2013 Top 10s & 20s
The Knells' The Knells
Spotlight 11

John Luther Adams
Astro Sonic
Mark Cetilia
Ulises Conti
Stephen Cornford
Exercise One
Stavros Gasparatos
Rael Jones
The Knells
Lord Echo
Selaxon Lutberg
Martin & Berg
Josh Mason
Ron Morelli
One Far West
Orange Yellow Red
Piano Interrupted
Oleg Poliakov
Saffronkeira + Massa
Scarlet Youth
Burkhard Stangl
Peter Van Hoesen
Vatican Shadow

Compilations / Mixes
EPM Selected Vol. 2
My Love For You Is Analog.
OFF To ADE 2013
Tempo Dreams Vol. 2
Transit 2

EPs / Cassettes / Singles
Fighting Lion
Kyle Fosburgh
Fre4knc / Nuage
Rezo Glonti
Ishan Sound
Pennygiles & Phil Tangent
Dominic Petrie
Sontag Shogun
Thrash Pilot

VA: Scope
Samurai Horo

In recent times, Samurai Music has established a reputation as a top-drawer drum'n'bass label—which makes Scope, a CD compilation issued on its otherwise vinyl-only subsidiary label Samurai Horo (founded in 2011 as an outlet for more experimental music-making), an all the more fascinating document. Why? For the simple reason that few if any of its tracks have even the remotest connection to drum'n'bass as traditionally defined; if anything, the ones with beats are more akin to either post-dubstep of the type one might associate with Livity Sound or post-drum'n'bass similar in panoramic scope (sorry) to the recent Exit Records set dBridge Presents Mosaic Vol. 2. What is certain, however, is that the tracks on Scope deserve to be lauded as artful and impeccably detailed sound productions. For the record, Scope is available in a number of formats: as a five-LP, twenty-track compilation, as a thirteen-track CD (the version reviewed here), and as a seventeen-track digital set that totals ninety-six minutes (the CD content plus digital exclusives by Stickman, Es.tereo, RQ, and Japanese artist Ena).

Unusual for a compilation, Scope follows a clearly delineated arc. Instead of alternating between tracks of contrasting character, the recording builds up steam slowly, focusing on ambient-styled moodscapes in the beginning and gradually getting heavier with a shift in emphasis to beat-based cuts about halfway through. Indicative of the collection's encompassing stylistic breadth is Hysee's creepily atmospheric opener “Past Participle,” whose brooding smears and intermittent lashings are suggestive of the kind of dark ambient soundscaping one might hear on Hymen or Miasmah. Expectations continue to be challenged thereafter, with Kiyoko crafting a beautifully evocative and soothing soundscape in “Something To Think About” and Commercial Suicide head Klute setting aside his customary drum'n'bass style for a synth-drenched ambient escapade called “Solar Heat.”

The primal sweep of Es.tereo & Marlyn's heavily percussive “Cutting You Loose” offers a good early example of the imaginative twist the artists bring to post-dubstep beatsmithing. It's with the appearance of the seventh piece, “Bloom” by Reza & Gremlinz (and specifically its pummeling kick drum pattern), that the collection begins to move into its beat-driven phase. Things then take a nightmarish turn when Sam KDC's “Erosion” transplants the set into a metallic dungeon where anvil strikes, creaks, and groans reverberate alongside a pounding dubwise pulse. By comparison, Clarity's “Sombre” lets a bit more light in, but an undercurrent of dread nonetheless remains. It's interesting that only twice does Scope audibly veer into drum'n'bass territory (on the CD version at least) and that's during “Project No Name,” a collaboration between Consequence, Loxy and Resound that sounds as if it's haunted by jungle's ghost, and Stray's closing “Wired.” No matter: Scope impresses as a resoundingly satisfying collection of post-dubstep moodscaping, no matter how one chooses to classify it.

December 2013