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ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Sick Music 3 (Hospital)
Hospital is surely the Manchester United of d’n’b: awash with stars and trophies, yet still grafting away like the past 15 years never happened. The label seems to be putting out five or six compilations a year at the moment, and each one is either a collectors’ item for fans or a must-have tool for DJs. These 26 rarities, remixes and rip-snorters continue the much-loved ‘Sick Music’ series, and the sheer breadth of headline names is wondrous: from über-hot tech pugilists (Krakota, Sunchase, Optiv) to hall-of-fame artisans (Blu Mar Ten, Jonny L, Total Science) via soulful scientists (Lung, Technimatic) – not to mention High Contrast, and a rare appearance from dark maestro Raiden. Who else can do this?
TUNE OF THE MONTH
Bristol trio Ruffhouse’s debut on Ingredients in October perked our ears up a treat, and this next instalment underlines their ‘one to watch’ status in thick black marker pen. Offering a techno-influenced, hypnotic take on the dubbed-out half-time template, this is stellar experimentalism that reminds us of ‘Lost All Faith’-era Kryptic Minds: exquisitely timed bass punches, cavernous low-end sonics and ice-cold percussive ticklings. If it’s sweeping industrial nu-skool dub vibes you’re after, sign here.
Blinding (BCee remix) (Boom Ting)
Jakwob’s radio-destroying dubstep ballad was all about the delicate, emotive vibes, but if anything Steve BCee’s remix does the job better, adding a classic rolling break that’s fresher than an Arctic sneeze. Perched on top of these gently shuffling drums, the synths are free to reverb and dilate while the original vocals smash it to pieces. A brilliant, blissful meditation of a track – much like BCee’s best work elsewhere.
Slack ’n’ Roll (Bandcamp)
Finnish artisan Fanu crafts beats like he’s remaking the Bayeux Tapestry: with serious texture and serious care. His self-released ‘Breakbeat Brew’ EP is typically ornate, funky fare, with rolling breakbeats and shuffly Amen edits forming a patchwork that’s both rugged and infectiously rhythmic. Standout ‘Slack ‘n’ Roll’ threads killer hip hop samples around the busy breaks, all pinned into place by a mushrooming carpet of warped bass bashment. Hats off to a true craftsman.
John B feat Kirsty Hawkshaw
Connected (McMash Clan remix) (Beta)
Say what you like about drumstep-to-d’n’b tempo-changers, but for our money they’re pure party petroleum – and especially when it’s four-deck DJ crew McMash Clan at the controls. We love John B’s original euphoric roller (which is the A-side to the release) but it’s the flip that does it for us, with careening synth tentacles and helter-skelter drum broadsides suddenly transforming the filthy dubstep vibes into a viciously funky 170bpm stepper – while Ms Hawkshaw’s blissful vocals soothe and hypnotise. If you’ve partied at the Clan’s legendary live shows you’ll be pleasantly blown away by this.
Human Philosophy (Horizons)
Ukrainian flag-flyer Nickbee peddles a fine line in sharp-edged tech sluggers which never fail to get us moving because of the sheer funkiness of the break patterns. A phalanx of tough, gravelly beats grind away with expert rhythmic flair, while globules of compressed bass shudder up and down the sonic field like pairs of handcuffed rhinos. The golden glimmer of slide-guitar that pops up in the mix is a touch of genius too, and all told it’s a sexy, rolling missile to savour.
Say You Love Me (Secret Operations)
As we eagerly anticipate original Swedish pioneer Seba’s new album, this sampler does more than whet our appetite – it puts us in a serious sexy mood. Inspired by early-90s Chicago house, the languid, swirling synth whispers and gentle electronic FX weave effortlessly between some of the warmest, lavish bass tones we’ve heard in yonks. Add in a stealthy metronomic break and you’ve a hypnotic dancefloor odyssey to melt to. Check the flip for a tasty switcheroo: a full-throttle euphoric vocal track featuring Swedish vocalist Jinger.
Rene Lavice feat Ivy Mairi
All My Trials (Ram)
Canadian sensation Rene Lavice’s smash-up super-stepper ‘Headlock’ arrived like a missile through your mother’s undercroft earlier this year, but the young gun has since proved that he’s got game in more ways than one. Witness the wholly different soul-roller vibes of ‘All My Trials’, a golden vocal nugget that’s had dancefloors smiling and glasses chinking aplenty, as delicious vocals glide along above an AI-style undulating synth warp and oodles of euphoric strings. Very reminiscent of Total Science’s outings on Hospital in the noughties, this is fast soul music at its best.
Pennygiles & Mr Joseph
Visions in My Mind (Rubik Digital)
Notable up-and-coming liquid funkster Pennygiles drops a sumptuous two-tracker for the ever-reliable Rubik, and it’s precisely our kind of rolling funk: clean-as-a-whistle breaks but with a feisty, undulating stream of woozy bass that warps and sizzles just a touch. Layered on top are the kind of inch-perfect strings and atmospherics you’d expect from the likes of Technimatic – which is another way of saying that this guy is hot to trot.
Optiv & BTK Feat Sam Wills
Understand (Shogun Audio)
Shogun’s supreme ‘Evolution’ EP series comes to an end with an absolute belter of a fourth instalment. Icicle, Technimatic and The Prototypes all provide bangers so it’s perhaps a surprise that this is the standout track – but Optiv & BTK are producing exactly the kind of tech-roller filth we love: ten-tonne drums that sizzle with texture, and a coruscating avalanche of tearing synths that are never gimmicky but instead set the sonic field alight with every stab. The track never lets you rest, flinging in delicious drum cascades and menacing mid-range shards that slash like toxic lightsabers. Totally brilliant.