Commix: Call To Mind

Given that drum'n'bass releases sometimes can be woefully one-dimensional in their obsessive fixation on the genre's trademarks, Commix's Call To Mind arrives as an especially pleasing surprise. The debut Commix full-length for Metalheadz by Cambridge-based partners Guy Brewer and George Levings retains drum'n'bass's signature muscularity but broadens it out into multiple stylistic territories and reinvigorates the genre in doing so. Nowhere is that move more evident than on the opening song, “Be True,” which swoops in on soft, rippling waves of vocal loops (stitched together from samples of two ‘80s soul and blues/jazz singers, the tune pays tribute to J Dilla's looping vocal technique) before the fulminating groove and bass undertow kick in. Though “Change” traffics in spacey, turntable-heavy hip hop, its sub-bass-heavy breaks style likewise sounds indebted although in this case to Photek. Commix exits the album with the vicious throwdown “Strictly,” a move that suggests that, no matter how adventurous the group gets, Brewer and Levings aren't planning to abandon their drum'n'bass roots altogether.

But in between the album's poles, the music sometimes strays so far afield that the connection to drum'n'bass seems tangential at best: “Belleview” stokes a metronomic mechano-techno vibe, “Burn Out (Fade Away)” offers a brief hit of loping, hand-clapping funk, and “Spectacle” opts for snappy jazz-techno swing. The spacey “Call To Mind” likewise has as much in common with jazz and soul as it does drum'n'bass, and the lush soul-drum'n'bass fusion “Emily's Smile” sparkles buoyantly too. Further nods to techno emerge in “Japanese Electronics,” which merges a tick-tock mechano pulse with a banging Detroit vibe, and “Satellite Song” pushes that feel to its logical conclusion when Underground Resistance steps in for a rollicking, ultra-sleek remix. Call To Mind's polished material flows so elegantly from one track to the next, the album never feels overlong, despite a nearly seventy-minute running time.

December 2007