Unknown Artist - "Just Vibe With It" - (5:21) 172 BPM
Untrue - "Your Face" - (5:19) 174 BPM
Motiv - "Walk With Me" - (4:54) 174 BPM
Review: Now in their 22nd year, Fokuz has to be one of the longest running - and certainly the most prolific - drum & bass labels to ever come out of The Netherlands. A prime spot for breaking new talent, and renowned for their glacial, atmospheric liquid sound, the label have that perfect balance of newcomers and established names which is reflected perfectly here on this reflective look-back over 2020. Highlights include Command Strange & Cnof's dusty soul delight 'Rainy Day', the twinkling cosmic funk of Maverick Soul's 'We In Here' and the shimmering soul of Askel & Elere's 'Honestly'.
Review: Like some kind of Human Traffic soundtrack to 2020, Hospital's annual House Party VA has arrived. Fresh for a summer of social distancing, house parties and clandestine diversions, it's a soundtrack that will get any D&B head through the lockdown status, BBQs permitted. Top and tailed by the poppy, liquid, sample based and acoustic sessions of both Villem & Leo Wood's "We Had A Sing" and Whiney's "Better With You", find playful aggro in MC LowQui's "Middle Finger" to some hyper fresh material in Degs' "Pressure Cooker". Aggy half time once more in tracks like "Saturn's Strings" with gnarly basslines in Voltage's "The Prophet" and Logistic's "Playing With Fire" bringing the heat.
Review: The Vanguard Project, not content with their superb album earlier this year, are back on Fokuz with jovial, upbeat expression of 174 music that is a breath of fresh air from our scene's more common gestures to the ghoulish. The title track sets the tone, with warm brass samples setting a trajectory of funk and soul right from the outset. Even the darker pallette of 'Mode 16' still feels playful in its low frequency pressure and it's a combination pulled off with considerable finesse across the whole five-tracker - excellent work.
Review: Spearhead are coming out with a huge compilation that seeks to be a statement of intent for 2020, combining a load of new tracks with some of the choicest cuts from the Spearhead back catalogue. There is old school talent like Need For Mirrors, Bcee, Carlito & Addiction & Saikon, as well as recruits from the new school like Whiney, Black Barrel, Monrroe and Walk:r, all of whom have done a wicked job walking the Spearhead stylistic line between hard and soft. Need For Mirrors' 'Zxana' is the ideal example; it's stripped back and minimalist in its percussion but expansive in the low-frequencies, with a hypnotic feeling of movement and a seriously solid piece of sound design. The rest of the LP is typically epic as well, so shout out to the Norwich crew.
Review: The Vanguard Project combines Bcee and Villem, two long-time liquid titans who have their debut LP as a duo out very soon. A self-titled piece of work, The Vanguard Project brings 12 new tracks alongside 14 classics from their joint back-catalogue, a sprawling release which dips its toes into virtually every flavour imaginable. 'Everyday is Stolen' feat. DRS was the first single to be released and we can see why, a standout track that beautifully combines his talent for spitting with singing. 'The Unknown' and 'Wicked Man' are both perfectly weighted jungle tracks, full of soul and bursting with the character of music which packs edge and funk at the same time. Dynamite MC and Leo Wood also both feature, the latter is a regular on Spearhead now and 'Elevate' is a driven, bass heavy track that frolicks with vocal touches and funky guitar flourishes. Unreal stuff here from two legends of the game.
Review: The Vanguard Project is made up of Villem and Bcee, two of the best producers in the game without a shadow of a doubt. They've been working together on TVP for a while now and it shows, their sound is diverse and mature and each release builds on the next. Cockroach Curry is arriving on Fokuz and there's a requisite blend of tones and styles here, ranging from the soulful junglist magic of Con Gas, through to the minimal, dancefloor focus of 'Murkleton'. There's even a digital bonus - 'Flying Away' - which sees the pair go back to familiar liquid territory, in spectacular fashion. Good stuff.
