Blu Mar Ten: Famous Lost Words
Blu Mar Ten Music

That Blu Mar Ten produces state-of-the-art drum'n'bass is amply shown by the group's latest collection Famous Lost Words. But that shouldn't necessarily come as a major surprise: after all, the project's been in operation since August 20, 1995 and current members Chris Marigold and Michael Tognarelli (the names listed at the Blu Mar Ten Facebook page) bring a deep history to their music-making. In its early years, the outfit issued a broad range of music—everything from jungle and breaks to house—on an equally large number of labels, among them Exceptional Records, Hospital, Renegade Hardware, Shogun Audio, and Tangent, before establishing its own Blu Mar Ten imprint in 2009 and releasing its first full and proper drum'n'bass album, Natural History, and 2011 follow-up Love is the Devil. And now comes Famous Lost Words, whose thirteen polished productions weigh in at a generous seventy-one minutes.

The strongest possible argument for the Blu Mar Ten sound is offered by the album opener “Somewhere,” a sultry, late-night beauty earmarked by multiple elements: Agné Genyté's serenading whisper, atmospheric piano chords, muted horn accents, and an inspired four-note percussion motif. Here and elsewhere, Blu Mar Ten grounds the track with a classic, rock-steady drum'n'bass pattern that complements the other elements without overpowering them. In addition to “Somewhere,” Genyté elevates two other tracks, the luscious “Break it All Apart” and euphoric closer “In Your Eyes,” with her crystal-clear delivery. She's not the only singer to take part: Robert Manos contributes a soulful vocal to the high-roller “Thin Air,” his soaring voice clearly audible despite the dizzying swirl of keyboards and synths that surrounds it.

The group's tougher side comes to the fore in “Hunter,” a lethal, bass-throbbing dynamo that includes contributions from Seba and receives a distinctive kick from the hiccup in its hard-hitting pulse. For those who prefer their drum'n'bass served up raw and pure, there are light-speed belters aplenty (“Big Shots,” “Holding Pattern,” “Ariel”), while Blu Mar Ten showcases its more atmospheric take on the form in a few places as well (“Famous Lost Words,” “Half the Sky,” “Night Shift”). The album's strong from start to finish no matter the style on display, and the involvement of collaborators makes a huge difference in the colour and diversity they add to the project. Factor in the well-seasoned craft that Marigold and Tognarelli bring to Famous Lost Words and you've got a superb example of sophisticated drum'n'bass circa 2013.

January 2014