NickBee: Empty Your Mind
Ukrainian drum'n'bass producer NickBee covers all the bases—and then some—on his first full-length, Empty Your Mind. It's not uncommon for a modern-day producer to want to demonstrate proficiency in a broad range of styles when the ‘artist album' opportunity presents itself, and the twenty-one-year old wunderkind , who began creating drum'n'bass at fifteen, is no different in that regard. Over the course of the eleven-track, hour-long collection, he not only rolls out a generous number of drum'n'bass bangers but also makes credible stabs at ambient, garage, and house. It's a bit of a departure for Dispatch, too, in releasing an album featuring more non-drum'n'bass styles than any full-length issued by the label before.
True to ‘artist album' form, Empty Your Mind opens with an orchestral-styled overture of stately symphonic character (“Into Your Mind”) before offering up a representative example of NickBee's bruising attack (“I Say You”). Characterized by a muscular combination of belting breaks and writhing bass lines, his aggressive drum'n'bass style comes ever more clearly into focus as the album progresses. Though all such tracks might share certain properties, NickBee also threads individuating details into them—a voice sample here, piano riff there—in such a way that contrast is present throughout the album. Though “White Night,” for instance, receives a powerful animating kick from its punchy neurofunk-styled groove, its melodic elements lend the track a strong melancholy feel.
The album's biggest departures from the drum'n'bass style include “Black & White,” a skanky swinger whose strut oozes no small amount of house- and garage-related flavour, and “Kloe,” which shows NickBee's perfectly capable of crafting a straight-up house banger when the mood strikes. Elsewhere, the tempo slows for “Inspiration,” which couples melancholy piano-and-strings textures with a slow-motion breakbeat pulse in arresting manner, while “Moonlight” exudes a lulling dreaminess in its pairing of shimmering textural design and Liberace-esque piano flourishes.
An obvious standout is the title track, which speaks powerfully in favour of NickBee's command of track design and sequence. Structurally, it's ambitious, too, in the way it alternates between graceful atmospheric sections featuring wordless female vocalizing and drum'n'bass passages of epic sweep. Empty Your Mind in this case presumably means the listener should empty his/her mind of the customary expectations typically brought to a drum'n'bass album. Certainly NickBee's set is a high-quality collection that argues strongly on behalf of its creator's talent and versatility.