Between the staff employed here we spend a whole bunch of our time seeking out, reacting to, recommending and playing each other new music. Understandably it’s an integral part of what we do. So, in simplistic terms, we wanted to create a place for us to share the things we share internally, with you, externally. But rather than have that be screenshots of hundreds of different and badly spelled Skype IMs we decided to make it a little bit more curated, so we asked Hanna Wiggins (@Wiiigz) to put together her take on the month just gone in drum & bass music...
It’s been a bulletin-fueled month in the microcosm of drum & bass with the drama coming thick and fast amidst crushing lows, emotionally charged highs and moments of sheer wonderment that prove almost too abundant to address within the confines of this one feature…
Hardware Says Goodbye, Nearly...
June played host to a stunning announcement from Renegade Hardware boss man, Clayton Hines, who is pulling the plug on the record label’s twenty year reign as drum & bass’ tech-step nobility. Outlining plans to draw the curtains on the legendary label following a spate of events leading up to a 3000 capacity springtime finale in February 2016, Hines passed on the heartbreaking news via his facebook page on June 8th in a poignant statement that encapsulated what this two-decade strong hub of the community truly meant to him and its thousands of die-hard followers.
He remarked: “We have had an amazing run and countless good times whilst taking the Renegade Hardware brand around the world, but we think it is now time to close this chapter and move on to other endeavours.”
And so the flood gates opened as a myriad of cherished memories and well wishes poured in from across their respective social media, imbued with the self-styled, half-glass-full, stiff upper lip commonality of the drum & bass community, with members taking solace in that familiar line: ‘all good things must come to an end’. Ensuing announcements on the Hardware facebook page have outlined the remaining label events in which you can catch these true titans of the scene before the lights go out on this particular era which includes an eye watering see-it-to-believe-it one-off date here at FABRICLIVE alongside the mighty Critical Sound on the 10th July which has been affectionately dubbed #Critware by excited, nostalgia-tripping fans awaiting this momentous piece of the action.
True to form, drum & bass has been stretching its legs internationally through the summer festival calendar, but nowhere quite as spectacularly as last weekend at Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Over 40,000 day-glo adorned revelers piled into the super-sized event held inside the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with everything on the menu from brostep to techno to trap and house music with lots in between, including, of course, ‘EDM’, whatever it actually is that those three letters mean… The more refined ears of the acute US electronic music movement are slowly but surely casting their attention further afield and onto 170 BPM music, with the promoters of EDC taking pride in their affiliation with the ‘niche’ genre (ahem!), proclaiming to have fostered somewhat of a beacon for d&b in the United States. The bassPOD stage was a flame-throwing showcase of the genre’s finest and brightest DJs and as the dazzling light shows and tripped-out visuals captured the quintessential sensory overload masquerading as hedonism of the EDM experience, representatives of Vision Recordings, RAM Records, MTA Records and Critical Music kept it real and conquered new territories with sets from Andy C, Black Sun Empire, Wilkinson, Ed Rush & Optical, Friction, Metrik, The Upbeats, Noisia, Kasra, Foreign Concept, Enei and more.
Social media feeds were also a’flutter this month owing to the world’s largest drum & bass event, Let It Roll, finally releasing its full bill of artists. The esteemed open-air Czech festival announced details of this year’s three-day extravaganza, boasting label stage takeovers from the scene’s crème de la crème, including Metalheadz, Eat Brain, Blackout, Critical Music, Playaz and Shogun Audio. Established as a series of club events in 2003, the genre-specific event grows from strength to strength with exponential success and glowing acclaim having superseding Outlook as 'Best Festival’ at the Drum & Bass Arena Awards last year. Held in the small town of Milovice, some 25 miles northeast of the capital of Prague, Let It Roll 2015 will be presenting a phenomenal 220 DJs and producers for your raving pleasure between the 30th July - 1st August. By all accounts, it’s one hell of an experience.
