Pennygiles & Phil Tangent: Stories Untold / We Don't Talk Anymore

Dominic Petrie: Tomorrow Now EP
Ingredients Records

Response: Surveillance / One Nation
Ingredients Records

Thrash Pilot: Galaxian / One Armed Man

Listeners conversant with the genre will know that drum'n'bass runs the gamut from Calibre-esque restraint to cranium-crushing belters. A handful of new singles and EPs reflects that range, with all four falling somewhere along the continuum between the poles. On the one hand there's Dominic Petrie, whose preference is for a kind of tasteful understatement that's diametrically opposed to the barnburning attack of Thrash Pilot. Sophisticated heavy-hitters by Response and Pennygiles & Phil Tangent naturally find themselves situated halfway between those extremes.

Those whose taste leans in the direction of Calibre might want to check out Dominic Petrie's EP Tomorrow Now. With the release weighing in at just under half and hour, Petrie's elegant serenades are models of concision and more intent on seducing the listener with sultry reverberations than bludgeoning him/her into submission. The opening cut, “Beyond the Wall of the Sleep,” is certainly capable of effecting such seduction with its luscious array of piano sprinklings and synthetic shimmer, but it's hardly the only one up to the challenge. Elsewhere, breathy vocal exhalations (male and female) breezily glide alongside crisp bass-and-drum pulses, the music exuding propulsion and forward momentum but relaxedly so. A transporting cut such as “Riverside Blues” strikes a satisfying middle ground between atmospheric scene-painting and snappy groovesmithing, while “Soho,” its drum pulse nicely spiked by vocal murmurings, might be the EP's best argument in support of Petrie's deeply textural take on the drum'n'bass form. Only with “TMA1” does the release shift gears, in this case by sneaking elements of dub and dubstep into the material.

On his debut IM:LTD outing “Stories Untold,” Welshman Pennygiles kicks things into gear immediately with a pile-driving groove before sweetening the mood with soulful vocal phrases. Though a powerful emotional undercurrent of regret and longing runs throughout the track, its galloping pulse never allows the mood to get overly ponderous and weepy. The romantic vibe carries over into Phil Tangent's “We Don't Talk Anymore,” a beautiful wind-stormer that opens with luscious atmospheric flourishes before digging into its own razor-sharp beat thrust. With wiry bass throbs dotting the terrain alongside synth sweeps and silken vocal touches, the tune adds up to six minutes of drum'n'bass splendour of the most spellbinding kind.

On his second solo release, Manchester producer Response powers his two cuts with beats so sharp they could sever a limb or two. First up is “Surveillance,” whose synths and vocal accents conjure a haunting soul-stalker vibe while its slamming dancefloor pulse chops heads. Even punchier is the accompanying “One Nation,” which expands upon its cut-throat attack with lethal sub-bass smears, rastaman patois, and clattering jungle breaks—drum'n'bass for those who like it raw, dark, and primal.

Thrash Pilot's third and final single of 2013 is, as mentioned, the fiercest of the lot, as is made crystal clear the moment the lead track, “Galaxian,” rolls out anthemic synth declamations and pounding tom-toms, so melodramatically the music flirts with prog pomposity, before unleashing a vicious wind-up and even more vicious acid-bass squelch. As ferocious as the tribal opener is, it's a warm-up for “One Armed Man,” eleven blistering minutes of bass-throbbing breaks, echo-drenched voices, and relentless ammo firings that aren't so dominating they totally obscure the brooding Twin Peaks theme resounding amidst the dub-inflected carnage.

December 2013