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.
Review: Coco Bryce and Critical Music isn't a combination that we were expecting to be honest, with the former known for his work within jungle and the latter with a reputation for tech inflected music. But here we are, and the results are superb, as Coco stays true to his ethos of rough, ready, breaks-based music but adheres closely to the forward-thinking strand central to the A&R process at Critical. The title track is slow, foreboding and built around its loping reece bass and hypnotic bongo rhythms, a combination which is subtle yet extremely effective. 'U I Luv' is classic Bryce vibes, as funky sampling leads on to ferocious old school jungle work, whilst 'Blacklist' is spacious and full of air, a brutalist take on breaks music than emphasises the sparse and rejects the overcooked. Oh yes.
Review: By far one of the most exciting new artists to emerge in drum & bass in recent years, everything Waeys has put out into the world (including his magnificent moustache) has been high grade material. This new Critical EP being his highest benchmark so far. 'Ephemeral' says it all; crystal synth business, with strong touches of trance, there's a barbed soul to this that's on such a level of drama and theatre it's almost classical. Every other track hits with the same unique vibe and quirky soul; 'The Tune' has a playful almost jump-up infectiousness to its riff, 'Mist' is a beautifully slinky synth number with essences of techno while a killer collaboration with Was A Be concludes affairs. What an absolute killer EP.
Review: Sam Binga and Hyroglifics represent two of the most ingenious beat makers in the drum and bass, a pair of producers who, through their work on Critical Music amongst others, has pushed the boundaries of the genre. Wicked & Bad represents further encroachment onto the territory of neighbouring genres, including garage and grime, and the pair have managed to stay true to the formula of drum & bass whilst expanding on it with serious finesse. 'Wits End' embodies this mission statement best, as robotic vocals machinate alongside a bouncing garage beat and wallowing low frequency notes to form a technoid funk that's both heavy and sophisticated. There are more traditional jungle flavours on the title track, featuring Riko Dan on top form to provide a vocal overlay to the tune's rambunctious drums and pummelling bassline. More genre bending stuff from the Critical crew.
Review: Someone give Sam Binga some shampoo - his EP cap fits so well he's been wearing it since April! Thing is, it fits so well... No matter how you dress it. Previous iterations of tracks from the EP landed late summer, now comes a new chapter as Halogenix dons his Lordel guise for an iced-out halftime take of the Paul Wall-fronted title track that creeps with real shadowy wave feels. Speaking of shadows, and indeed Halogenix, "Flexha" is a brand new fix up of Bing and Halogenix's "I'm An Adult" now loaded with full fire bars from the one and only Trigga. Thiccer vibes, still the same badboy cap. Strictly 18+
Review: As if his "Divided Mode" EP wasn't quite enough dark fire for us this year, OG Critical fam Enei comes correct with another multi-track blast up. "Sinking" takes the lead on a mean techno tip as thundering 4x4s do all the driving as Enei plunges us deep into his alien bass pool. Deeper into the EP we hit pure techy roller territory on the pranged-out "Ghost Boat" while "Get Closer" reminds us of the Russian's more emotional side as he leaves heaps of space for singer-of-the-moment Charli Brix to purr pure dulcet velvet into the mix. Finally "Dark Move" shuts down the shop on a mean, gritty, stripped-back minimal one. Watch out of the creaky, creepy off-beat cascades midway... The devil always makes the darkest moves.
Review: The biggest tag-team in the history of tag-teams since Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior, Kasra and InsideInfo's Circuits project continues to set the agenda. Following their incendiary "Euphoria" EP earlier this year come two more bone-rattling blunderbusses. "High Resolution" levitates us with big emotional ravey pads and a tubular bassline so big and spacious you could stash a few bodies in there. "Microdose" follows and opens our third eye in the process. Not in any type of woke, hippie way but with a crowbar made of pure bass. Sledgehammer crew, this one's for you.