After a slightly longer than usual break, Low End Movements is back, and of course with plenty of great new records in the bag.
We're back once again, and since the last LEM outing, finally the British Summer has got itself into full swing. Great news for pervs and those of low vitamin D levels, traditionally however not a great time for music releases. Things have been relatively quiet the past 6 weeks or so moving into Summer's traditional lull period but as ever we've been working tirelessly behind the scenes to dig out some of the very best new bass-driven releases that May and June have had to offer so far.
Let's get stuck in!
ASC - Polemic (Out now on Samurai Red Seal)
ASC and Samurai grace LEM with their ever-welcome presences yet again with a couple of slices of killer techno-infused 85 BPM goodness. A term you don't find too often applied to ASC's music is "club-friendly", but never one to remain in a comfort zone for too long, contrasted with some of his more thoughtful recent material, evidently here James Clement's inner head-nodder managed to have his way in the studio, and the result is some of his weightiest work to date at this tempo.
"Polemic" reimagines the time-honoured (and indeed recently resurgent) sounds of '90s acid house among a more contemporary mould, combining a brutally resonant 303 lead with trademark 85 BPM 4/4 rhythmic work, to effect suitably described as "devastating". Flip it over for "Oracle", a sub-driven dubby number which admirably maintains a juxtaposition between loosely delayed pad elements and mechanically precise drum work to create a Jekyll-and-Hyde sort of tune, with two discernible sides to it according to where the listener chooses to divert their attention- not to mention making it both club and headphone suitable.
Hard to mention a Samurai release these days however without a quick appraisal of their efforts towards keeping vinyl alive. Between the dazzling blue marbled pressing of ASC's latest and the plastic-only bonus DJ-tool "909 Rhythm Track", you shouldn't really need much more of an excuse to shell out for the proper format if you find the tunes to your tastes- just make sure not to hang around before they all get snapped up.
Akkord - Navigate EP (Out now on Houndstooth)
Deep, dark and deadly dubstep-techno hybrids on the latest four-tracker from Fabric's promising new label, Houndstooth, and yet again an LEM mention for a product of Manchester's palpably vibrant underground bass movement. Though technically an anonymous entity, it would shock me if "collective of like-minded artists from the outskirts of Manchester" Akkord's work turned out to be that of anyone else's barring Organic favourites Synkro and Indigo, but assuming that to be the case there's a significant enough a level of departure from their more typical individual sounds that the collective tag is warranted either way.
True to its apparent early dubstep influences, "Navigate"'s strengths lie in its command of sparse groove and rhythm. The beats swing with military precision, making use of the space between tight percussion work as a rhythmical element in itself, and nowhere better than on the title track. "Compound" on the other hand places a bit more emphasis on the bass with gritty midrange sweeps that reverberate cavernously. Between these and the hard two-step beat pattern of "Destruction" and closer "Title Sequence"'s more mellow use of the dub sound palette, "Navigate" comprises an admirably varied selection of music for a mere 22-minute EP.
Hydro, War & Mateba - Black Light / Enlightenment (Out soon on Inside Recordings)
Of all its many guises and subgeneres, its the more traditional "fast breaks and bass" style of drum & bass that's arguably the most liable of all to feature lazy production that strives for immediate impact at the expense of experimentalism or longevity. This isn't the first time however that the production combo of War & Mateba have combined to make something that breaks that mould through possessing a great deal more attention to mood and ambient nuance than the average roller. A few months back, they gave away an excellent freebie in "Rift", produced alongside Bournemouth recent up-and-comer Overlook. This time out, they've got the veteran Hydro in tow for an excellent 12" for Horizons' sister imprint Inside.
Where both "Black Light" and "Enlightenment" especially separate themselves from the rest of the roller crowd is through exceptionally crisp drum work that affords each an agile, weightless feel that belies their booming low ends. Alongside the aforementioned expansive ambient qualities, this is a pair of tunes that as a result manage to capture all the funk and energy of early 2000s techstep wrapped up in 2013 production credentials, and with the healthy additional dose of atmospheric depth over the top to boot.
