DJ Trax: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Tempo Records

In a 1959 Twilight Zone episode involving time travel, Paul Driscoll, despairing of 20th-century life, seeks out earlier times in the hope of altering the present. Samples from the telecast surface during “Send Me Back,” one of four tracks on DJ Trax's latest EP, but lines such as “Press the button, my friend. Send me back into time...” assume a slightly different meaning in this new context: put simply, they seem to express the producer's desire to transport the listener back to that heady period when Jungle and drum'n'bass first began dropping jaws. If Discogs is correct, David Davies' first DJ Trax twelve-inch appeared in 1993 (on Moving Shadow), which suggests that the Essex, UK-based producer was right in the thick of it when the genres exploded.

All of which means that you pretty much know what you're in for on this new set for Tempo Records before the needle drops—not that there's anything objectionable about that if you're a Jungle fan. Issued as a limited clear vinyl pressing (plus download voucher), the twenty-seven-minute EP features enough spasmodic rhythms, wall-shaking bass drops, and clattering snares to keep genre devotees enthralled, and though it won't win any awards for originality, the quality level is indisputably high.

Bolting from the gate, “20,000 Beats Under the Sea” only stops to catch its breath when a female singer interjects a soulful yelp into the seething storm. Wailing with jackhammer-like fury, the cut's a classic riff on Jungle's established tropes, though it's no less pleasurable for being so. “This Station” hits as hard, even managing to sneak in a smattering of jazz feeling when Rhodes chords warm the throbbing pulse, while the bongo-like clatter roaring through “Send Me Back” calls to mind another classic, Plug's Drum'n'Bass For Papa. With beats so thunderous, it's easy to overlook just how artfully crafted the EP's material is in terms of textural detail. Voice and vocal samples and synthesizers add much to the sound design, and as a result 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ends up being considerably more satisfying than a paint-by-numbers exercise in beatsmithing.

April 2017