Review: Alibi are the Brazilian duo who never fail to impress and having dropped a stellar debut album only months ago, they're back with a four-track EP on the inimitable V Recordings. Catalyst sees a return to their gritty, barebones take on rolling D&B, it's a format that they manage to constantly reinvent for themselves and Catalyst does it just as well as usual. 'Directions' is arguably the highlight, with numerous artists singing its praises on Twitter and we can see why, with a big, wide and synthy build up that dissipates wonderfully on the drop into a spacious, forceful arrangement that breathes well and moves even better. Top EP once more from the boys.
Review: Level 2 and DJ Chap continue to demolish the dance with their currently-spotless Alibi project; "Trunk" is a conga-weaving roller with all the hallmark ingredients of a timeless classic heads-down roller; tight percussion, creeping basses and subtle bars from Coppa, everything about it is deep, dark and dangerous. "No Escape", featuring fellow Sao Paulo artist Nitri, is more of a late night fast lane stepper. Laced with techy textures but driven by a precision groove break and heaps of space, it's a smack back to the darker sounds of the early 2000s before everything went hyper. Extremely well played.
Review: Brazilian super-duo Level 2 and The Chap collide once again with two more disarming damagers: "Aftermath" pumps with a soft-but-insistent two-step and lavish filtered chords wheezing and teasing around a faraway vocal sample. "Oxygen", meanwhile, rolls with more of a timeless edge. Referencing all the classic V hallmarks - jazzy tones, subtle-but-scratchy bass and a heads-down funk feeling and well positioned vocal samples. Avuncular funk.
Review: Level 2 and DJ Chap need no introduction. Right at the front of Sao Paulo's new wave of D&B talent, their Alibi project has been damaging dancefloors (and hogging our playlists) for several years now. Enough years, in fact, to hone their stripped back dark soul signature to an album level. And here it is... Said & Done is a powerful document that cements the duo's skills and position in the game. Ranging from the subtle piano laced opener "Debris" to solid sure fire stinkers like "Through The City" (with Serum & T.R.A.C) via sci fi junglised steppers like the gently fluctuating "Recycle", this Level 2 and DJ Chap at their most widescreen; leaping from delicate ("Grace" with vocalist OG Cleveland Watkiss) to deadly (the venomous creeper "Said & Done" with MC king DRS) this is a seriously on point debut album. That moment when Said & Done is all...
Review: Astronauts and astronomers alike have been searching for the paradise planet known as Planet V but only one man knows where it is. That man is V don Bryan Gee. Luckily he's happy to take us the planet, and right now he's charging up the rocket for our third trip on pure turbo charge VIP power. For this particular sampler Alibi & Command Strange's collabs from last year both get a variation twist. "Skyline" gets a whole turbine in the bass engine while "Ahead Of Me" is given a subtle twist in the groove department while maintaining that all important roll. V flickingly sublime.
Review: Marking a triumphant return after last year's widely lauded Stand Alone LP, Artificial Intelligence offer up this brace of relicks. Firstly they overhaul "Pigeon Hole" with assistance on mic duties from the ever reliable MC DRS. Originally an instrumental track, his vocal lends a fresh flavour to this standout track from the album. Up next, the mighty Dillinja returns to do the damage on 2004's classic "Uprising" which switches things up with typically frantic percussion and furious bass stabs. Made to be played on the loudest system known to man.
Review: Beat Merchants the name; soothing's the game... Conrad, Juiceman and Jubbz' project returns with another bounty of soulful bliss. Two originals, two remixes: the agenda is set by the simple understate soul of "Lockdown" with stripped back pianos, horns and some beautiful vocal pairing throughout while "Believe" takes us to the furthest of far-sides with a blissful (and well-loved) guitar lick, an elasticated double bassline and sharp bars. Elsewhere Command Strange flips "Hurricane" into more of a barbed beast while L Side turbo charges the title track with consummate soul. Keep this on lockdown...