Katsunori Sawa - The Two Legs EP (Out now on Weevil Neighbourhood)
So this one technically came out back in April… but seeing as I feel guilty enough for having overlooked it at time of release I'm prepared to bend the very strict LEM laws just this once, because it's my column and I can do what I want. Besides, despite earning admirers out of a few particular underground figureheads since its inception in 2011, Germany's Weevil Neighbourhood is certainly deserving of some wider attention.
There's something about the lo-fi and challenging nature of Katsunori Sawa's music that just feels a perfect match for the purist, limited wax-only release approach that Weevil opt for. Given that this isn't music that's in any traditional sense DJ friendly, clearly the aim is for it to be listened to with a certain level of commitment, and indeed sitting watching a piece of plastic spinning in front of you and taking it in with full focus, hisses and all, does tend to make everything that little bit more of a voyage of discovery. Not that the music of this particular piece of plastic doesn't demand full attention out of its own merits anyway, mind. "The Two Legs" EP is a journey into abstract, complex and noisy techno; beat-driven soundscapes that are unsettling as they are enthralling. "Augurs" for example harnesses cinematically anxious drones which although shifting in presence, never fully allow a respite to the tune's overaching tension, while at the other end of the scale, closer "NGM" is best appropriated as ambient music with kicks. Requiring patience and complete immersion to best appreciate, these four experiments in rhythmical sound design won't be for everyone, and ultimately therein lies their beauty.
Sinistarr- Gaiden / I Am Not Invincible (Out now on None60)
I must admit, I'm still not fully on board with the juke/footwork trend that's somehow found its way from '90s Chicago into current bass music- maybe I'm struggling to relate to music that to my ears sounds so heavily driven by the motivation to move a dancefloor, or maybe I'm just not cool. ("I hear that everybody that you know is more relevant than everybody I know.")
That said, I do very much like this pair of tunes, Silent Dust's excellent None60 imprint again coming up trumps when it comes to not really giving too many shits about genre as a concept and the restrictions perceived to come with it. Were it lacking in depth, Sinistarr's first solo 12" for the label could easily be written off as disposable along with many of the drum & bass-footwork crossovers to come out of the last year or so, but listening beyond the beats on "I Am Not Invincible" in particular reveals a more emotionally charged piece of music than its dancefloor leanings would initially suggest, achieved through restrained usage of heavily-pitched vocals to create both ambiguity and atmosphere.
To similar effect, just at the point where it threatens to explode into a full-on reese bass banger, "Gaiden" takes a surprising turn in stripping back to silence and giving way to raw melodic synth work, a motif which is then allowed ample space to develop through the tune's progression. The result is a uniquely funky bit of music, and crucially one that retains enough of the hallmarks of Sinistarr's trademark production style to avoid appearing a gimmick, as so many artists fail to do when dipping their toes into the waters of the latest subgenre du jour.
Genotype- Lessons In Depth EP (Out June 18th on Samurai Red Seal)
So just as I get ready to wrap it up for another month, what turns up in the inbox but another great release from Samurai Red Seal…
It's good to see Genotype back among the beats again after a quiet couple of years following his "Ritual Dance" LP, which dropped on Exit Records all the way "back in the day" of 2010. While "Lessons In Depth" lacks an individual standout that quite matches the sheer vitality and urgency of "Ritual Dance"'s apogee "Justice Over Law", it's nonetheless a completely solid set of tracks from top to bottom and perhaps a more focussed collection on the whole. It also contains plenty of Genotype's most musically direct material to date, such as the two-step bassline workout of "The Day After The Night" and more percussion led tribal numbers like "Jam That Feel". Clean, lean and raw, every individual element of each tune is put to use with suitable restraint; neither rhythmically nor atmospherically does anything feel close to being crowded, and yet nothing feels empty. "Lessons In Depth", or a masterclass in minimalism?
Agree with my selections this month? Anything I've missed, or anything that I should be checking out for next? Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me via @invisiondnb on Twitter.