Drum & bass demigod, renowned artist and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Goldie, launched his latest business venture this month fusing his devout passion for bikram yoga and all things steezy. Born of the steamy yoga studios of Soho, London, Yogangster active wear is the natural culmination of the Metalheadz label boss’ love for the practice, since locking into his first downward dog back in 2010. The stretching enthusiast chalks Bikram up as his saviour from the destructive forces of a well-documented battle against drugs, having switched to a much healthier form of addiction since stepping foot into the therapeutic domain of a yoga studio some five years back. The collection includes an array of strikingly printed shorts, tees and racerback crops, water bottles and sharply branded towels; so you can now look the part whilst aligning your spiritual centre…
The long players came thick and fast in June with huge releases peppering the month including Heroes; the debut solo album from venerated Brazilian d&b import DJ Marky on his Innerground label, the return of hallowed Shogun Audio duo Spectrasoul with Mistress and the fearless convention-smashing demolition derby that is Lynx, who’s back with an exhilarating third studio album on the gigantic Hospital Records. The unabashedly titled I Am Lynx is an intensely defiant and distinctive assortment of toe tapping, rule breakin’, all-encompassing noise that you won’t really be able to put your finger on. From start to finish, this quirky 12-track project is a fiercely unique offering from the Portsmouth based heretic with the production finesse to fluster even the most zealous of sound nerds. The devilishly infectious element that runs throughout I Am Lynx is enough to tick the box for most, but it doesn’t just stop there; the hyperactive unpredictability of the LP runs so much deeper than what’s obvious on the surface, juxtaposing an ostensibly poppy musicality atop the headsy production principles that have earned Lynx such a big name.
Finally released this month after a swirl of finely tuned promotion, Spectrasoul dropped their highly anticipated second LP, Mistress on Shogun Audio and a fine figure of an album it is too. The pair originally shot to recognition with their deep jungle sound, amassing a hefty reputation off the back of a healthy catalogue of mature and distinctive rollers that titillated even the most chin stroking of crowds. The pair went on to develop a broader palette of influence, drawing futuristic sounds from across the Atlantic. Their aptly named multi-genre debut album Delay No More of 2012 hit just right in the drum & bass community while attracting interest from further afield by virtue of its diversity. Mistress continues to elaborate upon the duo’s exploration of this broader sensibility; showcasing their songwriting capabilities with hugely accessible tracks like ‘Shelter’ and crystallizing a more refined sound. Paradoxically the title track, ’Sasquatch’, ‘Blindsided’ and ‘Always’ sustain the d&b elements the duo came up on, albeit in a poppier sense, whilst the remainder of Mistress makes a bold departure from the restrictive dancefloor tag, bleeding into the realm of the powerfully produced and undefinable quality that characterizes the contemporary electronic landscape.
EP output has also been particularly strong this month, including Inside The Box from Critical Music. Having worked together previously on tracks ‘So Real’ and ‘Breath’, this is the debut body of work from label boss, Kasra in collaboration with Russian super-talent, Enei. Harking back to the darkly foreboding minimalism of Enei’s Machines album circa 2012; this five track release is a welcome progression from a moment that squarely placed Enei and Critical on the map. The EP’s stand out track ‘Overthinking’ enlists the formidable DRS to particularly devastating effect.
Another wicked offering, came from the Exit Records camp with Paradise EP; a third solo venture on dBridge’s acclaimed label by the Ivy Lab associated beat maker, Stray. With a gloriously warm and varied batch of material the EP’s secured wide acclaim across the electronic music spectrum. The release was announced with an eye-catching mini site; projecting a strong visual aesthetic with the fiery acrylic-daubed artwork. It’s a steady evolution from Stray’s previous EPs Matchsticks and Chatterbox and the seven tracks that comprise Paradise continue to disobey any limitations of genre switching provocatively from hip hop and soul, to jungle and drum & bass as Stray’s unrestricted palette of influence shapes up like a free flowing expression of an artist in a sweet spot.
Another label appreciated by many for its sleek online distinction and proclivity for going the extra mile to provide an attractive catalogue of physical products is the Berlin-based Samurai Music. This month saw the purveyor of the genre’s most prolific eyes down drum & bass drop the physical release of what some fans are calling ‘the best 12” of the year so far’ by Overlook, Loxy and Resound. The pitch-black groove of ‘The Lodge’ keeps things raw, whilst a classic break is optimized to maximum effect as the track builds on ‘The Harbour’ before the EP plummets to the deepest depths of a truly militant second break. Presha continues the Samurai Music trend of sharp looking vinyl; cutting this release on tasteful ‘fire’ and ‘ember’ marbled wax.
And lastly in the flurry of ear/eye candy combinations this month is from scene titans Metalheadz with the phenomenally received All Blue EP from Halogenix – aka the second Ivy Lab member to be present fresh solo wares this month. With award-winning UK jazz virtuoso Cleveland Watkiss laying down the vocals on the title track; All Blue is a body of work that sums up the producer’s delicate balance between silken soulfulness and well-muscled rollers. The producer’s effortless hallmark sound is elevated by the unusual artwork accompanying the release. Painted in hues of blue, the artwork, depicting a twilight scene of a smoking woman sat thoughtfully on the banks of an idyllic coastal retreat, goes some way to provide a visual context to the introspective EP.
Header photo: Sarah Ginn