Artificial Intelligence: Timeline

Full stop: Timeline doesn't present the next innovative chapter in drum'n'bass; listeners hungry for advances to the form will have to look elsewhere for that. What Artificial Intelligence's Zula Warner and Glenn Herweijer do offer, however, is high-quality material that, even if locked solidly into the tradition, is undeniably hard-hitting. With A.I. releases dating back to 2003, the London duo has received its share of awards and acclaim—in 2006, for example, Radio 1 deemed “Desperado” the ‘Number 1 Drum & Bass Tune of The Year'—and, based on the evidence of this latest assured collection, clearly knows its way around a dynamic belter.

At sixteen cuts and eighty minutes, it's a generously stuffed release, though the two closing tracks, being alternate versions of earlier album cuts, are largely superfluous. Even so, there's more than enough to dig into, and the material draws on multiple styles, jungle, soul, and house among them. There are tight neurofunk and drum'n'bass grooves aplenty, and A.I. brings guests aboard for some of it, with DRS, Terri Walker, Steo, and MC Sense contributing vocals to respective cuts. An occasional speaking voice or instrument sample works its way into the material to enhance A.I.'s cred as sound designers, but Warner and Herweijer never stray so far into experimental territory they lose their grip on the music's drum'n'bass essence.

Steo's and Terri Walker's soulful vocal performances catapult “Take Me There” and “Justify” to euphoric heights, the atmospheric “Aroma” and anthemic “Fallen” (featuring Dawn Wall) document A.I.'s soulful side, and “Privilege” (with Sense) and the raw jungle workout “The Source” thunder with dynamic intent. With DRS's biting flow added to the mix, “Pass the Buck” hits with a lethal force similar to “Firestarter,” especially when bass stabs careen with so much intensity they feel capable of taking your head off. At such moments, innovation takes a back seat to the visceral pleasure provided by the listening experience.

December 2015