Bursting onto the underground scene in 2002, Kasra’s multi-award winning label Critical Music has been rolling out nothing but ice cold drum and bass ever since. Originally starting as a passion project in Kasra’s North London flat, the label has grown to diversify its sound, pushing out anything from deep, rich, liquid, minimal steppers, bouncy half-time cuts and hard-edge ammunition. Nurturing new talent and supporting some of D&B’s finest, Critical boasts a five star roster of artists including: Circuits, Charl Brix, Enei, Emperor, Fade Black, Foreign Concept, Halogenix, Hyroglifics, Ivy Lab, Jakes, Levela, Mefjus, Particle, Redders, Rider Shafique, QZB, Solah, Sam Binga, T>I and the big boss Kasra himself. Critical is also home to its highly esteemed club night series, Critical Sound, which has sold out Bristol’s Motion and London’s Studio 338, as well as taking shape as branded festival stages across the UK and overseas.
Review: Celebrating two decades deep in the game, Critical Music deliver this exceptional 22 track collection from some of the most innovative artists in the bass field. From old label mates such as Sam Binga, Mefjus and Ivy Lab to exciting newcomer talents like Spectral, Able and Cauzer, the entire collection is a blistering jolt of futurism that ranges the full Critical spectrum. Highlights range from the introspective tones of Buunshin's 'Forget About Me' to the dark, tense minimalism of Calibre's 'Verstat' by way of the barbed soul of Halogenix's 'IDGAF'. Here's to another 20 years...
Review: With releases on the likes of Overview, Flexout and Four Corners, Klinical levels up once again with this premiership EP on Critical Music. Always keeping us on our toes, the vibes remain exciting, unique but also true to the signature and reputation he's been developing over the last few years. Every track is serious hooter but key highlights include the ever-mutating twists and turns and the soulful moans and groans on the title track 'Constant' and the sweet soulful finale with Sydney Bryce and Duskee 'My Own'. Keeping things consistent and constant, Klinical has smashed this one out of the park.
Review: Morgan Freeman drove Miss Daisy, Robert De Niro drove a taxi. Now let Particle drive you crazy with one of his best tunes to date. 'Drivin' Me Crazy' takes off where the likes of 'Fall 2 Fast' left us with its purring, sultry sense of dark funk. Soulful but in a twisted 2022 way, this is the sound of Particle really finding his groove. Continue for an equally charming bubbler from Particle and fellow new-gen badman Molecular. Excellently titled 'Switch Hunt', it's the moody yin to the title tracks vibrant yang. Crazy good.
Review: Man of the moment Coco Bryce returns to Critical with this walloping widescreen session. 'Dial M For Myor' is a unique slab of halftime rave while 'Daktari' has breaks made of elastic, jazzy keys and a set of amens you'd leave your significant other for. Elsewhere 'Change Of Heart' takes the breaks to Photekian levels of iciness, space and swing... before getting not one but two remixes from the mighty Sam Binga. Call the Daktari, we got a serious case of sickness right here.
Review: Volcanic scenes! Two of the new-gen's brightest stars The Caracal Project and IMANU link up on Critical Music: 'Neiges' takes the lead with its haunting vocal refrain and endlessly morphing harmonics and decaying tones and textures while 'La Fournaise' raises every single lighter in the world. Epic yet underplayed, there's a defiance and triumphant theme running throughout (especially with Josh Pan's beautiful vocals) but nothing ever feels too dramatic or too theatrical. A masterclass. Lava-ly stuff.
Review: Sam Binga and Particle open up a whole can of party whoop-ass on us with this powerful new Critical EP. 'Rude Girl' with OneDa instantly steals the show with on-point lyrics from the rising killer Manny MC and bassline bubblier than a clown in a champagne factory. The whole EP maintains the same unruly pressure; 'Skrrrrr' is cantankerous like a fourth lockdown, 'Stand Tall' sees them link up with Redders for a fast-lane slice of sci-fi rompy-stompy while 'Business Jungle' closes the EP with a tongue-in-cheek tribalistic take on 4x4 music. Skrrrrrrt lush mate.
Review: Cauzer is a 20 year old drum & bass producer from Cardiff, Wales. She started DJing a couple of years back, and first splashed onto the scene in 2020 with her remix of FYM's "Proton" plus releases on Overview Music and Soulvent Records. She makes her debut here on Critical with Binary featuring three tracks of true underground sonics: rolling, deep and deadly. From the subterrain breakbeat science of opening cut "Form One" ant it's futurist riddims reminiscent of Trace, to the seething techstep of "Groundwork" and ending with the strobe-lit roller "Modulate" which is injected with heady trance motifs to polarising effect.
