Mutated Forms: Crowlin / Reach You in Your Sleep
Blu Mar Ten Music

SCAR: Call To Arms EP
Dispatch Recordings

Every genre has its share of leaders and followers, those determined to advance a form and redefine its possibilities and those content to work within genre conventions. A perfect illustration of the phenomenon presents itself in two new drum'n'bass releases, the two-tracker by Mutated Forms an audacious attempt to expand on the genre and the EP by Scar a more conservative riff on the form.

That the release by Mutated Forms (comprised of three members, AJ, Zub, and AlexH, who are based in London, Birmingham, and Tallinn) appears on Blu Mar Ten's label is already a promising sign, and it's a promise the material lives up to, even if the release is a mere nine minutes in total—but what a spectacular nine minutes it is. Up first is “Crowlin,” which, though it first surfaced about four years ago, is only now seeing the light of day, physically speaking. But one listen to this glorious stepper, with its cut-throat snares, vicious bass smears, and hypnotic vocal treatments, and you'll be left puzzling why it took so long for the tune to find its way onto wax. Though “Crowlin” is the less ambitious of the two tracks, it still impresses on artistic grounds for the bold way it shifts between uptempo episodes and breakdowns. It's “Reach You in Your Sleep,” however, that's the real stunner. The label affixed to the track is rave-hop, which, given the aural evidence, seems accurate enough. But issues of labeling quickly fall to the wayside the moment the blistering beat pattern kicks in one minute into the piece. It's not the only thing the track has going for it either, with assorted change-ups, twinkling pads, and vocal treatments also contributing to the tripped-out mix. Amazing stuff.

Already the recipient of strong support by the likes of Goldie, DJ Hype, and Doc Scott, SCAR pools the talents of Survival and Script for four exclusive tracks on the twenty-three-minute debut EP Call To Arms. As stated, the SCAR material doesn't so much advance the genre as explore variations, albeit powerful ones, on the form as it currently stands. If that amounts to a release that's somewhat less artistically audacious than the one by Mutated Forms, there's also no denying Call To Arms' hard-hitting quality. The EP's four tracks seethe with punishing breaks and bass smears, and the listener is met with ample doses of steamrolling grooves and dizzying sound design. “Burnside” establishes the template, which the subsequent tracks then take up and twist into individuating shape: the aptly titled “Call to Arms” arrests the ear with a series of evocative breakdowns, not to mention a pile-driving beat pattern; “Time Constant” works a heady sci-fi vibe into its raw drum'n'bass theatrics; and “Dodgy Dalek” gets its kick from slamming snares and an overall furious attack. Call To Arms is quality material, without question, though not a release that pushes the genre into uncharted territory. Perhaps that's something we'll see more of when SCAR's sophomore effort appears.

April 2014