Gerwin: Against The Clock / See Thru My Eyes

Hibea: White Owl / The Form

Chris Octane: Synthetics / Gaia Dub

The French label IM:Ltd is releasing some fantastic drum'n'bass music these days, as shown by these spanking new sets by Gerwin and Hibea. Gerwin's digital two-tracker gets underway with “Against the Clock,” its dystopic intro quickly supplanted by a tight breakbeat foundation accompanied by a repeating vocal grunt and lethal sub-bass action. While there's intensity aplenty, Gerwin isn't afraid to mix things up artistically by inserting a mid-song breakdown before letting the groove jump back into position. The romantically titled “See Thru My Eyes” chills the pace ever so slightly while also panoramically widening the view, the broad vista ablaze with all manner of vocal fragments, searing bass flourishes, and exotic atmosphere.

Issued in both vinyl and digital formats (the latter version featuring two digital-only cuts), Ukrainian producer Hibea's release is as good as Gerwin's if not even better. Powered by a punchy snare-and-bass drum combination, “White Owl” artfully overlays its ear-catching bottom end (replete with timbales, no less) with a trippy three-note theme that helps tie the track together. Fade's take-no-prisoners, digital-only remix jacks up the original's intensity by recasting it as a Jungle-inflected dynamo, its bass storm augmented by a pulverizing attack rooted in aggressive snares and squirrely vocal accents. Oddly, Hibea's second original, “The Form,” is offered as the other digital-only track, with Phil Tangent's remix the one made available in physical and digital versions. No matter: Tangent's treatment is a classic heavy-hitter of the first order, while the original—six dazzling minutes of windstorms, windups, bass throb, and percussive fury—is about as strong an argument for Hibea's skills as could be imagined. Anyone still questioning the potential artfulness of the drum'n'bass form need look no further.

Issued on his own new imprint CO:RE (CO Recordings), Chris Octane's release is an explorative and boundary-pushing solo outing from the Octane & DLR member. Eschewing the usual uptempo BPM of the standard drum'n'bass track, Octane opts for a more ponderous vibe in “Synthetics” by adding a brooding spoken word element (a philosophical rumination on space and time, to be precise) to a mechano groove that skitters and writhes in equal degree. Even more atmospheric and experimental is “Gaia Dub,” which again pairs a slightly distorted speaking voice with a shape-shifting backdrop that's only tangentially connected to the drum'n'bass genre. Think of Octane's release as an exercise in sound design best played in between Gerwin's and Hibea's, a two-tracker designed more for listening than body-moving.

May 2013