Gerwin, Nuage & 2 Shy: Lying Portraits

Phil Tangent: Restitution / Squaring the Circle

Pardon the inelegant simile, but drum'n'bass, ever resistant to extermination, is like the cockroach of dance music sub-genres. While its detractors have long since dismissed it, drum'n'bass producers defiantly soldier on, spinning new variations on the form and expanding its range. Available in digital and twelve-inch vinyl formats, two new singles from Phil Tangent (his second single on Marcus Intalex's label Soul:R) and Gerwin, Nuage & 2 Shy (on the French label IM:LTD) show there's still ample life left in the genre—and then some.

Tangent, who received attention when his debut single “Billie's Smile / Lunar” appeared in 2009, keeps the good times rolling with his latest two-tracker. The A-side's “Restitution” bolts from the gate with trademark drum'n'bass hyperactivity, though Tangent's quick to soften its racing pulse with luscious vocal and warm synth washes, before the bass kicks in and the tune grows in soulfulness and near-symphonic grandeur. How could one not be won over by the sparkle in its eye and its ecstatic uplift? As strong, the flip's “Squaring the Circle” pairs a stirring, Bjork-like vocal line (“Your love is sent to me”) with a lethal bass undertow to maximum effect, with Tangent stripping things down to their bare essentials. It's a masterfully restrained exercise that demonstrates the producer's sensitive handling of arrangement.

On the second single, Gerwin and Nuage team up with 2Shy for an also luscious and soulful riff on the genre, with the opening cut, “Lying Portraits,” sweetening the MC's flow with a warm, jazz-tinged vibe and flute and horn touches. Classy and elegant, the tune spotlights the form's more sophisticated side, even while its stepping groove and heavy bass presence keep its ties to the genre intact. Acoustic piano trills add jazz flavour to the B-side's “Soul Truth,” which otherwise flirts with R'n'B in its smooth vocal lines. Drum'n'bass is still very much close at hand, as the cut's 808 bass throb and tight percussive attack, the latter especially reminiscent of early Photek, makes clear. It's wonderful stuff that makes a strong case for the genre as still-vital when the right producer's involved.

January 2013