene with a brave boldness. Those looking for individual tracks will also be pleased to see the likes of Icicle's techno-like industrial VIP "Need A Job", Sleeper's disturbing "Civil War" and Thelem's tripped out mind-twister "Haunted Harmonics". Stylish, sonically arresting and consummately accomplished, The Others has represented himself with serious skills right here.
Review: Fresh-faced Brighton trio Klax drop the next instalment of Critical's "Binary" imprint, bringing some of the most militant, tech-stepping drum and bass heard this year. As the clouds roll in and the nights get darker, isn't it so good to switch up that jazzy Brazilian flavas for something more filthy? We're telling you - this is what you need - ditch the bongos and grab a sine wave. With only a handful of releases to their name so far on the likes of Renegade Hardware and Uprise Audio, it's clear these guys are onto something, having been snapped up by Kasra for their latest leap up the ladder and since they've already been shared around on Radio 1, it seems like they were a pretty savvy signing.
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: Following an impeccable launch with a series of unavoidable singles, Seven's Uprise imprint consolidates its reputation and hugely broadens its scope with this far-reaching compilation. Tickling every possible corner of bass music's expansive underbelly, across the album we're treated to an array of vibes that stretch from slo-mo percussive cosmic bass (Wayfarer's "Reflections") to fractured, juddering beat experimentalism (Taiko's "Spray Can") Every track is a highlight but be sure to check out Truth's immensely demonic take on "Walter White" and the techno-minded riff aggression on Klax's "Link To The Past". Welcome to the future.
Review: Legendary D&B label Renegade Hardware has been a powerhouse of essential tunes from the darker side of the street for 19 years now. Pushing ever onwards with their future sounds, this release is a neat and nasty selection of the finest new talent around right now. Kicking off with a tasty slice of neuro badness from Slovakian artist Trilo and banging tracks from Klax and Subtension who takes to the studio with MC Nuklear, there's also a beast of a tune from rising also-Slovakian star Minor Rain. Clean, precise and just a bit deadly. You need this in your life.