Eavesdrop – Pins and Needles LP – LOOP
Eavesdrop, aka David Wood, is a New Zealand-based producer who has been bubbling under for a little while now, and this, his debut LP, should rightfully propel him into the limelight. It showcases a pleasing eclecticism and some real craft, both technical and musical, moving fleet-footedly from deeper cuts to full-on tear-out music.
From the shuffling drums and burbling low-end of Our Reflections, to the clicking rhythms and wistful pianos of the title track, through the ferocious bass rush of Splash Out, to the lush and sophisticated stylings of Violin Blossom (begging the question - when was the last time you heard violins used so well – or at all – in a drum and bass tune?), this is high quality music made with care, consideration and a keen ear for melody and detail.
Fred V & Grafix – Goggles EP – Hospital
We've not heard a great deal from these two talented upstarts since they signed to London Elektricity's mighty behemoth, but finally their debut Hospital Records EP has dropped, and it's a corker.
The title track begins with some skittering digital bleeps, suggesting a floaty roller, but the listener is quickly wrong-footed by the arrival of a loping beat and a deep grind of a bassline, progressing with urgent fills and the return (and clever re-contextualisation) of the introductory bleeps.
It's a strong start to the EP, and the remaining three tracks do not disappoint. Games People Play brings a nice balance of emotion and grit, starting with swirling washes of synth and ethereal, wordless female vocals, before the beats rattle in and deliver a big, rushing epic, which skilfully manages to deploy all the necessary tools for one of those euphoric, hands-in-the-air rave moments while keeping any cheesiness at bay (come on, there's even something that sounds like electric guitar after the second drop – you've got to hand it to these boys).
Denmark Road begins with plaintive keys before morphing gracefully into a beautifully-layered piece of contemplative sunset d'n'b, its combination of deep but un-showy bass and chiming high-end effects evoking a 170bpm take on Orbital's seminal Belfast.
Finally, Basilisk does another bait-and-switch, its piano-led intro collapsing into a massive, pulsating half-time monster, undulating menacingly like its mythological namesake. Brilliant stuff from Fred V & Grafix, and definitely Hospital's strongest release for a while – can't wait for their album.
Various - Mise En Place EP Pt. 2 – Ingredients
This is an EP on Ingredients featuring dRamatic and dbAudio, Skeptical, Villem, Break and Dub Phizix. We'll just let you lick your lips in anticipation for a moment... bit longer... OK, you're dribbling, that's embarrassing.
Coming up with a sequel to the first excellent Mise En Place EP can't have been easy, but the continually impressive and astute Ingredients have assembled four more top-notch compositions from some of the scene's most exciting names.
Manchester's golden boy Dub Phizix opens proceedings with the moody, cinematic Rainy Day Music, all restrained brushes of rhythm, lonely whispers of vocal, Burial-esque crackle and, yes, rainfall, before Break dirties up the place with a typically multi-layered, micro-engineered take on Villem's Splinter In Your Mind, with rubbery, inside-out licks of sub bass, pensive synth flickers and rattling drums.
Skeptical is up next, with a deep, dark, rumbling VIP of his massive Blue Eyes, before dRamatic and dbAudio finish things up with No Return, stretching a hissing industrial drone over dusty beats. Clean up that puddle of dribble and go get it.
Billain – Blockfield / Boogie – Bad Taste
Billain left us scrabbling around on the floor trying to locate our socks last year with his Batboys / Manifold release, and now Sarajevo's dark prince is back on Bad Taste with an even more impressive two-hander.
Blockfield's intro is among the most detailed, atmospheric and downright creepy we've heard in a long time, full of echoes of distorted birdsong, glitchy creaks and deep moans of bass, before a build up that sounds like the tune is coming apart at the seams... and then bam - precise, agile, intelligent neurofunk with a wobbly, mischievous bass line and the producer's signature heaaaavy beats, augmented by nasty sweeps and plenty of brrup-brraap-does-not-compute edits.
Flipside Boogie has an equally compelling intro, managing to balance dread-inducing synths, scattershot percussion and warped melodies before unleashing another delightfully deranged mess of a tune. The drums are all over the place, the sub bass is cortex-shredding, and Billain threads in some seriously dirty groans and roars, creating a beast that's funky and totally hideous at the same time.
Wickaman, RV & Suddendef - Snarl (ft. Alicia King) / Something Deeper – InfraRed
More first-class InfraRed business this month with a sick-as-you-like two-hander from Wickaman, RV and Suddendef. These are Ronseal tunes, doing what they say on the tin very, very well. Snarl is a gnarly rave bomb with big, beefy beats, a laser-guided sidewinder of a bass line, plenty of knock-out edits and enough bleeps, bloops and snatches of female vocal to keep the mood from being too one-note, while Something Deeper is... well... um... something deeper. Taking a leaf out of Rockwell's Big Book of Skittery Rollers, albeit with a touch more dancefloor grr, it's a highly atmospheric piece, its itchy percussion as clear as drops of water in a melting ice cave, as subtly distorted synths phase in and out like a radio that's trying to tune itself over a sleek, slippery wobble of low-end. A fantastically contrasting release - both sides are must-haves.
