Dexta: Tempest Dub / Mukky Riddim

Digital, Dub Phizix & Response: Respek da Foundation EP

Klute: You Won't Like It / Rays
Commercial Suicide

Mako, Villem & Mcleod: Inner Revolution / Borrowed Love

Seba: Inside Yourself / Berberian Sound
Secret Operations

A roundup of new singles and EPs by a variety of producers shows the many different shapes and directions drum'n'bass can be pulled into.

Up first is London-based Chris Royle who releases music under the Dexta name and is one of the co-founders of the Diffrent Music imprint. Much like the music released on the label, Royle's Dexta material evades easy genre pigeonholing by drawing upon a number of influences as opposed to drum'n'bass only. In a given Dexta track, no one style predominates, and Royle's appetite for experimentation and exploration repeatedly shines through. The pair released on None60 handily illustrate such tendencies, with the first steeped in murky dubstep atmosphere and the second a heavy, synth-diseased stepper: “Tempest Dub” packs a wealth of detail into its echo-drenched five minutes, foremost among them a foreboding dubwise vocal, swollen synths, and a curdling slow-motion groove, while claps, ominous piano themes, and punchy beatsmithing help make “Mukky Riddim” the more animated of the two. Heady stuff, no matter how you categorize it.

London-based Tom Withers has been issuing Klute music since his first twelve-inch under that name appeared on Certificate 18 records all the way back in 1995. With the advent of 2015 signifying twenty years of recorded activity, Withers plans on stepping up his release schedule in a big way. First up is this three-track twelve-inch on Commercial Suicide, the label he founded in 2001, and plans are afoot to follow it with singles and EPs on Commercial Suicide as well as other labels; there'll also be a full-length album towards the end of 2015, plus a compilation featuring some of Klute's best stuff midway through the year. For now, however, his latest three-tracker does just fine. The cheekily titled opener “You Won't Like It” kicks into gear from the first second, a snappy slice of radiant drum'n'bass that rumbles and thrums with hard-grooving purpose. Frenetic without veering off the rails, the expertly crafted tune's the kind of thing Klute probably can do in his sleep at this stage, though that hardly argues against it, especially when it's powered by such dynamic thrust. “Rays” inhabits two dimensions simultaneously: on the one hand, it's a belter animated by a tough, bass-heavy groove; on the other, it's a shimmering exercise in synth-heavy splendour. In this case, however, Withers saves the best for last in the form of “Be Good To The Ones (You Love),” which peppers billowing synth atmospheres and string plucks with a rapid-fire pulse to gloriously transporting effect. If the label didn't bring with it such a taint, I'd be tempted to call it IDM, albeit IDM of the most perfectly realized kind.

Anything involving Mako (Bristol, UK-based Stephen Redmore) is something we want to hear, including releases involving him in a collaborative capacity. In a recent textura article (here), Redmore opined, “Generally I would want to show any new listener that drum'n'bass doesn't have to be generic plastic pop but instead can be soulful and groove-based yet still dark and energetic.” One need look no further for proof of that than a new two-tracker on Redmore's own Utopia Music imprint, which sees Mako teaming up with Villem and Mcleod on one track and sitting out the second. The more soulful one of the two, “Inner Revolution,” derives much of its allure from the breathy vocal expressions and delicate piano chords the trio sprinkles across the tune's rhythmic snap. A six-minute master class in moodsculpting and musicality, the track is as smooth and sultry as drum'n'bass gets and should have strong appeal to lovers of Calibre and his ilk. In the second cut, Villem & Mcleod surprisingly slow the BPM a tad on “Borrowed Love” for a lulling, dream-like foray where a female singer stretches out the vocal line ("Now I see that I could never live on borrowed love, love, love, love, love...”) in arresting manner—a nice complement to “Inner Revolution,” even if, rhythmically, its slow, bedroom groove is as close to funk as it is drum'n'bass, properly speaking.

Following upon his early 2014 EP Mesmerism and 2013 full-length Identity, the latest twelve-inch from Swedish producer Sebastian Ahrenberg pulls modern techno into Seba's drum'n'bass universe. Issued on his own Secret Operations imprint, the two-tracker achieves immediate liftoff with “Inside Yourself,” a kinetic, seven-minute sojourn powered by technoid clatter and dub-drenched chords. With distorted voice effects added for additional atmosphere, the tune impresses as a hypnotic moodscape as much as a bona fide club cut. On the flip, Ahrenberg's polished production skills are well-accounted for by the funky swing and dynamics of “Berberian Sound.” Ahrenberg infuses his expertly executed material with a constant ebb-and-flow that holds the listener's attention, while voice treatments and sound effects lend the track a somewhat spooky character.

Similar to Seba, Mako, and Klute, Steve Carr's latest Digital EP, Respek da Foundation, comes to us by way of his own label, Function. In addition to Digital's solo cut “Forever,” Response comes aboard for “Silver Lining,” while Digital's “Deadline” is treated to a remix by Dub Phizix. In his own words, the EP finds Carr paying homage to his “jungle, hardcore drum'n'bass, and old skool influences.” Response and Digital power the opening “Silver Lining” with a thrumming breakbeat pulse that oozes a deliciously classic drum'n'bass vibe whilst still sounding fresh. With an irrepressibly pulsating sub-bass and twinkling atmospherics also central to the mix, the jungle-inflected cut roars in the best sense of the word. In a radical change-up, Dub Phizix recasts “Deadline” with quirky stop-start rhythm treatments and convulsive accents until what results seems more a wonky Dub Phizix track than one by Digital, after which “Forever” ends Carr's fine EP in an old-school blaze of wiry synthesizer patterns, soul vocalisms, and high-energy junglisms.

February 2015