Review: This latest EP from Critical, courtesy of Able, exemplifies everything great about this legendary label. It's dark and techy yet packed with the rough nuts and bolts of the UK urban scene, and each track flips through spasms of synthetic grit in a dirty fashion designed to make you squeal. There's no messing around and the first track bounces with aplomb, squeezing as much energy from the elements as it possibly can, each new step taking you down rougher and rougher paths. 'Closer Then' injects a jump-up vibe with perfect measurements, its stabbing nodes cutting and weaving their way through a tapestry of wild sounds. This is proper Critical.
Review: For his latest sojourn on Critical, Serum puts down his cricket bat and gets out his conductor's baton to conduct us through another one of his more cosmic escapades. Think Stephan Bodzin or Marc Romboy but with added 174 energy and plenty more bass. 'Tokyo Rose' adds a little more aggy action to the mix with its stern bass tones and tense string plucks. Watch out for the drop; this ain't no rose-tinted glasses situation. Oof.
Review: Enei's evolution over the last year or two has immense and the Russian producer has combined the techy side of things with the jumpier bits better than anyone else, a stylistic blend that he puts to perfect use in this five-tracker. Regular partner in crime Jakes steps up for 'Master Key', and his typically menacing vocal work adds edge to an already jagged instrumental, one which rattles through double bass notes and withering, stabbing percussive touches. It's a proper dancefloor cut constructed for the reopening of gigs, and this attitude spreads across the entire release; from the moody steps of 'Ignit', to the bouncing shards of 'Dirty' and the jump-up infused murderation of 'Lucid' The master is back.
Review: Few artists have made as big an impact as Waeys in their first year of getting down to business, and his taking home of Best Newcomer at last year's awards shows just how successful he's been. He's on Critical these days, Snoar is his first full length solo EP on the label and oh boy, what a debut. 'Snoar' is Waeys as we've come to love him; jagged edged jump up textures delicately blended in with furious minimal pace, a hybrid club banger with which says all the right things. The other three tracks are all features, and its 'Rave Tool' featuring the badman Particle that really stands out, with a loping main bass of monstrous weight and width, a deeply satisfying element that ties the whole tune together in true style. Unreal from the young talent.
Review: There are few EPs as hallowed as the Binary series, which has an unbelievable legacy of bringing through some of drum & bass' most successful artists including Signal, Monty, Hyroglifics and Current Value. This time around it's Trex, who shouldn't really need an introduction as the man has been slaying it across Dispatch, Mac 2 and more for several years now. This Binary is a great reflection of his sound, with its focus on sharp-edged techy sounds and rougher, more unrefined dancefloor textures. 'Stress Test' rolls out with abandon, a hugely satisfying number with a bassline that climbs in cascading waves of low frequencies. 'Other Species' is classic Trex, with a choppy vibe that's packed with murderous stabs and menacing tones. Another sick EP from the Critical crew.
Review: Two of drum & bass' most creative producers are teaming up on Critical, a label which never shies away from innovation, to bring you an EP inflected with multi-genre tonalities. The pair have made their name in everything from grime to garage to halftime to drum & bass, and its this legacy that's on full display across all four tracks on Ultra Luxe. The title track is peppered with synth wave textures and grungy aesthetics and it lopes along in punchy two-step rhythms, with escalating melodies that swell into serious atmospheric suspense. 'Rude AF' is the rattling jungle roller, a sub-heavy exercise in rudeboy sonics, whilst 'Murda Dem' brings the harsh tones of Slay to bear on another clubland monster. Oh yes.
Review: This single is a meeting of minds between the new and the more established, as long-term Critical producer Hyroglifics and the upstart AC13 combine to produce a single that's choppy and rough in the extreme. Even the softer of the two, 'Mercy and Misery', rests upon spasms of simmering synthetic sauce, the top line to a classic Hyroglifics bassline, one which just oozes class and sophistication. The flip is clubland readiness, with squelching bottom ends that tear into jagged patterns of rocky force, it's an absolute banger made all the better by a jokes sample. Big ups to the Critical crew.
Review: Critical's resident Swiss wizards are back at it with this five-tracker, their first full length EP since Perspectives Vol. 1 last year. It's a textbook QZB, who are absolute geniuses at producing music bedded in techy depth, and who work across the full spectrum from deft, frivolous touches to all-out dancefloor heat. The title track here is the former, with oscillating synth nodes that ebb in and out of the mix, a liquid vibe that's metallic in texture yet remains distinctly soulful. 'Unforgiving' is the opposite, a foghorn-laced tech destroyer with astonishingly good use of space, a track which simultaneously feels stripped-back and full to the brim. 'Silence Rings Loudest' is probably the most creative; imagine a mixture of BOP and Frederic Robinson and you'll be close, as featherweight drums rise and fall in delicate crescendos of nostalgic robotics. Delightful.