This month, In:Vision's cat spilled a glass of water over his keyboard and mashed his A key, so it is by a super human effort from the man himself that we have the latest LEM! Hoorah!
Another month of rubbish weather, another month of introverted bass music, of all sorts of tempos. Here's a selection of some of my recent favourites, mostly set to drop over December.
Lyterian- The Chambers Of Apogee EP (Out December 3rd on Space Cadets)
Space Cadets, a newish label which has quickly positioned itself at the very forefront of the scene when it comes to deep, atmospheric and emotional 170 bpm music make the LEM cut once again with the debut EP from anonymous producer Lyterian. The four tracks here represents an absolutely refreshing take on the genre, blending expansive synth work with sparse and subtle break arrangements, in a manner that the overall effect of the music is to sort of wash over the listener, rather more like listening to ambient music than anything that could be classed as drum & bass.
I was fortunate enough to be able to chat with Lyterian recently who described his sound as "a hybrid of emotional machine funk, sadness, hope and a pulsating rhythm" (you can read the rest of my interview with him here: http://organicbeats.co.uk/features/interview/lyterian). Words are ultimately insignificant in quantifying this sort of music however, since it exists so far outside of any strict genre boundaries and the depth of its production encourages a unique listener experience with each play through as you gradually take in every detail and let go of attempting to listen for clear structures, instead hearing the overall picture and its sounds for their own sake. It's a challenging but ultimately very rewarding body of work to take in, and one that I consider essential for anyone who appreciates, as Lyterian himself does, "that electronic music can be so much more than DJ tools."
Eleven8- Changing Colours EP (Out December 10th on The Crescent)
An absolute gem of a 140 release from another exciting new label, The Crescent. I call it 140 instead of dubstep or "future" garage because for me, unfortunately those have become somewhat loaded terms referring to very specific styles and sets of sounds- the three tunes here fall into neither pigeon hole readily. Simply, this is just very good music which happens to run along at 140 beats per minute, or thereabouts.
The palette of sounds is remarkably varied, ranging from the techno pads and sawtooth bassline featured on opener "Changing Colours" (which also features wonderkid Clarity on the buttons) to the less traditional field recordings and pan pipes of "I Fell Into A Memory". Eleven8's drum and percussion work is both intricate and interesting throughout, but it's not where my ears are naturally drawn to, so rich are the textures and soundscapes created by the more naturally musical track elements. The standout number of the EP for me is unquestionably its closer, "Scattered", a proper eyes closed head nodder built around a reverb drenched acoustic guitar, to sublime and unique effect. Like the rest of the EP, it's an absolutely engrossing piece of music creating an ethereal atmosphere that you can't help but lose yourself in.
Sam KDC- Synesthesia EP (Out December 3rd on Veil)
Yet more new label action- clearly these are exciting times for deep bass music when there are so many young labels putting out music of this high quality. Though Veil may be a new label however, the name behind their first release should be familiar. Sam KDC this year has, to my mind anyway, fortified his position as part of a very elite group of producers who can seemingly churn out quality music at an alarmingly regular basis, and the Synesthesia EP is more than worthy addition to his ever growing and diversifying catalogue.
The medical condition from which the EP and title track take their names is one in which the sufferer experiences sensations related to one of their five senses in response to a stimulation of another sense- one common example of this described by sufferers is an involuntary visual reaction to the stimulation of listening to music. Appropriately then, through its deeply immersive nature, the Synesthesia EP also possesses a pseudo-visual element to it, perhaps best experienced through the full nine beautiful minutes of the title track. Like most of my selections this month, this is music that isn't really built for clubs but best enjoyed as a standalone start-to-finish listen with a good pair headphones in a dimly-lit room, to really appreciate the journey that it can take you on. Hopefully there's plenty more to look forward to in the way of equally well-crafted and captivating music from Veil in future, and indeed hopefully the standard set by all of the new labels I've mentioned this month is a sign of things to come from the wider 170/140 bass music scenes.
