Review: Underground hero of the modern drum and bass sound Alix Perez delivers more smooth liquid breaks and bass again on his new effort titled Arkestra, in collaboration with Ivy Lab. Starting out with the deep breakbeat science of "Maiden" featuring some gorgeous vocals he then launches into the fierce peak-time soul of the title track, the dark sci-fi hip-hop vibes of "Tell Dem" and "Stop It" before closing out proceedings with more deep and slinky futurist blues on "No One Else". Legends such as LTJ Bukem, Alex Reece and Peshay would be proud that their legacy continues via the new breed of the sound.
Review: If you like your D&B somewhere in the middle of "unleashed" and "have I lost my mind" territory, this latest brainwarper from Critical's latest acquisition from Bad Taste, Billain, is highly recommended. "Macula" is deliciously clean thanks to obsessively tweaked and balanced production, but it's those cranked samples that just set that bar out of reach. "Subduction" rages on with more technical breaks and looming, electrical storm synths and final track round off the release with a half time demolition machine pounding out industrial drums and skip-a-beat top end percussion. Combined with tons of sinister effects this is definitely one for the darkside crew.
Review: With an extensive repertoire that includes breaks, house and techno, Sam Binga's switch to future jungle rhythms has spawned some of his honest, his most exciting and his heaviest tracks to date. Sitting in the same unclassifiable field as Om Unit and Fracture, his productions wobble, writhe and punch sweetly around the 160/80 axis and feature a wealth of killer vocalists such as Warrior Queen, Rider Shafique and Romaine. Part dancehall, part jungle, part mongrel bass, Sam's skills are showcased succinctly across Wasted Days with a consistency that ensures the album experience is just as hard hitting as the individual tracks hit the floor. Get wasted.
Review: A much loved figure across the D&B spectrum, Break brings us his next utterance on none other than Critical Music, who are enjoying their time in the limelight at the moment, following Kasra's recent Fabriclive mix. Here, we see Break doing what he does best in "Here We Go" as he goes in hard and fast, with pounding bass; those unmistakable Break er, breaks; and plenty of fury in the grinding synths which pepper this spectacular release. "Soundwaves", in some ways a slightly less intense cut, pairs a muffled reggae vocal, with almost impenetrable sub bass and low-end frequencies.
Review: Today's Critical lesson is brought to you by the letter B... Binga, Breakage and absolute badness. First up Breakage adds a rolling booty bounce to one of the many highlights on Binga's album Wasted Days album. Binga returns the favour by looking back into the annals of Critical history and dusting off Breakage's formative 2005 skanker "Staggered Dub" and injecting a cool amount of deep halftime space. Both exemplary examples of remix authenticity. Blimey. Bigness.
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.
Review: London based drum and bass label Critical Music announce their staggering 55th release straight from the studio of SP:MC, Jubei and Dakuan, aka, Code 3, whose contributions to the genre haven't gone unnoticed in recent years. "What You Sayin" opens with simple two-tone chords and staggered break, eventually pounding into fearless snares and thudding subs. Intriguingly subtle at times, smooth keys dive and duck between the heavy drums and thunderous bass lines. The unique combination of the two tempos propel "What You Sayin" into the realm of D&B elegance. Over the page, "Double Dipped" intros with tremendous breaks, spaced out pads and a double bass that's far too easy to get lost in.
Review: Cruk a duck! Rising northern artist continues to rip from strength to strength this year as he hits the hallowed halls of Critical's Binary series. Four cuts deep, each one explores and celebrates a different side to his sound. "Cold Top" adds a little murked dancehall demonism into his roller mix, "Devil And The Deep" is a pure pressure plunge stepper with some fantastic sound design while "Undoing" strips back Cruk's sound to its bare bones and rebuilds it again. Finally "Lit" shows off Cruk's halftime biceps for the first time and the results are more than satisfying.
Review: Critical's Binary series gets cracking for a fresh new outlook in 2015. Opening the year with Berlin's Current Value, this is four tracks of techno-infused sonic assaults that have been making an impact in every club brave enough to venture this far into the depths of inky-dark drum and bass over the past few months. "Division" in particular has been hitting the scene hard with its relentless percussion and stressed pads. Often 'experimental' is used as a cop-out description, but in this case it's true, and Current Value has been experimenting with just how tweaked he's willing to go.
Review: Halifax heavyweight Emperor finally unleashes the long-awaited beast that is his debut album and it's 50 shades of awesome. Rather than dish out a collection of the dark, tearing bangers he's become known for, he's licked up an all-armed hurricane of sounds and ideas; from the pixelated lift-off of "I Was" to the sweaty Upbeats drums of "Shapeshift" to the big breezy vocal drama of "Dispositions" and the rolling soul of "Thunder", this is a whole new creative level from Emperor as he plays by rules we've never heard him play by before. A proper album.
