16 March 2012
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John B
Light Speed (Beta Recordings)

Eccentric peroxide glamourpuss, trance ’n’ bass pioneer and rumoured PhD graduate John B has been doing this shit for 15 years. Maturing the electro-step sound he began spearheading some years back, ‘Light Speed’ is a true trance torpedo: a sparkly fanfare of brazen synths, euphoric melodies and pirouetting vocals (ably supplied by Shaz Sparks and Kirsty Hawkshaw, among others). Hardened junglists may quibble, but one listen to ‘Heroes’, a tech-roller curveball that contains classic Virus synths, or the crunchier, deeper vibes of ‘The Journey’, is to remember John B’s unique contribution to the genre – from Metalheadz to Marrakesh. One of d’n’b’s few genuine global super-producers – none of whom have a Flickr stream anywhere near this outrageous – John B really is in a league of his own.
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Rene LaVice
Headlock (Ram Records)

Ram’s occasional ‘Dimensions’ EPs have been eagerly awaited by bedroom DJs since 2006, and no 5 is another sure-fire chart-topper. Jostling for position amid chest-imploding offerings from Cyantific, June Miller and Wickaman, the stand-out track comes from Canadian prodigy Rene LaVice, whose clean-as-a-whistle stepper has caused untold damage across clubland. Its descending synth lines waltz along with the brassy simplicity of a classic Dillinja groove – proving that whatever the era, less can definitely mean more.
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Led Astray (Shogun Audio)

In a move that may surprise a few, bossman Friction follows up recent dancefloor smash ‘Someone’ with another womping, ballooning, synth-swizzled rump-shaker – indicating he’s happy leaving the deep and rolling stuff to his label cohorts while he and The Prototypes take care of the more brazen end of things. In any case, it’s a winning formula: this is a dubstepping, hands-in-the-air monster whose soaring strings and vocal hook are going to do damage at 4am on the floor and at 2pm on Radio 1. Will Friction make a return to the deep end soon, you ask? Now that would be telling... 
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Sabre, Stray & Halogenix
St Clair (Critical)

These days a month seldom passes without a rib-crushingly deep Critical single blowing us away, and this time it’s the B-side to Sabre and co’s delicate piano exploration ‘Oblique’. This deliciously warm, organic tech-roller is a thing of beauty, with touches of disco and house adding a teasing sexiness. Gentle synth whispers and vocal hooks drift in and out, building atmosphere before evaporating to leave the breaks naked and militant – only for other variations to bubble up into the mix as the track evolves. We could go on. 
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Kites (Spearhead)

Kerry Negus’s imposing frame is a familiar sight to many in d’n’b land, and the battle-hardened record shop owner, promoter and label chief is now making deserved inroads with his booty-shaking, dancefloor-focused compositions – on Hospital, among others. The whirligig synths that swoop and dive all over this punchy jump-up shuffle are joyously reminiscent of rock jesters Muse, while clever percussive twinkles add a touch of signature eccentricity. No-nonsense N3gus is one to watch. 
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Time for You (Valve Recordings)

After a couple of false starts, the Valve relaunch is now firmly underway in 2012, with house, grime, dubstep and more apparently on the way from the owners of d’n’b’s biggest basscones. Label king pin Dillinja kicks off the revolution with a 12” that’s a lot less militant than many will have been hoping for: a curious roller of clattering breaks and summery singing that sounds eerily like mid-noughties TC. The track is at its best when Dilly’s trademark distorted bass is skewing all over the place, while the soulful crooning and percussive jump-up wibblings make for pleasant dancefloor ammo. 

Sunchase & Nickbee
Zoned (Horizons Music)

Horizons always brings the best in deep-end sonics, and they’ve pulled off another coup with a debut release from the sizzling Ukrainian duo that it’s impossible to stand still to. ‘Zoned’ is new-school, rolling tech with a crunked-out groove so infectious it’ll bypass your immune system and cause insta-screwface before you’ve even made it to the bar. Buzzing, sawing wave-forms scud over cavernous sub-bass which throbs like electrified wasps, while those militant two-step breaks smack with venom. Get some.
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Krome & Time
Ganja Man (Total Science & SPY remix) (Streetlife)

Producers went jungle-mental in 2011, and the sound’s reabsorption into upfront d’n’b is a welcome trait that shows no sign of letting up. Aiding and abetting are labels like Streetlife, who are doing a fine job banging out refixed classics like this one from ’94. Unlike other recent remixes, SPY’s trademark rolling sound is very much to the fore, meaning the clacking breaks and gold-plated samples are encased in a thick coating of 2012 sub-bass. Which is also fine by us. Watch out – it gets deep and dirty in there. 
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Saudade (Marky & S.P.Y. remix) (Radar Records)

It’s great when a track careens straight into the action, ain’t it? The humming, growling pads which open this must-have steamroller of a roller are pure joy, and when the action swiftly evolves into a deep, dirty, widescreen technoid crunch-along, nobody’s surprised. Better yet, a trademark Marky second drop sees a delightful vocal sneak into the breakdown, heralding extra layers of madness before it all rumbles off again. Hats off to Belgium-based Radar – this one’s a keeper. 
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Scraper (Ingredients)

Star of last month’s thuddering smash ‘Sooty’, young Sebastian Inwood is set for a big year, and further illustrates his ability to craft broodingly brilliant rollers with this, a spectral, undulating heat-seeker lashed together with sublime percussive tickles. Alarmingly, at just 21 Krakota is the same age as seminal d’n’b label Moving Shadow – whose influence glimmers delightfully in the old-skool flourishes found throughout the track. Truly excellent fare from an artist – and a label – with lots 
in store.
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