Review: Ever ahead the game, Tom Rockwell has been self-isolating long before COVID-19 and brave sounds like these are the results of such rituals. His first productions of the new decade, they take off where last summer's "Level / Block" left us: "Vent" is a brisk sandpaper jam, all droney and groany, while the title track itself is one of the most wholesome, uplifting and sci-fi tunes he's done since his Shogun days. Elsewhere we find him getting cabin fever with man-of-the-moment Jack Workforce on the string pinging "Ditch" before closing - like all good craftsmen - with a full-on power tool of a tune "Drill". Ugly stuff. Stay indoors, stay safe, stay isolated.
Review: It's that time of year again! The scene's longest-standing platform Drum&BassArena step up with their annual flagship album and once again it's a fitting salute to all corners, all shades and all styles of the rich, wide scene. 60 tracks deep comprising absolute bangers and bliss-outs from the likes of Chase & Status, Noisia & Phace, K-Motionz, Rockwell, DJ Hybrid, GLXY and Seba, it's also home to exclusives from Kyrist, Brookes Brothers, Bou & Simula, Kanina, Kove and A.M.C & Turno. From jungle to jump-up, liquid to dancefloor and complete with three killer mixes for life when you're not practicing your double/triple/quadruple drops, Drum&BassArena continue to celebrate the widest possible scene.
Review: Maximum Obsolete Medium: Rockwell returns to his burgeoning label with a bunch of pals and sacks full of fire. Antipodean arsonists The Upbeats join the fray first for the hair-scorching sizzler "Level". All rasping, high voltage sizzles and singes, if this doesn't have your dancefloor on their knees begging for mercy you're in the wrong line of work. Similar exclamations can be made about "Block" as Rockers heads to Germany for a grizzly, off-beat raffish tet-a-tet with Phace. Up another level...
Review: Content! Content! Get your content here! Fresh off the DAW... Months of detailed craftsmanship and thought reduced into a handy catch all word that covers everything from celeb clickbait to your ma's Insta selfies. We love content. But if it's a choice of getting our skin scorched on the rubber balls bassline of the title track or seeing what your old dear had for dinner, we know which one we'll choose. The whole EP rolls like that... The glacial soul of "Waiting 4" is much better than that jokes video of man getting a football in his groin, the elastic space age steppery of "Belief Systems" is heller better than that 'which TV puppet is your spirit animal' test you wasted 20 minutes of your life on. As for "Buss It" with like minded boundary snapper Lakeway? That's better than all the 'content' out there put together. Including your ma's selfies. Respect Rockwell.
Review: Rockwell bows out of Shogun with an absolute beast of an EP that's been gradually leaked out over the month. It kicks off with "Easy", an incredible Bristol bust-up with the man like Roni, before plunging us into dancehall-dented halftime darkness on "09 Track" and grime-galvanised chaos with the Flowdan-fronted "Inventor". Finally we conclude the "User", a rushed-out slice of euphoria that reminds us of Tom Rockwell's sensitive side. Acutely on point.
Review: Following the massiveness of his collabo with Roni Size, Rockwell teases us with another subversion excursion from his forthcoming "User" EP. This time tagging in with one of grime's most iconic and crystal clear voices Flowdan, "Inventor" is a bashment stamper with militant drums and serious sermons from the Roll Deep professor. The results speak for themselves. Bring on the full EP.
Review: Roni Size and Rockwell? Yes please! Two dons of their own respective games, both with very distinctive sounds; this really is a magic moment for Shogun Audio. It's one of those rare collaborations where you can hear both artists clearly with full complements to each other; Roni's off-beat bass funk, Rockwell's anarchy, both of their sense of pace and momentum. Slappy, steppy and shocky, this is a perfect example of how good collaborations can be.
Review: Well well well... What a way to kick off a new year: Modified Sonics sees the entire Critical troop go to town on each other's work and celebrate the label's 15+ year contribution to the game. No stone unturned, no shoe unthrown; from long-demanded VIPs such as Emperor's sharp update on "Infrasound" and Mefjus's VIP of "Disrupted" come well-deserved re-ups of classics such as Binga's fuzzy take on Serum & Bladerunner's "Who Jah Bless", Benny L's gut-troubling twist of Enei's "Mosquito" and a crucial twist of Rockwell's breakthrough gamechanger "Underpass" from none other than Perez. With loads more dopeness from the likes of QZB, Hyroglifics, Klax and many more, this is one of the best V/A albums Critical have ever put together. Essential.
Alix Perez - "Down The Line" (feat MC Fats) - (6:27) 172 BPM
JO - "R-Type" - (5:51) 174 BPM
Subwave - "Think" - (5:58) 175 BPM
Shogun Audio Presents: The Classics (2004-2017) (continuous DJ mix) - (57:08) 174 BPM
Review: When a label as consistent and as well rounded as Shogun Audio announce a 'Classics' release it obviously sends shivers around the drum & bass community. It's hard to imagine condensing thirteen years of dominance into a minimized box of thirty classics, but just looking at the tracklisting is awe-inspiring. We see classic reappearances from the likes of Friction, Spor, Break, Icicle, Rockwell, Spectrasoul, Alix Perez, Camo & Krooked and that's not even half of the names involved. To break it down simply, this compilation summarizes why Shogun hold such a legendary status within the scene, through incredible consistency and magnificent diversity of sound.