Review: As the dust continues to settle from Emperor's deeply personal debut album Dispositions, along come four unique versions that add whole new narratives to his tracks: long-time friend and all-round legend Phace flips "Haste" with a whole new dynamic of funk that's almost jump-up in its nature and attitude. Ivy Lab lay down serious halftime heat with the brilliantly slouching, lolloping g-style twist of "Jounce" while Klax switch up "Made Of Light" with different, more dramatic style of halftime. Finally we hit the most interesting curveball of all - a touching, unplugged take on the evocative "Made Of Light" where SOLAH's vocals tremble with even more poignancy against the piano. Emotional.
Review: Critical premier neurofunk connoisseur - Emperor - is back on the imprint with one of his most audacious, ferocious and diverse offerings to date. It's hasn't been too long since his Bloodsport EP last year, and Mantmast features once more on the title tune - 'Boxcutter'. His vocal talent is equally menacing this time around, laid out on 'Boxcutter' with a precision befitting the instrumental's sharp, biting quality. 'Sosig Thing' is probably the most downright dirty of the bunch, with thunderous atmospherics and a punishing, pulsating back end that ricochets about the range. Emperor shows he can make minimal with the best of them on 'Silenced', which makes up for its overt devastation with subtle sub bass wobbles and energetic fluidity. Another stellar release from the Critical camp.
Review: He's back! It feels like an eternity since his "Shadow" EP but now we know what Conor's been up to - he's been getting into cage fighting and "Bloodsport" is his gritty, steppy ode to the gentleman's game. Elsewhere he grows sharp "Claws" with a twisted, glitched out jumpy riff bender, he debunks logic and maths with the beautiful, pensive and delicate soul of "Half Makes Whole" and he takes us out over choppy sense-blurring seas with the white knuckle paranoia jam "Navigante". Bloody marvellous.
Review: Yorkshire's darkest D&B talent Emperor steps up with yet another forthright slab or triple-track grit. "Passed Up" has a bass presence that's near-overwhelming thanks its bulbous drone that refuses to quit. "SMPL" strips things back and looks more towards the late 90s Ed Rush & Optical style techstyle - loopy with real mechanical bite, it's a surgical shamanistic heads down affair. Finally "Mind Games"; a ruthless bass ripper that's almost jump up in its attitude, you can't help but think of Ram Trilogy at their finest when this pops off. With potential to unite all sub genres and sides of the D&B dance, Emperor has well and truly smashed it here.
Review: After much anticipation, Enei finally brings us his debut album on Critical. The universally respected young Russian artist has done nothing but impress since he burst onto the D&B scene a few years ago. And safe to say, Machines lives up to all the hype and expectation. Bringing together all the elements that make up his characteristic sound expect tough, tech-y terseness alongside sparse, minimal moments and driving energy. The title track gets things off to a great start with its infectious, pulsing energy. Elsewhere watch out for tracks like the vocal-driven loveliness of "Runnin (feat. Georgia Yates)" as well as the bleep n click-y "I Don't Know", the moodiness of "Thin Line", plus a VIP of old favourite "Cracker" and a June Miller remix of "Movin Fast". A superb debut from Enei.
Review: St Petersburg drum and bass producer presents us with his fourth album of high tech engineered drum and bass, guaranteed to deliver some serious future shock. There's some real dystopian themes overshadowing this album, but Aleksei Ergachevnov has the right knack for sound design to pull of the concept and album as a whole. There's some undeniable influences from some of the masters of the craft, such as Ed Rush and Optical and Peshay, but he's definitely representing the new garde of breakbeat science pretty damn well. Highlights include the subterranean sonar transmissions of "Iron Curtain", the jazzy liquid breaks of "Moment Of Now (feat Frank Carter III", the evil futurist minimalism of "Just One Look (Feat. Charli Brix)" and the peak time destroyer "Between The Split". One for the heads.
Review: Enei is an artist who has been massively blowing up in the D&B scene in the past year, and here he cements his reputation as one of Saint Petersburg's finest on Kasra's Critical imprint. The title track "Stonehead" is all trademark sharp, snapping breaks punctuated by a vitriolic gangster-style vocal urging us to "trust me", with a rolling b-line below. "No Fear", up next, features the lyrical prowess of Riya, who brings in a female Kemo style rap vocal to fidgeting drums and Ramadanman-meets-Rockwell SFX. Enei ups the dancefloor vibes in "Movin Fast" which has a trancey synth-led intro, with punchy drums and warping SFX, dropping into a bonafide banger. Last and not least, Jubei goes in on the remix duties for previous hit "Cracker", transforming it into an even moodier meditation.