Next Friday one of drum & bass’ breakout nights, Critical Sound, returns to host Room Three and thankfully, in returning to the intimate space of the top deck they’ve not compromised any of what made the initial sessions back in the middle of last year so essential. Rockwell, Sabre, FD, Script and Foreign Concept all return to the fold to join label boss Kasra in the booth for what promises to be another un-missable display of musical muscle.
The aforementioned Sabre is an artist who holds a glowing spot on the imprint. His ‘A Wandering Journal’ album, proved to a lot of ears that his take on the long player format was as conceptual and futuristic as it was club ready. After making the leap into drum & bass production after getting besotted with it whilst out raving, Sabre has risen through the ranks of the global electronic music fraternity, securing his reputation as a twisted yet soulful thinker, bringing a grittier sound to the rolling, deeper spectrum of drum & bass. ‘A Wandering Journey’ is a true expression of his experimental nature, an outright endeavour to try something new rather than to travel tried and tested routes and even now, 18 or so months since its release it still delivers a heady punch.
To mark his appearance next week, we’re lucky enough to be able to bring you a taste of his club sets at the moment on this exclusive FABRICLIVE x Critical Sound mix. As ever with Critical associated artists the mix flickers through tough tones and serene heights, all the while positively revelling in the d&b tempo’s momentum.
So Sabre, how did you originally get involved with drum & bass? And how did it lead you to working with Kasra and Critical?
I’ve been deejaying most of my life; starting off with hip-hop and moving onto jungle and eventually drum & bass. Then about 10 years ago I started to get to grips with production. The techstep d&b of the time was ground-breaking music and inspired me hugely, and to this day is a strong factor in my musical outlook
Kasra is someone who shared that same experience of the late 90’s scene; latching onto many of the same artists and labels that I was into. I think that crossover in our heritage has meant we have a lot of common goals in how we see the drum and bass scene and our place in it.
Your album, A Wandering Journal, felt like a very intensive project. Would you agree with that statement? How do you think the project was received?
I’m overjoyed at how the album was received. I wanted to reach out to an audience outside of the immediate drum and bass community and that has been the case. Having such a precise vision meant I became a bit of a control freak – that in itself was tiring, but at the same time rewarding. The project is exactly what I wanted it to be, it’s the original outlook I had as close to unadulterated as could’ve been the case.
What have you been working on since its release in 2010? You’re kind of meticulous in the studio right? What kind of stuff are you producing?
I felt it essential to take a big break after the album, back then I was thinking at least a full year. In reality it was more like 9 months and since then the mood has definitely been quite ‘collaborative’. It’s been great to get back into the studio with Cern who’s recently relocated to the UK from NZ. There’s a very particular ‘old skool’ sound we’re trying to nail and have been working on a batch of beats in that vein. Equally there seems to be quite a growing catalogue of stuff between Stray, Halogenix and myself. I think the decision to focus on collabs for the moment is partly because I myself am relocating overseas with my studio and won’t have as much of a chance to work on face-to-face collabs… The plan is get as many of them locked before I leave the country for a while. There’s a real broad range of styles being made, but one strand that’s re-emerged quite strongly is the ‘moody liquid’ stuff I was making at the time of my first releases.
A lot of artists recently have dropped tempos and entered into other genres. Can you see yourself doing that in the future at all?
I’ve always made hip-hop instrumentals and I think I always will. In relation to 120-140 stuff; I make bits and pieces - and a lot of the very ambient electronica I make is about this speed, but I think there’s still some room to refine what I’m making in terms of dancefloor stuff. I just tend to operate at any BPM I catch a groove from; same goes for my DJ sets, if the crowd seem receptive enough.
What do you make of the current state of d&b?
I think d&b has had a really healthy makeup for about 3 or 4 years now. No one style dominates the scene, and within the scene there’s a really broad range of people attending the events. I get the feeling club land as a whole has shrunk a little bit in Europe or at least has got slightly less adventurous, but underground scenes seem to be doing okay, and its mostly the underground, progressive music that I’m feeling. Its impressive to see drum and bass tracks, or least tracks that tip their cap to drum and bass featuring highly in the charts – it’s definitely broadened the scope of the scene.
What has been the highlight of the year so far, gig wise?
This small festival up in Herefordshire back in May, it was a very chilled crowd but totally enthusiastic, and an absolutely obscene sound system for such a cosy arena; it made everything sound brutal!
Critical nights are always well anticipated, and you have been DJing for Critical for quite a while, do you find playing out today as nerve racking or exciting as when you started?
The only time deejaying really gets that nerve racking is when there’s a technical fault. Busted monitor, crazy feedback, dodgy power cable… whatever. That shit can throw you right off course, and you have double-up your concentration to keep your crowd. Lugging a laptop around a club for Serato feels like a disaster waiting to happen at almost every event I go to, amazingly (touch wood) I’ve never had that fatal spilt pint, or piss-head with flailing limbs fuck up my set.
Catch Sabre in Room Three on 5th August.
Sabre – FABRICLIVE x Critical Sound Mix
01/ Stray - Wired
02/ Mikal - Come get some [Data Rmx]
03/ Alix Perez - Ball Bag
04/ Dally - Druid
05/ Kodo - The Jackal
06/ Fade & Mono - Grilled
07/ Hybris - Lair
08/ Cern & Borderline - Unreality
09/ Optiv & BTK - Submission
10/ Rido - Focus
11/ Need for Mirrors - Skip Rope
12/ Konflict - Bad Acid
11/ Keza - Write Off
12/ Enei & Riya - No Fear
13/ Marcus Intallex & S.T.Files - My Soul
14/ Sight Unseen - Challenger Deep
15/ Random Movement - Feeling Translated
16/ Mortem - The Touch [Sabre Rmx]