Review: From Prolix to Technimatic, Total Science to Was A Be by way of Icicle, Joe Ford, Fourward, Spectrasoul, Phace, Ed.It and many more, Friction's label digs deep from the genre's most innovative corners and eras. As we prepare to close off 2016, they've taken a detailed look back over the last 18 months of crucial output to not just represent where the label is at, but the genre itself. An ideal opportunity to fill any holes in your collection cuts such as Fourward & Linguistics demonic stomper "Storm", Was A Be's rudeboy-slewing halftime damager "Blind" or Break's sparkling "Emerald" and complete with a journeyman mix of the tracks themselves, this rounds up yet another serious year at the very forefront of drum & bass.
Review: His first proper body of work since his incendiary album Obsolete Medium, Rockwell returns full steam with four typically forthright leftfield bangers. "Hoez To The Floor" continues his ghetto tech bent with ruthless funkability and a stunning drop into hooky rave wonder, "Pulse OSX" is even starker with its depth plunge basses and skittering drums. Then, just when you think you've got the London producer worked out, along comes the EP title track with a lush rushy liquid feel to the groove that tips a nod to the AI-style of emotion-rich D&B. Finally "Out Of Vogue" provides a final one-fingered salute with the gulliest textures of the EP. Sitting at 160 but coming on strong like its 140, it's Rockwell at his cheekiest, darkest and most referential. Impeccable.
Review: Exclusive overload: while some labels like to solely wrap up their existing content into a compilation, Hospital request freshness from their troops. In amongst the 60 tracks on offer (yeah, 60!) there are no less than 25 brand new cuts previously unavailable until now. From the breathy, horizon-glaring bliss of Fred V & Grafix's "Constellations" to High Contrast's first original in well over a year "Calling My Name" by way of Krakota's pulsating gully stepper "Lust Thrust" and Ulterior Motive's darkside creeper "Oddness". This is - without question - one of the biggest, most bountiful Hospitality albums so far. And let's face it, they're always pretty special anyway.
Review: Rumours have been rife on this for well over two years now. Refusing to hurry as much as he refuses to compromise, Rockwell has taken his time and crafted one of the most distinctive, unique bass music albums: Obsolete Medium. Referencing ghetto-tech, classic hardcore (rave and punk) and formative jungle, every track, even the skits, justifies its place: from the torch-raising Banks-style leftfield ballad "Faces" through to the toxic waste bass and paranoia of "Guts/Bloods/Sex/Drugs" by way of the unadulterated rave mischief of "Please Please Please (Play This On The Radio)" and cosmiche bass of "Technoir", the whole album is detailed, precision articulated and full of surprises. Far from obsolete.
Review: What a year it's been for Shogun Audio: albums from Spectrasoul and Rockwell, new signing Karma, the epic Point Of Origin collection and killer singles from every artist on the roster. Here they wrap up the year with 34 bangers, blissers and blunderbusses. If you've been following the label you'll know just how heavy this weights in bass gold. If not, it's the best possible place to play catch up. From the Jenna G-fronted Submorphics chiller "The Divine" and the gospel-level heaven of Spectrasoul's "Shelter" to the much darker, thunderous slammers such as Friction and Icicle's "Crucifix", Fourward's "Exile" and Calyx & TeeBee's gamechanging remix of Spor's "Aztec", this is a spotless sonic calling card for the label and its many multifaceted talents.
Review: Cementing its position as one of D&B's most essential labels with this round-up of the year's biggest tracks, Shogun Audio has outdone itself. From Rockwell's bafflingly precise electronic meanderings to Icicle's considered approach to minimal bass and drums, Technimatic and Spectrasoul's beautiful synergy of sound and feeling and newcomer Joe Ford's unique slant on experimental soundscaping, this is an unashamedly outgoing collection. Shogun has been running the gauntlet for some time now, focusing all the experimental energies harboured by its own terrifyingly impressive host of signed artists. As always, it's been worth the hard word. An essential release for an exceptional year. Long live Shogun!
Review: What is there to say about Shogun Audio that hasn't already been said at length directly into your ear at 3am? Friction's brainchild has become one of the scene's biggest, most successful and perhaps most importantly one of the most highly-regarded labels in recent years. A decade might not be a long time in D&B talk, but 10 years has been long enough for Shogun to put its stamp on almost everything making its way from the underground and into the blinding light of day. From the experimental sounds of Alix Perez, Rockwell and Icicle to the spellbinding Technimatic, right through to the chart-bothering escapades of Camo & Krooked, this is a flip through the highlights of Shogun's life. In case you forgot, it's been a brilliant one so far. Roll on the next 10 years.
Review: One of drum & bass' true innovators, Rockwell spends his time wisely over at Shogun Audio creating only the best messed-up beats from a mind-bendingly diverse spectrum of influences. "INeedU" is a skitterish firefly of a track, complete with hyped-up ADD beats stolen from a Rave mixtape circa '93 and samples from every corner of his record collection. "1_2_3_4" features harsher than harsh pads throughout, creating a hard techno blast through the neon wormhole of Rockwell's D&B fever fit. More Bangface than Sun and Bass, it's an amazing mental breakdown of a tune that somehow works itself out into quite the little mover. Be prepared for a scare.