The Green Man: Sound Power

Sound Power, Heiner Kruse's latest The Green Man collection (and issued on his own Germany-based Basswerk label), is an encompassing, thirty-track exploration of drum'n'bass's possibilities. With tracks pulling the genre into jazz, soul, dubstep, reggae, and trip-hop zones, the release earns its recommendation less for pushing the genre into uncharted experimental territory than for demonstrating how flexible the genre can be in the hands of a skilled producer. The release begins memorably with a catchy opener, “Word, Sound, Power (My Operator),” which receives a major boost from the involvement of vocalist Peter Bouncer and his soulful, rasta-flavoured delivery. Vocals aside, the track's a wonderful argument for The Green Man's music, too, with Kruse fashioning a slinky and seductive bass-powered groove that's pretty close to irresistible and in its drum patterning remarkably inventive, too.

That opener paves the way for a steady stream of wide-ranging cuts, most in the five-minute range and occupying different places along the emotional spectrum, with some laid-back and melancholy and others uptempo and euphoric. Many tracks are powered by the kind of muscular grooves that'll be familiar to genre devotees of long standing (e.g., “Somehow You Know When It's Right,” “Mindless”), but the enthusiasm with which Kruse delivers the material gives it punch no matter how much a given beat comes across as textbook drum'n'bass.

The soulful vibe is strongly in place for “Keep on Movin,” which powers a female vocalist's croon with a prototypically steamrolling drum'n'bass groove. It hardly surprises that “Reasonjazz” would be one of the album's most jazz-oriented tracks; what might surprise, however, is how well the jazz and drum'n'bass elements fuse together, with jazz-styled acoustic bass, keyboards, and drumming blending in easily. The Green Man's placid side comes out at the close of disc one in “A Song for Chloe,” a wistful instrumental featuring acoustic guitar strums and vintage synth whooshes, while the set's biggest left-turn must be the field recordings-meets-dub-techno excursion “Information” (issued under Kruse's real name).

A sociable chap, Kruse brings a generous number of vocalists along for the ride, among them Demolition Man (whose contributions to “Face the Father” bolster the tune's ragga style), MC Navigator (the anthemic high roller “Keep Trying”), Ras Abraham (the burning Jungle-reggae throwdown “Junglist Soldier”), and Mystic Dan (“Playing in the Dark,” wistful in tone despite its hefty groove). Fellow producers chip in, too, including DJ Freeze (“Junglist Soldier”) and Diz:play (an edited version of “Euphoria”). No slouch in the sound design and arranging departments either, Kruse individuates the tracks with inspired instrumental touches, like the vibes and muted horns that give “The Black & White Walkways” a cosmopolitan, European flavour and tablas that lend “Passage to India” and “Poona” exotic seasoning.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the thirty cuts could have been scaled down to form a stronger single disc release (or perhaps a double-disc set featuring twenty tracks total), even if the set as presented offers more than its share of satisfying moments. But some pieces are stronger than others (those of lesser note tend to be more atmospheric in design), and a tighter release would have seen only the former included on the release. On the plus side, there's no denying that Sound Power provides a thoroughly comprehensive portrait of The Green Man's music and a strong argument for the versatility of drum'n'bass as a genre.

October 2013