VA: Evolution of the Giraffe LP
Diffrent Records

Evolution of the Giraffe, Diffrent Records' twentieth release, catches one by surprise by doing the unexpected: rather than bludgeoning the listener with a full-on assault of blistering breaks and general mayhem, the eight-track vinyl compilation (bonus cuts on the CD version by Chills and Arkaik & Coma add ten minutes to the album's forty-five-minute running time) offers a wide-ranging collection of experimental music that stands out for its dynamic contrasts as well as its polished productions.

Naturally, the release is a label portrait that features contributions from artists associated with the imprint. Managed by Chris Dexta and identified by its pink giraffe motif, Diffrent Records specializes in experimental drum'n'bass, but, if the compilation is representative of the label's output, other styles, too. Take Fybe:One's opening “The Last Minute” as a case in point. It steps into view almost shyly and, having fully entered, still presents its loping, breaks-powered material with an elegant degree of understatement. As noticeable is the fact that melody and melancholic moodsculpting are as important to the producer as the driving rhythm elements. And as if to drive the point home further, two tracks later Kolectiv's “Slow” overlays a restrained drum'n'bass swing with atmospheric textures and a soulful male vocal notable for being delivered with passion. Elsewhere, mechano-funk and broken beat come together in Jekyll's twisted “Horcurso,” while Dominic Ridgway's “Siren” presents some unusual, ear-catching fusion of military and dub forms. Every track, it seems, challenges expectations and steers clear of the well-trodden path to some extent.

Certain tracks are, however, very much emblematic of Diffrent's bass-heavy output, among them Dexta & Mauoq's “Slugger,” a tripped-out exercise in dubstep-styled wobble and murky low-end, and “Choices,” a dazzling beatdown cooked up by M-Zine, Scepticz, and Mtwn. In that regard, it makes sense that Dexta would sequence the album so that Shiver's “Forfeit,” a forceful genre riff on jungle and drum'n'bass, would appear last. In other words, though Diffrent is committed to expanding the stylistic range of what it releases, it's also a label careful to not stray too far from its core sound. Evolution of the Giraffe registers in the final analysis as a solid document of a label working hard to establish an identity that differentiates it from others.

January 2014