Fre4knc / Es.Tereo & Marlyn / Nuage: Marching Cube / This Is Where It All Ends / Eversky
Absys Records

Nuage: Music of Branches
Absys Records

Sufficient familiarity with a genre usually brings with it an appreciation for its breadth and the range of its possibilities. And so it is that an in-depth engagement with drum'n'bass reveals that it's not all hard-hitting stealth bombs—though there is definitely that side to it. Producers such as Calibre, Anile, and Nuage, on the other hand, specialize in a melodious and heavily atmospheric brand of drum'n'bass that's earmarked by delicacy, understatement, and sophistication, and a perfectly fine example of the style is Music of Branches, the impressive debut solo album by Saint-Petersburg, Russia-based producer Dimitry Kuzmin under the Nuage name.

Issued on the Dublin imprint Absys Records, the eleven-track album is powerfully soulful and hypnotic but noteworthy for a number of other reasons, too. First of all, its focus is not solely drum'n'bass as it ventures into other stylistic realms, and relatedly, it shows how collapsible the boundaries between such styles can be when the tracks blend aspects of them so fluidly. Within “Eversky,” for instance, traces of garage emerge in the beat pattern, while the vocal exudes an impassioned soul flavour. Elsewhere, “Aeroplanes” exudes a suave polish reminiscent of Lawrence, and “Orchidee,” an effervescent standout, situates itself within a euphoric zone that's as much drum'n'bass as it is deep house and Burial-styled garage.

Kuzmin has a real gift for weaving myriad elements into dense, textural arrangements that at times are so potent and dreamy they're swoon-inducing, and when vocals do surface, they're often in the form of clipped phrases he's sequenced into soulful, ear-catching hooks. An early example is “Late Dream,” a melancholy number that sees Kuzmin pairing three-note acoustic piano arpeggios with soft vocal exhalations, but it's merely one of many. Even better are “Gray,” a late-night exercise in aural seduction that illuminates its entrancing drum'n'bass pulse with sparkling vibraphone accents and acoustic piano sprinkles, and “Fair Question” and “All I Know,” luscious, vocals-enhanced throwdowns that ooze semi-orchestral splendour. Put simply, any album that includes material as strong as “Orchidee” and “All I Know” deserves to be heard far and wide.

A remix of a Music of Branches track also appears as the B-side on a recent twelve-inch release from Absys Records, specifically an Anile makeover of Nuage's “Eversky” that's on par with the album from which it's taken. In keeping with the three-track EP's general tone, Anile's take hits harder than Nuage's, with the original's radiant sparkle beefed up with punchy kick drums, bass growl, and a slightly faster 170 bpm tempo. On the A-side, Berlin-based Es.Tereo teams up with Marlyn for “This is Where it All Ends,” which strikes a middle ground between softness in its delicate female vocalizing (“How do you feel? / What does that mean?...”) and hardness in the metallic thrust of its intricate groovesmithing. Hardest of all is the dynamic opening cut, Fre4knc's “Marching Cube,” a raw, bass-slithering stomper powered by sabre-like string stabs and kick drums so mighty they could destabilize buildings.

December 2013