VA: Missing Fragments
Absys Records

This hour-long, digital-only overview of Absys Records' wares shows that the Dublin-based label's range extends further than drum'n'bass in its raw form, even if some fine samplings of the genre appear along the way. As if to emphasize the point, the compilation opens with an Es.tereo track by Max Hock (“Between Time”) that's as much focused on sultry atmospheric dreamscaping as anything else. Ever so subtly, however, a shift into a harder attack occurs as the compilation unfolds, with “Andromeda” by Eschaton (Chris Wright) threading a mechanoid pulse into its otherwise cosmic, synthesizer-heavy arrangement and Seathasky (Matthew Centonze) sending “Nine to Five” into the stratosphere with an aggressive, rapid-fire drum'n'bass groove.

In addition, “Sunken Ruins” by Rawst (Eryk Otlewski) pulsates with an insistent, tribal thrust, after which Mauoq (Mauro Campana) twists the collection into funkier shape with his jaunty “Intruders,” and even lets a little bit of dub (and maybe even a touch of acid and IDM) seep into the material in the process. The listener looking for something harder and more in line with (early) Photek-styled drum'n'bass might want to sample the aptly titled “Cosmos” by Gookie (Keith Clucas) and the collection's heaviest cut, “Main Advice” by Scale (Patrick Krause), both of which ooze a clattering skip and bass throb so characteristic of the genre.

Absys Records has made a name for itself with its deeply atmospheric take on drum'n'bass, and Missing Fragments will do nothing to alter that impression of the label. In all nine cases, the producers involved evidence great care in how the tracks' elements are arranged and show themselves to be concerned with accomplishing something more than simply overlaying a beat pattern with random bits and pieces. Or—put more simply—the nine pieces are carefully worked-out compositions as opposed to beat-driven workouts thrown together on the fly. Rhythm is key, of course, but so too are arrangement and sound design.

January 2014