Andyskopes: True Human Emotion / True Chord Redux

Anile: All This Time / That Night
CIA Deepkut

Break / Detail: Steamtrain / Days Go By
Symmetry Recordings

Ed:it / Mikal: Cargo Dub (Total Science Remix) / Kick Back
Rooted Recordings

Skittles: In For Me Remixes
Estate UK

Drum'n'bass doesn't always have to seethe like some rabid pit bull, as this debut single for C.I.A's sister label Deepkut by Anile (Matthew Tapp) makes clear. In this case, the two tracks receive dramatic boosts from the respective vocal contributions of classically trained singer Hannah Eve and Jess Brinham. The deep rolling groove powering A-side's “All This Time” is nicely complemented by Eve's soulful performance—her delicate musings an elegant counterpoint to the smooth bass lines and twinkling pianos that atmospherically adorn Anile's lush track. Classy, too, is “That Night,” which, especially when graced by a vocal from Brinham tinged with regret, is as sultry as the A-side if a tad more downcast in spirit (“Something's comin' over me / Haven't been the same since that evening…”). Suffused with emotion, both cuts hit hard but, refreshingly, a tad less so than your average drum'n'bass throwdown. Romantic despair never sounded so good.

Also available is a fine two-tracker from Break (Symmetry Recordings runner Charlie Bierman) and Detail. Break, who's been rolling out drum'n'bass material since 2001, makes good on the title of “Steamtrain” by sprinkling the track with hydraulic, train-related sounds but more importantly by powering it with a writhing, gut-punching groove and descending, three-note motif. Adding to the cut's dark character is an evocative sound design that makes the material seem as if Break coated it in industrial soot and grime before shipping it to the pressing plant. Considerably less lethal by comparison is the B-side's deep stepper “Days Go By” by Detail, especially when it includes a haunting vocal by Tiiu. Melancholy in tone and tailor-made for the early hours, the rainswept cut has more in common with Anile's than Break's but nevertheless makes a strong case for Detail's refined production skills.

The two-track single from Rooted Recordings featuring cuts from Ed:it and Metalheadz' Mikal is worth tracking down, too. Total Science's rough'n'ready rework of Ed:it's “Cargo Dub” locks into position from the first moment and keeps the magic happening for five too-short minutes with a locomotive, bass-throbbing attack that's anvil-heavy and grime-laden but also elegant in its incorporation of piano flourishes. If anything, “Kick Back” possesses even more oomph than “Cargo Dub” as Mikal gets maximum mileage out of the tune's punishing beat pattern and writhing bass smears. Though an occasional voice snippet rises to the surface, it's quickly pulled back into the vortex in a cut that's primarily about groove.

Utopia Music's first all-out jungle slice comes from Andyskopes aka London, UK-based Andrew Lawrence, who toiled at the Croydon record store Wax City before jumpstarting his producing career and releasing material on Mako's Utopia Music (2011's Distance From You / Reading By The White Lake) and Seba's Secret Operations (2011's Call To Arms / Trash Talk, with Mr Joseph), as well as Mr Joseph's Fizzy Beats and Bryan Gee's Liquid V. Andyskopes' new two-tracker for Utopia's a piledriving, fifteen-minute riff on ‘90s jungle whose chopped breaks and booming subs act like some instant time machine. “True Chord Redux VIP,” apparently a rework of an older tune, begins harmlessly enough with warm pads but kicks into gear at the twenty-second mark and grows progressively stronger thereafter. Things really heat up ninety seconds in when those trademark snare rolls and detonating kick drums start wailing. Lawrence keeps things interesting by artfully alternating between delicate ambient interludes and breakneck sequences, resulting in a track that avoids one-dimensionality and predictability. The flip “True Human Emotion” opts for a Photek-styled foray into mangled, light-speed breaks and an atmosphere of cinematic menace. Occasional pauses allow spoken word samples (“We…are the gods now”) and rain drizzle to emerge in those moments when the drums aren't strafing everything in sight. Derivative, yes, but also powerful.

Lest anyone think Skittles' “In For Me” concerns anxiety over an imminent lethal threat, its lyrics clarify that the track's more a scathing indictment of the music industry (“These boys got it in for me / They don't want to let me in the industry”). Taken from his 2012 album Poor With £100 Trainers, the track receives muscular makeovers from Need For Mirrors (Joe Moses and Emilio Dimitri) and Jubei (Paul Ager), both of who have released material on Metalheadz as well as numerous other labels (the digital release supplements the vinyl with Skittles' original and an extra remix by Manchester's Metrodome). Jubei reworks the original into a punchy roller powered by metallic snares and marauding sub-bass and punctuated by dubby chords and atmospheric electric guitar shadings. There's a lot of activity packed into five minutes: imagine a grime-laden, vocal-laced slice of drum'n'bass seasoned with dub and dubstep and you're almost there. On the flip, Need For Mirrors unleashes a high-octane version whose frenetic groove skips with serious purpose. Dub's still part of the equation and the guitar's still present too, but the thing that most catches one's ear in Need For Mirrors' take is the hot-wired, bass-percolating groove.

August-September 2013