Syncopix: Benevolence
Syncopix Records

Over the past three years, Roland Bogdahn spent a lot of time exploring styles other than drum'n'bass; he also decided during that time not to issue anything under the Syncopix name, wanting instead to establish a neutral base from which to proceed. Now, with the release of his third studio solo Syncopix album, Bogdahn emphasizes drum'n'bass's more soulful and sometimes jazzier side with a thirteen-track collection rich in rolling grooves and lush, sun-dappled design. Consistent with its Benevolence title, the eighty-five-minute collection is specifically intended to “spread some love and smoothly lighten up the dark sides of this crazy world.”

Benevolence doesn't rewrite the drum'n'bass rule book, but there's certainly much on it to appeal to those who prefer it soulful and sultry. The title track's a good example of what's on offer: heavily atmospheric and rich in synthetic colour, the material's powered by a rapid BPM typical of the genre, yet the producer's treatment ultimately more soothes than frazzles. Vocal samples are woven into the arrangements of a number of tracks, and Bogdahn threads generous helpings of instrumental detail into the productions.

A few unexpected moves keep the interest level up. That's Liam Neeson growling through “Who You Are,” Bogdahn having worked the actor's well-known phone threat from Taken into the track's jungle-inflected and Fender Rhodes-sweetened jump. And, yes, that's also Jim Morrison crooning through “I Love Her,” the vocal in this case coming from The Doors' “Orange County Suite.” Certainly one of the more memorable cuts is “I Missed You Too,” thanks to the many vocal riffs, “Guess who's back in town” and “It's hard to resist the attack” among them, Bogdahn strikingly works into the track's light-speed charge.

From the punchy (“Where One Is”) to the piano-and vocal-inflected (“I Love Her”), the album ranges widely whilst also staying within a carefully circumscribed zone determined by its creator. The soaring “Bey-Bey,” raving “Satisfied,” and joyous “Happy Ending” are emblematic of the album's tone: whatever else it is, Benevolence is assuredly not bleak and down-spirited.

May 2016