Voyager: FAQ / LuvBLoved / Big Picture

Pete Parsons (aka Voyager) brings an impressive CV to his latest three-track release on Dutch label Tempo Records (coming out on transparent vinyl, no less): he's known for his engineering work and releases on LTJ Bukem's Good Looking Records and DJ Fabio's Creative Source; he also issued an album on Belgium's R&S label that features “Hypersleep,” a classic now considered one of drum'n'bass's defining moments. Sonically speaking, the Tempo material itself is heavy, but the package also arrives with additional gravitas in that all three cuts were composed after Parsons' father passed away in early 2013.

That life-changing event might account for the existential character that permeates the opening track, “F.A.Q,” specifically in the questions that a sampled male speaker poses throughout (“Who am 1?”; “Where do I come from?”; “Why do I exist ?”; “What are we made of?”). Musically, the eight-minute stunner unfolds in stages, building in strength and power as it segues from the opening questions-heavy section into, first, a drum'n'bass episode and then a roaring jungle-styled sequence packed with head-spinning amen breaks and accented with Rhodes sprinkles.

As powerful as the amen-heavy fire of “F.A.Q” is, it's trumped by the second track, “LuvBLoved,” whose breaks blaze in such awesome manner, you just might find yourself shaking your head in disbelief while listening to it. There's a strong sentimental dimension to the piece, as it was the first one Parsons produced after returning home from spending the last few months with his dad, and the title, derived from an old Frank Sinatra song, is an abbreviated version of a line which his father included in a note to his son: “One of the most important things in life is to love and be loved.” Well, Parsons does his dad proud with “LuvBLoved,” as epic a throwdown as your neighbourhood jungle-and-drum'n'bass head might hope to hear. The degree of control and taste Parsons displays in holding the combustible track together while at the same time allowing its euphoric spirit to be unleashed is pretty incredible, too.

The closing “Big Picture” eschews beatsmithing of the kind featured in the other cuts to instead focus on a mood-styled setting marked by a downtempo groove and ambient-orchestral scene-painting. Coming as it does after such hellacious hellfire, the track's restrained style isn't in any way objectionable, though it cant' help but be overshadowed by the other two. Put simply, the dizzying beat patterns Parsons assembles for the release's first two tracks are nothing short of amazing.

January 2014