Billion Feat. Codebreaker MC & MC Sense- Defence/Skeptical Remix (Out now on Alignment Records)
Time for something a bit more club-friendly, in the form of the latest from Alignment Records, now ten releases deep and beginning to firmly establish itself as a "buy on sight" imprint when it comes to dark, minimal and rolling drum & bass. Having followed Billion's Fathom Audio since their unsigned days this isn't their first appearance in this column, however following on from their excellent but rather quirky single on Different Music earlier in the year, Defence finds the trio back in more familiar territory with a good old fashioned hard-edged breaksy workout built around the ever-intelligent wordplay of Sense and Codebreaker MCs. Unlike a lot of vocal drum & bass tracks, clearly great attention has been paid to the actual interplay between words and beats rather than approaching them in isolation; the MCs bounce their lyrics neatly between kick and snare while sweeps and mentasms swirl around to fill in the space between. The Skeptical remix on the flip is also stellar, as you would expect from a producer who already has one vocal banger under his belt elevated to anthem status, showing off the attention to rhythmic details and knack for super clean mixdowns that make his tunes instantly recognisable.
As a whole, the release neatly sums up Alignment's overall aesthetic so far- simply, strong dancefloor drum & bass of the discernibly more intelligent and dynamic variety than the generic and soulless.
Various Artists- Nostalgic Futurisms LP (Out December 10th on Modern Urban Jazz)
From the new, to the old. Or rather, the new with a nod to the old. Nostalgic Futurisms, describing itself as "a collection of tracks inspired by the golden era of drum & bass." To someone like me who wasn't fortunate enough to have discovered jungle and drum & bass back in the 90s and whose knowledge of this "golden era" is still in relative terms seriously limited, the nostalgia is sadly lost, but the pioneering spirit and outrageous level of funk and vibes that productions of this era are so revered for possessing are emanant in abundance, along with more than a touch of new school experimentalism courtesy of the strong batch of current producers Mjazz have managed to get on board.
The numerous highlights include the straight back and forth rolling bass of "Flatline" courtesy of (one half of Motreal duo Daat) Jason Os, a reworking of Justice & Tertius' synth workout "Essential 4 Life" and the spaced out ambience of "Rezo", this time Justice alongside fellow Mjazz stalwart Metro, which is perhaps the pick of the bunch. Maybe the relevance of this sort of throwback project will be lost on some but Nostalgic Futurisms is exactly the sort of thing that fans of Modern Urban Jazz know and love them for, and as such its easy to see why the label possesses such a rare cult status. Bonus points as well for snazzy artwork.
Sigha- Living With Ghosts (Out now on Hotflush)
The ever-evolving Hotflush Recordings, one time strict dubstep connoisseurs back before all the negative stigma became attached to the term and now house and techno imprint du jour has made a fitting long term home for the genre blending work of James "Sigha" Shaw, developing his sound with the times with admirable subtlety. With a three year deep back catalogue of releases, the maturing and sound developing stage leading up to this point finds long-awaited debut LP "Living With Ghosts" settled deeply in the realms of purist techno, but with the same masterful command of dubby ambience which has always been his trademark.
Again, this isn't music strictly designed for a club, and if it is it's the music for the very end of the night when most the punters have run out of drugs or left with a new friend of the opposite sex and only the shady lost souls are left, quietly nodding their heads up against any spare bit of wall space going. Unrelenting and at times even brutally mind-numbing repetition is the order of the day- look no further for en example than the nine minutes of "Translate" in which almost nothing changes, save for the faint augmentation of spectral background synths which eventually swell to a phenomenally palpable wave of white noise, releasing the unbearable tension created by listening to the same kick for ten minutes, which by now is perceived to have completely dissipated from the foreground.
Despite its cathartic qualities, this is an album that is seeping in character and emotion and there is a sense in which its 70 minute playing time is all designed to diminuendo towards ambient closer "Aokigahara", a piece whose grandiose is significantly magnified simply through the now welcome absence of a mercilessly driving beat. The very best albums create something greater than the sum of their parts