Digital: Shaka Zulu / Archive

Mako, DLR & Fields: Bridge the Gap / Old Soul
Utopia Music

Rahmanee: The Stopper / Reprazent
Breaks Per Minute

VA: Blind EP1
Blind Music

With so much fabulous drum'n'bass music being released these days, it's almost impossible to keep track. Regardless, what follows offers a representative sampling of recent productions by trailblazers like Rahmanee, Digital, and Mako.

Serbian producer Rahmanee (Radan Djordjevic) is first up with a two-track single released on the German imprint Breaks Per Minute Records, which was established in 2006 as a platform for drum'n'bass, breaks, and dubstep. Head-turning in the extreme, “Reprazent” scatters noir-like film elements across a bass-smeared groove that's equally indebted to dub, funk, and dubstep. Sounding like a film sample stolen from a gritty ‘50s detective film, the tune opens with some scar-faced trenchcoat snarling, “Well, you do have guts / I can kill you right now…” before a foreboding horn riff lifted from an old soundtrack hammers the point home a second time. Also strong is “The Stopper,” which radically mixes things up by smattering its dubstep-funk pulse with dancehall elements—a somersaulting vocal by MC and a battery of lazer-synth effects, to name two. Rahmanee's ride is short at ten minutes only but incredible nonetheless, and, if nothing else, the man deserves full marks for originality.

Up next is a twelve-inch single from Digital (Steve Carr), who's released material on labels such as 31 records, Metalheadz, Reinforced, and his own label Function. The A-side presents “Shaka Zulu,” a steamrolling powerhouse whose viral, synth-chugging swing and shotgun claps emphasizes the producer's dubby side (even if the Afrika Bambaataa-like voice spitting out the title evokes the early days of ‘80s hip-hop), while the flip's aptly christened “Archive” plunders the past for a thunderous workout armed with amen flavour and seething bass pulses.

Utopia Music's fifteenth single brings DLR (James Rowbotham) into the fold for a two-track twelve-inch, one a solo endeavor and the other a collaboration with Mako (Stephen Redmore) and Fields (Ben Wilson). The A-side's “Old Soul”—the group effort—infuses its funky drum'n'bass pattern with a palpable sense of melancholy and soul. The emphasis is as much on atmosphere as rhythmic drive in the classy tune, with the trio threading soul vocal flourishes and piano sprinkles in amongst its wiry breaks and bass drops. Tackling the flip's “Bridge the Gap” all by his lonesome, DLR serves up a straight-up, grime-encrusted roller that frenetically roars and fussily fidgets in time-honoured drum'n'bass fashion.

Somewhat of a curiosity, the final release in the bunch eschews artist identification completely in order to bring the focus back to the music rather than the personalities involved. With that in mind, the upstart Blind Music label presents its first release, a three-track affair featuring material by three anonymous producers. It's overall a strong set, even if one cut's weaker than the others. The odd man out isn't the well-paced opener “Blnd#1,” a luscious scene-stealer whose elegant piano minimalism possesses a Calibre-esque charm and whose bass thrums add just the right amount of flavour to the track's late-night mood. Considerably more aggressive is the stoked closer, “Blnd#3,” which rolls out a storming pulse pitched at a lightspeed gallop, though the momentum is slowed by a couple of breath-catching interludes. It's the central cut, “Blnd#2,” that impresses less, despite the fact that it begins promisingly with a film sample-laden voiceover. But with that episode over and done with, a groove kicks in that's appealingly hard-hitting but too unchanging, and consequently the track ends up being less engaging than it would have been had its beat pattern been elaborated upon more arrestingly. But two out of three ain't bad, and it'll be interesting to see—er, hear—where the label's future installments travel.

June 2014