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ALBUM OF THE MONTH
DRS: I Don't Usually Like MCs But...(Soulr)
There was a time when nearly every top d’n’b MC claimed to have a “hip hop album” in the pipeline – as if making a d’n’b solo album was out of the question. But then none of them were DRS, the long-time Manc superhero whose raw, philosophical style – a dark-light mixture of gravelly intellect and tough militancy – has made him the go-to MC for the likes of Calibre for many years. Featuring guest productions from Calibre, Lenzman, SPY, Dub Phizix, DBridge and Lynx, the album is a Who’s Who of cutting-edge underground artisans, with fiddly, glitchy breaks and cavernous basslines aplenty, all anchored by DRS’s magnetically listenable delivery. Comfortably the best solo album by a d’n’b vocalist since Stevie Hyper’s posthumous ‘The Legend’ in 2004, this is DRS’s moment… and he’s nailed it.
TUNE OF THE MONTH
Monster (Dread UK)
No-one can have missed Ray Keith’s recent vocal smash ‘Deeper Love’, which had Annie Mac in a lather and announced the Dread don’s return to the important end of dancefloor d’n’b. New album ‘I Am Renegade’ is just as dynamic, illustrated by this sample, whose skittering break takes us back to ‘Dark Soldier’ while a huge bassline drenches it in trademark darkness. But it’s the chopped-up, ghostly vocals which – much like on ‘Deeper Love’ – prove this jungle legend’s fresh relevance.
Need for Mirrors
Steering away from the spectral nu-skool stepper vibe for a moment, NFM yank things right back to classic bashy roller territory with a galloping crunch-along anchored by a playful, squawking synth line that’s simply perfect for funky- chicken skanking. The volleys of slicing hi-hats add a classic Quarantine roller feel, but there’s no getting away from that cartoonish synth-honk, which lightens the mood in fine style. If you like your collectables you’ll love this: each Zoltar 12” is a limited edition, individually designed in a special foil tryptic sleeve, and comes shrinkwrapped to keep it pristine. You may never want to open it, but we’d suggest you get shredding.
Chris SU and Jade
Digital Mind (m-Atome)
French label m-Atome floats our boat with this ruckus- bringing, no-nonsense tech-roller: a vipers’ nest of full-throated, wide-load snares that fizz along at breakneck pace while numerous tentacles of mid-range synth electricity jostle for space in the mix. Long-time Hungarian tech maestro Chris SU and influential Eatbrain boss Jade make for a high calibre leftfield team-up, and while straight-up runnin’ tech isn’t quite en vogue right now, we bloody well love it.
Drumsound & Bassline Smith feat Tom Cane
Through The Night (Technique)
Derby’s finest, Simon ‘Bassline’ Smith, has been slamming down high-end jump-up ballbreakers for yonks but, as new album ‘Daylight’ approaches, this just might signal promotion to a higher league. A stadium-sized humdinger of a euphoric vocal roller (and surely destined to be a festival anthem), new discovery Tom Cane’s angelic tonsils soar above the hurtling melodic synths and warm sugary bass to produce a part-indie, part-Netsky gem you can’t ignore. Hats – and presumably tops – off.
Major Look feat ragga twins
Bass Generation (Jubei remix) (London Records)
Crystal Clear and Stapleton MC’s team-up as Major Look appears to be a straight-up campaign for major league recognition, and they’re certainly going about it the right way. Picked up by London after a couple of radio-friendly releases, this summer skank-out is a party-pimping mix of sing- along ragga-isms and plunging drumstep synth squelch. The huge remix package features hotsters Cutline, but it’s Jubei’s low-slung, half-stepping bass- quaker that best captures the stealthy summer dub vibes. And frankly, any tune with a lyric as grabby as “808 bass, plenty bass faces” does it for us.
SKisM & DC Breaks
Killer (Tantrum Desire remix) (Never Say Die)
Upwardly mobile Ram occasionals DC Breaks could have done a lot worse than teaming up with face-melting dubstep sensation SKisM, given that both share a love of shimmering synths and bludgeoning, robotic bass. This thunderous slab of ghostly slam-step is given a 170bpm lick by London jump-up crew Tantrum Desire as part of the remix package – though inevitably it’s in half-speed drumstep style, allowing those arachnid synths to laser freely and spaciously across the sonic field. Even if the bro-steppy stuff ain’t your thing, this is fearsomely feisty production.
Bomber (Ram Records)
Bristolian duo Loadstar only deal in global dancefloor bangers these days, which is why their live shows (featuring the simply brilliant MC Texas) are garnering them worldwide fans by the bucketful. Critics might point to the A-side of this release, ‘Passenger’, as proof that their more stadium- oriented drumstep numbers are a little screechy, but one only needs to turn over to the concrete-tough brilliance of ‘Bomber’ to hear a modern d’n’b electro-roller at its turbo-
charged best. A thunderous broadside of rapid fire drum-rolls winds us up before a system-flooding wave of synth sizzle tasers everything in its path. Phenomenal.
Madcap feat Miss Trouble
My Soul (2012 mix) (Phuzion)
With underground credentials as solid as they come – memories of his sets and promotions alongside Wilsh will bring a smile to many –
Madcap is a welcome sight on Mixmag’s radar screen, and this four-track EP on excellent deep-end label Phuzion gives us much to chew on, from deep steppers to Amen scorchers. But it’s the dreamy, rolling vibes of ‘My Soul’ that crown it, a submarine-deep bassline thudding away beneath and sunlit vocals twinkling on top, while Amen tickles and percussive shimmers nibble away. It’s a world away from d’n’b’s current orgy of dubstepping electroid craziness, so take time to breathe in and enjoy.
Circuit Trouble (The Zoooo)
Supreme engineer Heist can turn his hand to most things, from deep and rolling to wobbly and threshing, and it’s in this latter guise, all bleeps and hard-
stepping jump-up filth, that he seems happiest. A rollocking concoction of computer game effects and sledgehammer breaks, this is a punchy party number to wig out to in the best possible way. Flip over for another lesson in wobble-based filth, as ‘Creatures’ ventures even further into ear-assault territory.