The Vanguard Project - "Is This Love" (feat Lucy Kitchen - Dexcell remix) - (4:59) 172 BPM
Review: Spearhead Records - which was started by Bcee in an internet caf? - is hitting its 100th release and celebrating the fact with a huge compilation of brand new tracks, including contributions by Calibre, Technimatic, LSB and Bcee himself. Staying true to the label's origins, it's pretty much all gorgeous rolling liquid and we're very much into it. One of the highlights is the Bcee refix of his seminal 'Back to the Street', which has been given a revamped bassline and a fresh veneer of bassy purpose. It's not just the old on this album, though, and Walk:r lays down the gauntlet with 'Wallflower', a sublimely subtle, pacey piano tune that rolls out in delightful fashion. Wicked stuff here from one of the best in the game.
Need For Mirrors - "Speedy Boarding" - (5:12) 174 BPM
Alexvnder - "Continuity" - (4:55) 174 BPM
DJ Ransome - "Arctic Blizzard" - (5:41) 174 BPM
Review: One of the most iconic and prolific labels in the D&B scene, Fokuz Recordings manage to simultaneously show off the best in the game whilst supporting new talent and the results are fantastic. This album - a recap of 2018 - exemplifies their approach. It's full of big names and bigger tracks, including S.P.Y's remix of 'Always Yours' by Macca & Loz Contreras, Artificial Intelligence's remix of 'String City' by Lenzman and Calibre's remix of 'Forward Thinking' by Satl. Whilst these are obviously great, the bigger story lies in the lesser-known participants and their ability to pull at your heartstrings. DJ Ransome, Edlan, Soligen amongst others all come seriously correct on this LP, turning it into a seriously good release.
Review: Bcee and Villem share out the parts of four of their many exceptional tracks with a rollcall of on point peers. Bop takes "Blacklist" to the furthest corners of the cosmos on a rocket made of pure jazz and twinkles, Alibi strip "Recharge" back and coat it in a titanium suit of armour allowing Tempza's vocals prime position in the mix, Tokyo Prose adds his soulful, dreamy piano magic to "Milestone" while "FLLN 4 U" is given a classic Zero T revision with a whole new stack of atmospherics to play with. Be on your guard.
Review: Just look at the list of titans on this album.... The Prodigy, Sub Focus, Spor, Chase & Status, dBridge & Skeptical, Icicle, Benny L, Artificial Intelligence and so many more have all contributed to this worthy compendium from brand new mental and physical wellness festival Getahead. Not one contributor disappoints across the set as we're treated to 100 percent exclusives from across the board. From the rampant late 90s tech twists of Chase & Status's "All Crew" to the delicious halftime vibes of Proxima's "Trek" right through Halogenix's sense-melting remix of Koiya, this really is a massive piece of work... And proceeds going to Music Minds Matter. This is such an important release!
Review: To our counting, this is BCee and Villem's 10th Vanguard Project EP to date. Not bad considering they've only been releasing for two years and both are smashing it with successful solo careers. Complementing each other's style and ability to fuse shades and contrasts, just like previous EPs, this explores the full circle with highlights ranging from the smoky soul of "Still Together", the spine-chilling euphoria and warm synths of "Remembrance" and the hollowed, bulbous bass tones and subtle subverted rave piano and vocal traces of "Fallout". Some collabos just work and it's clear this one does.
Review: Few things have been as consistent or on-point as Bcee and Villem's Vanguard Project this year. EP after EP after EP, they've been dropping dancefloor gold of all shades and styles. This fifth volume is no exception; "U MK ME FEEL" is all about the classic break, arpeggiated instruments and swooning synth line, "Recharge" is much more of a mischievous junglised riff workout while "Fused" hypnotises us with textured cascading pitched percussion, oceanic jazzy tones and a tribal drum switch that nods at the current sound oozing from Manchester. Finally the duo settle our souls with the oceanic shimmers and uplifting thrust of "Think About". Incredible.