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: 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.
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: Described as being "vital members of DJ Friction's irrepressible Shogun Audio movement", this acclaimed duo pride themselves on their ability to combine both depth and dancefloor-beats in their productions. For this split-release we have a remixes of their track "Organiser" by Foreign Concept who takes the original and twists it into a slow and sinister beast. The digital B-Side features "One Chance" by their Russian labelmate, Enei, remixed into an even darker, glitchy affair by Emperor.
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.
Review: 25 years! The big H celebrate a quarter of a century in the drum & bass game with this phenomenal collection of remixes, reboots and revisitations by some exceptional names from firing new talent to the sagest of OGs. From Dillinja's remix of Urbandawn's 'Come Together' to Makoto's flip on Nu:Tone's classic remix of Lenny Fontana's 'Spread Love' via L-Side's immense remix of B-Complex's 'Beautiful Lies' and A.Fruit's dusty jazz take on the early 2000s 'Beautiful' from Phuturistix, the whole Hospital rave rainbow is covered by one of the best talent line-ups outside of their festivals. Whiney to Winslow, Remarc to Ray Keith, this is a fantastic document that reflects both Hospital and drum & bass on the widest possible level. Happy anniversary!
Review: Celebrating 25 years in the game, Hospital unleash a brand-new concept: 'Future Symptoms'. Echoing similar symptoms to their late great Med School label, the focus is on the sound of tomorrow and headliners in waiting. On this inaugural volume we're soothed by Winslow's powerful soul on 'Amore', we're slapped into shape by the crucial drum work, sudden switches and sweet vocals on Mozey's 'Sometimes' (with Shady Novelle) and taken off to far-off lands on the dreamy junglised excursion 'The Maker' by Villem & Alpha Rhythm. The final cherry on the cake is Zeitgeist and Nia Archives' 'Move On'. Pure soul with a strong sense of Brazilian magic to it, it leaves us wanting more... Bring on Future Symptoms Vol 2!
Review: Introducing the sounds of The Usual Suspects Part 1, a radical attempt to create jump-up so splintered and broken you'll barely recognise it. This is pure party music, there's no time for sophisticated conversations about its merits because you'll be too busy dancing to it. Sota's 'Pumper's epitomizes the extent of the madness here, with a punched-out percussive line that underpins a grating force of progression and anger, perfectly crafted to give you goosebumps in the dance. The metallic quality to 'Bring It' is another highlight, and it's safe to say that with these five tunes, Sota, Supreme Being, Heist, Complex and The Force have done a wicked job. Big tunes.
Review: It's hard to believe that Hospital Records have reached the 400th release milestone. It's an unbelievable achievement and one that reflects their dominance over drum & bass for the best part of three decades. NHS400 is a collaborative release featuring joint production from a slew of the label's most consistent producers, including new boys on the block BOP X Subwave and old hands like S.P.Y and label founder London Elek. It's Keeno and Polaris, however, that really nail things to the wall with 'Leviathan', a huge track that lays pounding basslines beneath eerie, choral vocals to create a mash up between dancefloor flavour and the orchestral sounds Keeno is so known for. Whiney and Mitekiss team up alongside Ruth Royall to produce a liquid masterclass, whilst the synthy, upbeat tones of Fred V and Logistics sound as fresh as ever. Superb.
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.
Camo & Krooked - "Loving You Is Easy" - (4:51) 191 BPM
Camo & Krooked - "Atlas" - (7:22) 175 BPM
Review: As if Camo & Krooked couldn't sound any more epic... Now their best tracks can be heard played alongside a full-on orchestra. An audacious task even by the Austrian duo's standards, Red Bull Symphonic was a year in the making and two nights in the execution and it's every bit as dynamic, dramatic and rich in layers of musical references and skillishness as you'd expect. From the bombastic opening intro chords and segue into "Embers" right through to emotional finale of "Atlas" all the way through incredible renditions of tracks such as "Numbers", "Set It Off", "Kallisto", this is a unique clash of centuries of musical disciplines and it's yet another reminder why Camo & Krooked are absolute craftsmen of the modern game. Classic.
Review: A label shutting up shop is never, ever a good thing. But when they sign out with a collection as strong as this? You've got to admire them. Graduation is an epic collection of total D&B innovation from some of the Hospital sub-label's longest standing talents, old friends and a few new-gen upstarts along the way. Highlights across the 23 track set include raw damagement in the form of a S.P.Y's "Black Flag VIP", 160 freakery from Lakeway in the form of "Massive", swampy trippy tripletty funk from the long-missed Lung ("Stop Crying") and more blissful uniqueness from Kimyan Law ("Kaleido"). These are just some of the many impeccable designs from a collection that closes the label with full respect and the attention to detail the label has always had. Med School RIP.
