Jubei: To Have & Have Not

VA: Transit 2

At the harder end of the drum'n'bass spectrum we find the debut full-length by Jubei (real name Paul Ager) and the compilation Transit 2. For genre fans, the release of To Have & Have Not registers as something of an event: issued on Goldie's Metalheadz imprint, the ambitious seventy-minute collection includes contributions from a front-line of genre-related figures, among them dBridge, Marcus Intalex, and Goldie himself. But don't get the wrong idea: To Have & Have Not is very much Jubei's show, and the release presents a very strong argument on his behalf, even if it's not genre-advancing. The quality level is high throughout, the tracks are a varied and consistently polished lot, and the versatile album presents a compelling portrait of Jubei's musical command.

“The Moment” inaugurates the album powerfully with an epic, dubstep-styled throwdown that weds Flowdan's rapid flow (“This is one of those moments, every car's blacked out / This is one of those moments, your luck maxed out”) to a viral orchestral backdrop that's as brooding as it is bombastic. He returns on “Say Nothin',” an equally tough cut that sees the vocalist cold-bloodedly riffing (“Don't say a word / You had your eyes open but your vision blurred / You had your ears open but you never heard / That's your alibi...suicide”) alongside a bruising, neck-slapping groove.

Hard-hitters are plentiful, among them the dBridge collaboration “These Things,” which backs a soulful, Robert Owens-styled vocal with a belting mix of bass throb and tough beat slam; “Tip the Scales,” a raw slice of drum'n'bass paranoia from Jubei and Marcus Intalex; and “State of the Art,” an amped-up dynamo crowned by a tough vocal turn by SP:MC. Tempos vary throughout the disc, with some operating at a brisk bpm (“Rufige 11”) and others at a slower tempo more associated with dubstep (the Jubei-J.Kenzo collab “Visions” and the lowdown Jubei-Consequence marauder “Underground”).

In a few spots, one might be reminded of Roni Size and Photek (the former in “State of the Art” and the latter in the Goldie collab “The Prayer”) and some tracks suggest that Ager's primary concern isn't rewriting the drum'n'bass playbook. The evocative instrumental “Paloma,” for example, emerges from its rain-soaked streets with a classic groove in tow and melancholy scene-painting along with it, while the wobbly stepper “Block Code” similarly riffs on well-established genre tropes. In such cases, the listener takes pleasure from the skill with which Jubei executes the material and the high production values exemplified by the album. Heard on a high-end system and at peak volume, the music's bass pulses and beat patterns hit consistently hard.

On an equally heavy tip, Transit 2 presents fourteen samplings of “pure, technical drum'n'bass” courtesy of Dispatch Recordings, the UK-based label established in 2001 and managed by DJ-producer Ant TC1. Two years on from the first installment in the series, the eighty-minute collection features contributions from up-and-comers (Halogenix, Safire) and cuts by established figures (EBK, Optiv, DLR). Production values are again high and the tracks' rampaging beats repeatedly strike with an anvil-like force.

Memorable moments are plentiful and some surprising twists occur along the way: a veritable bestiary of creature sounds surfaces within Mindmapper & Fre4knc's “Apparatus”; Gamma's “If You Go Away” focuses as much on atmospheric, vocal-haunted sparkle as it does beat design; and in an inspired instrumental move, Halogenix works woodsy mallet instrument sounds into the breakneck snares of “Raya VIP.” A few vocal cuts liven up the proceedings, too: Kyza blazes through DLR's “8 Bits of 16,” MC Fokus's delivery in Skeptical's remix of Amoss's “The Shapeshifter” gives the track a strong “Firestarter”-like vibe, and EBK's “Strength” pushes the comp into a different direction via the addition of a soul vocal sample.

Despite the large number of producers taking part, a uniformity of sound asserts itself in these end-of-the-world mini-soundtracks, especially when many of the oft-frenetic tracks are light-speed, high-intensity belters (Safire's “The Power of Thought” and Silent Witness's “Ballistix” good representative examples) and the mood's characteristically dark and dystopic. That doesn't rule out the possibility of pleasure, however, and the drum'n'bass head will definitely find much to take away from the compilation's knife-edged material.

December 2013