'Old School Methods EP'
There's something exciting happening deep in the underground. While drum & bass continues to innovate at 175bpm, its mutant offspring are becoming a dominant force in dance music again. The ghosts of jungle and hardcore have reentered the mainframe and a host of producers from outside the d&b scene have begun to harness the power of these bygone styles to make something new. Jay Cunning's Sub Slayers label, Paul Woolford's Special Request project, Tessela, Mark Pritchard, Peverelist and many more have all been rewiring the breakbeats, samples and atmospheres of the past, but changing tempos, adding contemporary techno touches, fracturing the beats to deconstruct rather than make a carbon copy. Etch's take on this morphology might just be the best example yet.
Over four tunes he offers a series of reductions and concentrations. 'Hybrid' is a broken junglist scatter, with dark grime bass bleeps, jazzy synth phantoms swooping in, and half-heard rave stabs infiltrating the mix. 'Sphynx' pinpoints the vibes of mid '90s Metalheadz, with its clipped, slowed tech step drum break, 'Terminator' hints and stoned Rhodes reverberations. Dropping into warping bass and chattering snares, it mimics the flavour of the past but drops it thrillingly into a new dancefloor context at 140bpm. 'Lost Methods' offers another take, this time shredding the beats into intricate d&b polyrhythms, like Source Direct or Photek at slower speed, the ninja stealth of those producers imagined for an even more paranoid era. 'Sounds feat J-One' is the single deviation, with a more smudged, gauzy UK garage vibe, heavy on the subs, crisp drums and vinyl crackles.
'Old School Methods' is a monster EP. Expect Etch to make big moves.
He's one of those producers that's been plugging away making singular bass-inspired releases for a while. But just lately it seems Om Unit's time has come. Take this wicked EP for Metalheadz, in which he subverts d&b norms while snapping to its typical bpm. 'Grey Skies Over Chicago' is all eerie synth-soaked Vangelis vibes with tech step beats cut into footwork shapes, and evil Hunter Killer bass. 'Sleepwalkers' could be even better, with its electro b-line, and cascading scalpel shredded beats, while 'The Hand' is psychedelic Amen choppage. Pushing d&b forward.
'Last Time Out'
Borai is Boris English, a producer with previous form on Applepips and Never Learnt. His latest for Chicago label Tasteful Nudes, 'Last Time Out', is powder-keg techno, all crisp claps, frenetic 4/4 motion and dubby FX, with a centrepiece piano stab that elevates it from mere track into set centrepiece. 'Midnight Run' is equally good, its dramatic strings and growling acid bass constructed around heavy tom toms and tribal percussion. A disquieting, crystalline synth arpeggio elevates it skywards.
'Feel Real Good'
A glorious blast of early '90s fashioned retro house/rave, jacked up for the modern dance deviant, 'Feel Real Good' is the work of former Atomic Jam resident Chris Finke. With its relentless pace, diva wails of “I can make you feel real good' and an electrofunk bassline to pile-drive clubs into submission, it's when the 'Think' breakbeats drop and chop over the 4/4 that it becomes a weapons-grade certified banger. And we're not talking sausages. Unashamedly old skool, impossible to resist.
'The Vanishing Test'
An underrated talent on the UK tech house scene, Sam Russo's new one is going to win him plaudits. Stripped back, sinewy but indelibly groovy, 'Sue Press' — with its crisp, off-beat percussion — is a swirling cauldron of heady analogue-driven house. 'Vanishing Test' pushes deeper on the pads, while giving the 909 a workout. On the flip, Jordan Peak and MRSK add to excellent re-rubs, but the real magic lies on the a-side.
While the term electro has been bastardised since its '80s inception, the original sound still has a sense of odd alien futurism missing from dance's current retro obsession. This gives added weight to Londoner Pip Williams launching new vinyl label Brokntoys via four tracks of 808 underpinned dystopian funk. From the drawn-out synths, sweeps and bleeps of 'Pleasure Deficiency Syndrome' to the foreboding bass interplay on 'Mode#7', Pip's vision conjures up a world of paranoid urgency, a mirror to our soul in 2013.
'Sex, Drugs & House'
Dixon Avenue Basement Jams
Hiding behind the cloak of anonymity, Berlin-based Marquis Hawkes has been turning out roughed up, analogue house jackers since last year, most notably for Glasgow's Dixon Avenue Basement Jams to whom he returns with his latest EP. Our favourite is Dance Mania inspired box-banger 'Get Yo Ass Off My Grass', but a stripped to the bone cover of S.O.S Band's 'The Finest' has equal dancefloor flex, while 'Acid Warehouse' nods its head to Bam Bam's 'Where's Your Child?' and 'Big Papa' rides along to '90s house organs.
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