Review: Is there a doctor in the house? Hospital kick start the new decade with another stupendously massive V/A collection in the form of its latest Sick Music compendium. An album series that consistently lives up to its name, Sick Music 2020 does not disappoint in the slightest; from the powerful soul thrust of Degs and Unglued's "Levitate Your Mind" to the deep pads and sultry kicks of Tolima Jets' "Clams" via Urbandawn's truly electrifying euphoria/gully head shock "Egregor", this one covers the full spectrum from an exciting and super diverse range of artists. Look out for some fantastic remixes lurking in the mix, too; S.P.Y absolutely crushes Kings Of The Rollers' "You Got Me" and Serum flips Todd Terry's house classic "Bounce To The Beat" with a new sense of funk and groove. And these are just a few examples; this is a fantastic snapshot into how 2020 will sound... And it sounds great!
Review: It's the album that spawned Benny L's "Police In Helicopter" remix... Hospital hooking up with one of the most prolific reggae importers in the UK during the 70s - 90s opens up a whole trove of roots and connections between the genre and its soundsystem roots. As such as the whole album is awash with classics remixes by many of the label's best artists and friends. Highlights include T>I's soul-slapping sing-along take on Alton Ellis's "I'm Still In Love", Nu:Tone's broader than broadway bump-up of Barrington Levy's "Here I Come", London Elektricity's hurricane soul switch up of "Skylarking" and Saxxon's insane twist of John Holt's "Ali Baba". A truly unique collection that celebrates the full culture.
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: Three words: "Police In Helicopter"... One of the biggest dubplates last year is finally here, and it's joined by 24 other exceptional bangers as the Hozzy team roll out another absurd stack of "Sick" freshness from across the board. Genuinely on point tune for tune highlights include Pete Cannon's outstanding drumfunk lash out "Ella", Flava D's first D&B tune (the breath taking "Return To Me"), a bone shaking duet from the next gen gems Unglued and Bou ("Ascendant Man"), both Fred V & Grafix's first solo tunes since they split and an absolute neck breaking gully snapper from Lakeway in the form of "War Dub". And that's just scratching the surface, this is a humungous V/A album. Hot enough to burn down a cane field or two...
London Elektricity - "That's A Switch" - (4:58) 173 BPM
Fred V & Grafix - "Auckland Sunrise" - (3:42) 174 BPM
Bop & Subwave - "City Lights" - (4:37) 170 BPM
Krakota - "Mismatch" - (3:45) 58 BPM
Kings Of The Rollers - "Hot Wheels" - (4:46) 175 BPM
Urbandawn - "Caffeine" - (4:09) 174 BPM
Metrik - "Dawnbreaker" - (5:01) 174 BPM
Nu:Logic - "The Sound Of Your Smile" - (3:45) 174 BPM
Polaris - "Lessons Learned" - (7:20) 58 BPM
Logistics - "Let The Senses Clear Your Mind" - (4:13) 174 BPM
SPY - "Rock Da House" - (4:57) 172 BPM
Whiney X Urbandawn - "Loki" - (4:24) 175 BPM
Makoto - "Wading Through The Crowds" (feat Karina Ramage) - (4:35) 174 BPM
Keeno - "Brave Face" - (6:23) 174 BPM
Mitekiss - "Veloce" - (5:00) 170 BPM
Etherwood - "Haltija" - (5:28) 172 BPM
Hugh Hardie - "Offshore" - (4:22) 170 BPM
Lakeway - "Stomp Your Soul" - (5:06) 170 BPM
Polaris - "Empire" - (6:59) 174 BPM
Review: If you're familiar with the Forza franchise you will know two things; the game is best played to a D&B soundtrack and Hospital Records in-game radio station. Now for the first time (definitely in Hospital history, perhaps in D&B history too) the label have created an album of tracks specifically for the game. And your DJ sets. Cue Hospital's finest operators, each proffering stone cold gems. S.P.Y's "Rock Da House" is an impeccable hypnotic stepper that's been doing the business on dub all summer, Urbandawn's "Caffeine" has enough filtered disco pump to put led in your pencil for about 20 years while his collaboration with Whiney "Loki" is a splintered step jam with dramatic orchestral twists. Elsewhere London Elektricity gets sincerely symphonic on "Now That's A Switch", Hugh Hardie goes all Good Looking on "Offshore", Lakeway does some serious damage with the junglised grime hybrid "Stomp Your Soul" and Krakota gets absolutely filthy on "Mismatch". And that's not even half of it. May the Forza be with you.
Review: Logan D's Low Down Deep imprint celebrate 100 releases with this bumper to bumper banger collection with cuts from the biggest names in the heavier end of the game; Turno, Maji, Upgrade, Voltage, Heist, Serum and of course the late great Dominator are just some of the heavyweights involved. Every tune is a highlight but mad salutes fire in the direction of Turno & Pacso with their purring harmonic bass creeper "Cosmic Funk", K Motionz' long awaited summer slamming anthem "Buckaguy" and the blissful rippling charms and outrageous subby drop of Heist's "Hawaiian". Elsewhere there's pure gully fisticuffs as Kanine has "Bloody Knuckles" and Serum has "Brass Knuckles". Either way, they both KO. Like the whole album. Get on this.