Review: Juiceman and Jubbz come correct once again with their Beat Merchants alias. This time packing a full EP, across four tracks the duo dig deep into the roots with some magic results. "Mandelah" is a potent piece of minimalism that swings like a Die track and is coated with all manner of little details. Elsewhere "Juju Man" gets militant on a steppy halftime dancehall vibe, "Mbe Mbe" is pure jungle music while "Zumuzah" concludes the EP on a dreamy, springy flex. Deep, rolling, heavy and authentic; Beat Merchants aren't messing around. Get to know.
Review: One of the best destinations for funky D&B, V Recordings does music with all the attitude and samba-imbued style of Brazil. Shoutout to Bryan Gee, and this time around it's a new artist - Beat Merchants - who are landing with Brace with what is a summer-worthy anthem of gorgeous vocal riffs and funky guitar flicks. There are no preconceptions here or attempts to be cool, it's just pure vibes from start to finish. Dunns River also steps in for the remix on the flip - not too shabby at all.
Review: Bryan Gee and V Recordings do not mess around. They never have in the past, they're certainly not right now in the present and judging by this highly anticipated Future album, they're going to mess around any time ahead. 25 tracks from some of the biggest, best and baddest names in D&B (Dillina, Serum, Benny L, Paul T & Edward Oberon, Roni Size, DJ Marky, Drumsound & Bassline Smith, Bladerunner, Saxxon, the list goes on) this one's been a long, long, long time coming... And it's been well worth the wait. From L-Sides massive remixes of Dillinja and Krust to Need For Mirrors super-revved "Lambo" to Benny L's incredible remix of "Days", this sums up why Bryan and his label are as influential and respected in the game as they are today. Don't mess around.
Review: V Recordings' string of wicked, more low-key singles continues with this venture from Carlito & Addiction, two acts who have been in the V orbit for a number of years. You can hear that experience in the crisp yet rough productions on display here, the old-school influences are apparent but that doesn't prevent it from being cutting edge. 'Spinner' has a lovely long introduction with an almost LTJ Bukem vibe to it, a sense of ambience that's maintained on the drop except with an added injecting of low-frequency force. 'Rain On Me' is just as subtle but even more shakey down low, with a sick collection of bass touches, stabs and wobbles. Lovely stuff.
Review: Yet another bullseye for the V camp: Command Strange returns with two straight up slabs of fire that are so hot Bryan Gee has been issues a health and safety warning. "Can't Stop" vibes with a real twist, as what begins as a classic subby roller suddenly switches into a reese and vocal fuelled stamp session. "The Gang", meanwhile, takes a few leaves from the books of neuro, Ram and Bad with its early 2000s gritty, fuzzy distorted funk. Undiluted... Handle with care.
Review: Longstanding Russian roustabout Command Strange returns to V with two more contrasting soul slicers. "Black & White" is a hundred shades of foggy misty grey as the drama is all in the ominous bassline that never gets above its savage station and rolls into the never-ending mist. "Desire" flips the jazz switch with big horns, keys and a demonstrative dulcet delivery from the best MC in the game: The singing Fats. Desirable.
Review: Command Strange is back for his first EP in quite a while and the Kazakh producer is taking any prisoners, with a return to form in his rolling, pacey style that focuses on swaying basslines and pummelling drums. The title track is vintage V, with a combination of funky stabs and a bouncing, stabby bassline that is wicked at getting the head nodding. He teams up with Dr Meaker on the heavier tones of 'Fruity', before ending things with a bang on 'Loco'. Crazy stuff indeed.
Review: Command Strange and Alibi is a combination to be reckoned with. With the former from Kazakhstan and the latter a duo from Brazil, this partnership spans both the globe and D&B's more sophisticated, classy end. Don't be fooled by that sophistication though, this is still music that's gritty and rooted in the scene's penchant for tough beats and urban sonics. 'Stardust' is a subby roller that reminds us of 'Skyline' from the same artists, and 'Major Groove' is a dirty, junglist piece of naughtiness with serious attitude. V Recordings does it again.