Joining the dots between jungle, juke, techno and abstract, Muttley delves into the void once more to see what musical treasure he can unearth.
Various Artists – Subtle Audio Vol.III (Subtle Audio)
This triumphant return to action for Subtle Audio covers all bases of the imprint's sound and then some. Across 3 CDs and more than 20 tracks, the listener becomes introduced to the swaying drum patterns of Nebula on "Encounters VIP", the tribal melodics of Equinox on the techno-tinged downtempo of "Tribulation", roller rhythmics of Earl Grey through the excellent "Bermuda Triangulated", and more cheeky-toned percussive experiments from the co-signed to Rephlex's dgoHn. A consistent, constantly bright mood abounds on CD1, whereas CD2 takes things darker and more ebullient to the label's core ideology; to release material owner DJ Code likes that pushes the boundaries of breakbeat heavy jungle/drum & bass. Subtle Audio was there at the start of the drumfunk-oriented outlet influx in 2003, ready to be influenced by the militant stance Paradox had about drum work at 160-180 BPM from his Reinforced days. Included also is a mix from DJ Code (known as Code on the Subvert Central forum and as producer name), covering 10 years of operation in the field. A job well done.
Answer Code Request – Code (Ostgut Ton)
Bracing techno in the vein of Tony Surgeon from German musician Answer Code Request, released on the varied-output Ostgut Ton. Thumping beats in short loops intermingle with lighthouse bright chords on "Zenith", broadening Detroit techno vibes with a surfeit of unstoppable beat cognition. The common trend is a strong drum chassis, these sounds processed to warm, distorted machinery. That gives each track needed direction when it might seem lacking ("Relay Access"). Because of the articulacy of each rhythm, the diameter of each melody and the working of the two, a strong looping kinesis is created, going beyond mere code of conduct. The resonance with Carl Craig is apparent, even if it wasn't an influence, putting these dreamy pulses in a context of kinship with "great techno". Soul and sustenance towards the monophonic.
Various Artists – Cosmology (Cosmic Bridge)
A dapper squelchy listen, words I could muster were short initially – all artists are established in the bass music scene, use bass as a Hendrix-y plectrum, and rarely change that tack. But it's an essential buy, especially for Om Unit and Moresounds' collab "Nuff Music" and EAN's "I Bus The Mic", both rudebwoy-scheming caricatures of street slowfast sound rendered in a basement studio near you. This characterful immediacy – placing you inside the producer's mind or close by – feels slightly claustrophobic at first – a strobe-oscope effect that works from a regular standpoint of 'heard this so I'll hear more of it'. Familiarity with acid basslines doesn't detract from the overall result. Boxcutter's inclusion is notable, bringing a more summery Solero-aquiescence to your tastebuds. All the tracks utilise a cloudy differential between dubstep and drum & bass filing, but don't wear their nails out on the trendy 'wub wub wa' bass music portrait. Nicely done.
Dustcraft – EP1 (Warehouse Decay)
Warehouse Decay is the deep house and techno offshoot of Harry Towell (Spheruleus in the ambient world; Audio Gourmet and Tessellate the original labels, both in that area). Dustcraft is the deep house and techno alias of Michael Cottone, aka The Green Kingdom, an ambient artist who's worked a marvel in his past output, particularly "EGress". The two make a fitting match on this EP.
As a deep house-infused box of tricks the three tracks, although not augmented by vox (take Aya and Blue Six) display a frequent, phrased melodic narrative. Guitars and electric pianos on the goodbye effort "Lioness" are pure early '90s Ibiza lounge fare, yet contain enough syncopated groove to get me gyrating the hips. Every sound is symbiotically placed in order to work well in counterbalance. This applies to the mood-shifts also. "Applez" meanwhile as track 1 in the sequence knits together antibiotic drum machines that take your mind off daily life, giving the dreamy synth notions time to enwomb the rest of your attention. The Audio Gourmet rule of up to 15 minutes max for an EP gels the Warehouse Decay world down into a satiating matter, one that's full of deep delights for whoever enters their (digital and vinyl) store. Mmm.
