Skeptical: Imperial EP
Skeptical: Something in the Sound / Talk the Talk
Listening to the six tracks on Skeptical's Imperial EP and ten-inch single, one could be forgiven for hearing them less as the work of a prototypical drum'n'bass artist and more the spawn of a sound designer who's chosen to commit his energy and skill to the creation of high-quality club music. The individual in question is UK producer Ashley Tindall, who's released material on many of the most highly regarded drum'n'bass imprints, among them Dispatch, Renegade Hardware, Ingredients Records, and, of course, dBridge's Exit Records.
Tindall's soundsculpting skills are on display from the moment “Delusions of Grandeur” peppers its punchy, slo-mo groove with all manner of vocal and percussive detail. With a swollen drone pulsing through its center, the track makes for a rather hypnotic entry-point for the EP, which the subsequent three tracks are more than happy to build upon (none more so than the trippy low-rider “Playground Chat Back,” which Tindall speckles with hoots and buzzes). It quickly becomes clear that Skeptical's tracks aren't frenetic bangers but instead finely calibrated moodscapes whose intricate, percussion-heavy arrangements amply showcase his imaginative take on the drum'n'bass form. Throughout the twenty-three-minute EP, snares crackle amidst fluttering micro-snippets of all kinds, and in exercising an ultra-controlling hand, Tindall eschews the kind of crass windups favoured by crowd-pleasing DJs.
In contrast to the EP, the ten-inch presents a slightly different Skeptical persona. Following an intro of noise flurries and squeals, the A-side's “Something in the Sound” rolls out a heavy groove whose buckshot snares are more dubstep than drum'n'bass, while “Talk the Talk” anchors its slow, clanking pulse with a dub bass line that's pitched so low it's positively subterranean. Regardless, the level of craft and attention to detail is as high on the single as it is on the EP, and the six tracks provide a more-than-complimentary portrait of Tindall's abilities as a crafter of sound.