Digital & Spirit – Phantom Force (Fracture's Astrophonica edit) / Backlash (rework) – Phantom Audio
Digital and Spirit recently reactivated their Phantom Audio imprint nearly ten years after its last release, and they're celebrating with a reworked version of the very first 12” to appear on the label, bringing a frantic and fabulous Fracture edit of the awesome Phantom Force and a rework of Backlash by the duo themselves.
Pick of the two has to be the Astrophonica edit of Phantom Force, which keeps the vibe of the original while also subjecting it to the peerless Fracture's molecular-level ear for detail. Technically he's given it a halfstep makeover, but it's not quite as simple as that – the percussion is all over the shop, with quick-sharp amen fills darting in and out, along with brief rolls of bendy junglist low-end and all manner of sketchy cyberpunk bells'n'whistles. Tech as fuck, like.
The Backlash rework, meanwhile, is also very effective, dirtying up the original with harder beats, beefier subs and a flange effect on the memorable 'jah' sample that makes it sound even more insistent and threatening. A very solid 12” - let's hope it's not another decade before the next release.
Peshay – Funkster EP – Liquid V
Are you in need of some music to soundtrack a wacky detective spoof that you're currently filming? Maybe you'd like something to listen to while you're biking around, so it sounds like you're constantly involved in a (possibly animated) chase scene in the early 1960s? Maybe you want to throw a rave where everyone wears sharp suits and flapper dresses rather than UV bodypaint and oversized caps? Whatever the reason, you need the legendary Peshay's new Funkster EP in your life.
Pure, unadulterated fun from start to finish, this is jazzed-up, boogie-infused spy-caper d'n'b for people who don't take their raving too seriously. Cheeky elastic basslines, brass riffs, duelling flutes, soaring Motown-style vocals, electric organs and wah-wah guitars jostle for space over expertly-deployed amens and breakbeats – so light, funky and irresistibly groovy are the tunes on offer here that DJ Fresh's All That Jazz sounds like Noisia in comparison.
There are so many new producers these days who are excellent at the technical aspect of d'n'b – at making great beats and sounds, rather than melodies – that the actual musical side is often lost, making this EP, which takes such obvious delight in its own musicality, a really special treat. Traditionalists and rudeboys will probably hate it. They're missing out.
Friction & Skream – Kingpin – Shogun Audio
You'd expect nothing less than dancefloor mayhem from a Friction and Skream collaboration – particularly with Scrufizzer, P Money and Riko Dan on board for vocal duties – and you'd be correct. Kingpin is a massive half-time workout, all pummelling beats, military drumfills, sirens and not one but three aggy flows. It's big, and while not necessarily clever, it'll do the damage.
The package also comes with two remixes – Calyx & Teebee take things into punishing kinda-half-time-but-not-quite-ouch-my-ears neuro territory, mutating the beats and adding their trademark snarling low-end, while Rockwell's remix is on some bizarre Death Star disco tip, layering vaguely trap-esque vibes over a halfstep d'n'b framework. Full spectrum damage – tasty.
delPurr & Eraser – Fairytale / Imagine – BMT Music
What with Stray and Frederic Robinson's majestic When It Rains / Thumbprint release and now this brilliant debut from Slovakian duo delPurr & Eraser, Blu Mar Ten's revamped BMT Music imprint is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting, forward-thinking labels out there. But if you're looking for a quick dancefloor fix then you'd best go elsewhere – these are deep, penetrating pieces, as introspective as their titles suggest, taking When It Rains' blurring of the lines between drum and bass and ambient even further into smudged, dreamlike terrain.
Fairytale's oceanic sub bass rolls slowly but inexorably along, carrying chiming keys, clockwork percussion and a translucent vapour of wordless vocals, while Imagine is even more amorphous, a patchwork of delicate pads, distant bells, crackle and treated strings, stitched together over elegant bass and soft synths. It's music to drift completely away to – beautiful.
Break / Eastcolours - So True VIP / Watch Out (Enei remix) – Symmetry
Consensus is generally quite hard to come by in a scene as diverse – and occasionally militant – as drum and bass, but Break's Love So True was one of those absolute choons that tickled the tastebuds of everybody across the spectrum, from the dub heads to the liquid fans to the rough'n'ready ruffneck types, and now he's seen fit to gift us with a brilliant VIP.
The introduction ups the reggae vibes, keeping that sweet vocal sample but adding more guitar licks on top of the honky tonk pianos, and the drop is as sudden and delicious as ever, but there's more grit to it, more layers, more detail, more of those fluctuating low-end rolls that Break can do in his sleep. It's sick, basically.
The AA side is an Enei remix of Eastcolours' Watch Out, the original of which also appeared on last year's The Other Side compilation. The Russian whizzkid is on aggressive, heads-down form here, maintaining the tune's scuttling back-and-forth and ghostly ragga vocals but adding some electrical fizz and bounce to the low-end, along with a few well-placed amen fills and some suitably ice-cold FX. Genuinely essential.
WORDS: Stefan Mohamed
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