2015 Artists' Picks
Kevin Kastning
Andy Vaz's House Warming

17 Pygmies
Aaltonen & Haarla
Rodolphe Alexis
Marc Barreca
Le Berger
Book of Air
David Cordero
Council of Nine
Green Isac Orchestra
Anders Lønne Grønseth
Hatakeyama + Serries
Heinen & Borring
William Hooker Quartet
How To Cure Our Soul
Kevin Kastning
Kastning / Clements
Kastning / Szabó
Kastning / Wingfield
Library Tapes
Louis Minus XVI
Rhys Marsh
Palmbomen II
Smith & Lindberg
Robert Stillman
tholl / fogel / hoff
Julia Wolfe

Kosemura, Shinozaki, Nitta

Compilations / Mixes / Remixes / Reissues
Collection 100
Landscapes of Fear

EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
Amonism + Revenant Sea
Matt Barbier
Hesperius Draco
Markus Oehlen
Greg Sawyer

Akuratyde: Embrace EP
Blu Mar Ten Music

Conduct: Meraki / Borderlands
Blu Mar Ten Music

Martsman: Zoe The Shrink / Bios
Pushing Red

It wouldn't be misleading to identify Blu Mar Ten Music as a drum'n'bass-focused label, but, as one of its two recent releases shows, that's clearly not the whole story. Perhaps one explanation for the panoramic character of Daniel Eshleman's Akuratyde sound can be traced to his Pasadena, California home base. Without wishing to fall prey to the laid-back stereotype sometimes associated with the West Coast, there is something undeniably soothing about the reverb-soaked, synthesizer- and guitar-heavy tracks on his Embrace release. Anyone waiting for a kinetic drum'n'bass groove to shatter the languorous ambiance of Eshleman's melodic tunes will have to look elsewhere; while there are beats present, they complement the music's luscious design and dreamy mood. One could easily imagine the EP's four resplendent tracks accompanying slow-motion footage of California surfers, and one comes away from radiant mini-epics such as “Sway” and “Time Left Behind” thinking of Akuratyde as having considerably more in common with someone like Manual than Goldie.

The music London-based duo Robin Andrews and Chris Edwards produce under the Conduct name, on the other hand, is more in line with what one might expect from a Blu Mar Ten Music release. Not that that's a bad thing: the two tracks on the duo's single are, like Akuratyde's, luscious in conception and cinematic in character, but they also possess a punchy beat dimension. “Meraki” initially follows the wide-screen ambient path carved out by Akuratyde on Embrace, but things change dramatically once a hard-hitting pulse emerges one minute into the ride. From then on, the track becomes a two-tiered affair, a strings-heavy evocation on one level and a raw exercise in bass-thrusting beat science on the other. By comparison, “Borderlands” is a more straightforward exercise in rolling grooves and beat clatter that lacks the epic reach of “Meraki” but still satisfies. Grand conclusions shouldn't be drawn from a two-track single, yet the material certainly suggests Conduct aspires to ambitiously extend drum'n'bass's boundaries.

Martin Heinze's Martsman advances the form as well though in different manner. His second outing on Pushing Red (issued in digital and twelve-inch vinyl formats) sees the producer delving into something one might label jumpfunk more than drum'n'bass proper, even if connections could still be made between the two. The opener, “Zoe the Shrink,” is truly a head-spinning affair, one teeming with imagination and fresh ideas. With a muscular stepping groove powering the mechano beast, Heinze throws at it every imaginable detail, from heart-pounding kick drums and shotgun snares to rabid synth swirls and bulldozing bass lines. Its partner, “Bios,” similarly storms from the get-go, this time with a thunderous bass line pushing through a crackle-smeared war zone of tribal pulses, epic synth washes, and funky keyboard figures.

January 2016