Atmosphere – Southsiders (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
"Whole of South side all up in your guts / Can't begin to describe how much you suck" – how's that for a descriptive curveball! The comedic yet introspective title track to established MC/production duo Atmosphere's latest album sits well with all the polished material here. Atmosphere are new to me, but by the quality of this LP, I'll look further. (MC) Slug's lack of egotism as a conduit for aggression is refreshing, as if he doesn't need to shout at other rappers or rage his message to be heard like a spoilt toddler. He covers such an indie dichotomy on "Kanye West", one of the singles. "That's where I put my hands up, and did the Kanye West" – a tale of relationship authority gone mental, but Slug doesn't lose his mind throughout in an ugly manner. Instead, his skillful rap chops alternate between double-time and regular with a firm nod to De La Soul, but surge-protected by the realms of his niche. The best stuff for me is where the production (from Ant) is sharp and slightly anthemic, like the taste of a gurkin on a cheese and wine buffet is to creating contrast from the sum. In culmination, lots of the music feels purposeful, clean-cut-and-tied to the hip hop grindstone, some is a tad incidental, but this gives the LP a more freeform experimental quality. It also improves the coalesence of the lyrics, as on opener "Camera Thief", where a bass synth line fizzes under righteous rhymes like "break the rules but first break the rulers / and keep it moving like a rumour". This unpredictability married with dapper production spreads synapses like water. Favourite track: "Flicker".
Mono/Poly – Ra Rise (Brainfeeder)
Sounding like Boards Of Canada's "1969" chord arrangement driven on Valium, this was a find from Dan Barrow's column in the September issue (#367) of The Wire. I discovered it through SoundCloud's trusty stream jumps between sounds on its denigrated (seemingly unfairly) interface this month. The original album I was checking to give an opinion on was Dorian Concept's Ninja Tune LP, but Mono/Poly (not dissimilar in IDM-centric style of Belbury Poly) and "Ra Rise" from his "Golden Skies" LP on the renowned Brainfeeder label (famous for FlyLo's own productions) sounded so much better. Siren synths waft over delicate vocal layers and bass penetrates like a woofer on lacksaidasical bark. The old school rings in the wood of the phrasing revolutions are tempting sensations to indulge in. If the whole album is on this level, it could tear holes in electronica to plant new branches.
VVV – Separate Planes (Hush Hush)
As is the case with lots of Organic promos I get sent, there is a delay time between deciding what's interesting enough to review, whereas sometimes I completely pass over a release until a later date. "Separate Planes" is in both these categories, having been released in April this year. Across 6 tracks of rain samples, ethereal liquid synths and vocals and woodblock Burial beats, this ambient dubstep incarnation is rich in memory fluid. On "Separate Planes" for example, the melodic refrain feels stricken with a paranoia towards maximalist sensationalism, tracing thought pockets through sentimentality, absorbence and loneliness as emotional outputs. The material is very hued by off-colour, kaleidoscopic ecstacy while the drums lurch like the kit had been subject to a temporary earthquake. Lovely stuff, in short, and just the type of dubstep-leaning bass music I yearn for.
BSN Posse – Soul Rhythm EP (Freshmoon)
Out 25th September 2014
Salem's vocalist and Carlito in a deep fat fryer, breaking the beat crusts downward into the inner core of mushy pads that subtly glitter like sunshine out the corner of your eye. This effect of BSN Posse, footwork tunesmiths with less reliance on ragga-like chat and denigration, gives the beats time to spray forcibly like garden gnomes setting off sprinklers. The rhythms aren't haphazard, but they sound literally (and in junglist lingo, figuratively) sick. The renowned Teklife crew are touchstones for this release after the "WTF" LP. Tropical synthesiser melts into arpeggio-style vocals on the titular cut, widening out like a crowd of pigeons in Tower Square. Without the dirt though. Excellent release, and sure to please the jaded drum 'n' bass audience in the light of juke.
Agree with my selections this month? Anything I've missed, or should be checking out for next? Get in touch via email@example.com or hit me at @MuttleySV on Twitter.