Chris Paul and Mia V: 100 Degress And Rising

Chris Paul featuring Kevin Bryant: Losin' Myself

VA: A "New Generation" EP

Expressing enthusiasm for drum'n'bass in 2008 may seem odd—anachronistic and retrograde even—but maybe it's because I've heard so little of the style lately that the prospect of hearing it again appeals. Ironically, just as my interest is roused by the genre, NexGen Records is gravitating away from it in favour of downtempo releases, such as the latest pair of albums from Earth Leakage Trip titled Research and Development. But there's ample d'n'b in the vaults for those interested, including a new release from married duo Chris Paul and Mia V (Victoria) called 100 Degrees and Rising. Paul's long and storied career includes a 1989 touring stint with Afrika Bambatta and Soul Sonic Force, membership in DNA (best known for the clubby version of Suzanne Vega's “Tom's Diner”), and remix duty for Mary J Blige, Missy Elliot, Eminem, and Pink, among others.

Bursting with pianos, synths, strings, snarling bass lines, and of course charging beats, the duo's maximal sound overflows with a blinding sheen that's so huge, it can threaten to overpower Mia's girlish, sometimes multi-tracked voice; thankfully, it generally manages to soulfully soar over the brightly-lit fray Paul generates below. The album's over-stuffed at seventeen tracks (three interludes are scattered amongst the longer tracks) but much of its sparkling sound and crisp attack will appeal to fans of vocal d'n'b. Highlights include the thunderous “Alien Abduction” where Mia performs vocal acrobatics over Paul's string-kissed arrangement, and “Sweet As!” where the normally charging d'n'b rhythm is given a funky stagger. A few restrained moments break up the pace (e.g., “Who You Are”) which allows the softness of Mia's voice to be better heard but the disc largely maintains a breakneck pace throughout. Soulful vocal roar elevates Paul's latest two-track single too bit in this case the singer is Kevin Bryant. “Losin' Myself” gets a colourful boost from fluttering sax lines and breezy vocal melodies but the tune's major draw is its stampeding drum attack, after which Bryant puts his upper register to work in the equally breezy and funky “Satisfied.”

A good introduction to the label's other d'n'b offerings is its New Generation EP and its tracks by D.A., Kyro, Matt Doubt, and Tyler Straub. A so-called excursion into both “liquid” and “hard” d'n'b styles, the material thunders as much as anyone familiar with the genre would expect but the producers add subtle touches to individualize the material. In “Live in Harmony,” D.A. pairs soulful female vocals with prototypical steaming breaks, but adds flavour with a few well-placed trombone and keyboard flourishes. A jazz-tinged swing infuses the driving slam of Kyro's “Winterfalls” while atmospheric flute and vocal accents add warmth during a mid-song breakdown. Perhaps the strongest is Matt Doubt's “Stop On By,” however. Its snare may crack the hardest of the four tracks but its vocal chorus interjections and driving bass lines are soulful too, and a stripped-down break offers an especially sweet opportunity to savour the tune's light-speed swing.

August 2008