ALBUM OF THE MONTH
VARIOUS: Critical X 2002–2012 (Critical Music)
When it comes to deep, textured, melodic, rolling tech-funk gold, Critical is a conceptual, commercial and – indeed – critical success story. While the leading labels of the noughties (Ram, Hospital, Shogun) have metamorphosed into highly successful super-brands, Kasra’s (pictured) hand-stitched enterprise has steadily filled the gap to become d’n’b’s essential underground powerhouse. These 10 tracks (plus numerous digi exclusives) each celebrate one year of the journey, and from the sexy percussive funk of Mathematics’ 2002 gem ‘Blackjack’, via Lomax’s 2007 corkscrewing bassline stepper ‘Innocent X’, to the arachnid glitching sorcery of Rockwell’s 2011 masterwork ‘Aria’, it’s a bona fide dance music triumph.
TUNE OF THE MONTH
Never The Same (Playaz)
Hazard remains a brilliant destroyer of perceptions as well as dancefloors. Once pigeonholed as a wobbly jump-up merchant, his releases always have our heads nodding pleasantly long before any screwfacing takes place, so expert are the infectious rhythms underpinning the madness. His shuffly drums have undergone a messy percussive reworking here, and it’s killer from start to finish, the stop-start breaks threshing funkily over a thunderous three-note bass itch that worms around the system with vicious intent. Top-drawer dancefloor murk? Sign here.
Dirty Rider (Calyx & Teebee remix) (Mercury Records)
Hackney rapper, cyclist, street poet and all-round hype-magnet Mikill gets the treatment from darkside Ram sluggers C&T – but it’s served with a surprisingly large slice of sexy. The duo’s feast of robotic snares and squelches are toned down, via smoky guitar chords and poppy backing vox, to comprise a thunderously funky vocal roller. But this is a remix with more than one gear, and when the action suddenly cuts to a half-time landslide of seething synths, you’ve had your money’s worth and then some.
Vatican Roulette (RAM Records)
Forget the A-side to this release – 140bpm chart-ripper ‘Black & White’ feat Benny Banks (though it’s undeniably ace) – and proceed directly to the ten-tonne sledgehammer-slap that is ‘Vatican Roulette’, as featured on Andy C’s brutal Mixmag cover CD late last year. A cavalcade of warning-siren synths bellow furiously while explosive, stepping breaks slam into deep bunkers of bass. With a big Loadstar Live tour and album ‘Future Perfect’ in the tank, it’s hard to find a better 170bpm stadium bass act right now. Fire!
Tomorrow (Soul Deep Recordings)
After notching up several solid liquid releases on Binary Soul and others, stripped-down soulster Jrumhand reappears on our radar via Seattle label Soul Deep – and it’s another tasty affair, this time licked by cheeky Amen cutaways and nibbly jungly edits. With a grainy, organic break shuffling amid reverbed Eastern atmospherics and expertly timed vocal whisperings, fans of Good Looking and Phuzion releases will be knee-deep in the good stuff. We recommend checking out the rest of Jrumhand’s ‘Slow Train South’ EP: sheer liquid freshness.
Broken Bones (BCee & Bladerunner remix) (Nu Directions)
Fresh out the shrinkwrapping as official tour MC for the all-new Loadstar Live show, Manchester-based Ad-Apt also makes 140bpm growlers for his conscious, likeable hip hop flow – and the rapper is currently bleeping away on our radar screen, having also appeared on Spearhead boss BCee’s superb ‘Beat The System’ album early last year. BCee’s influence glistens here in the soft-soled intro breaks and celestial strings, before Ad-Apt’s perky bars bottom out into no-nonsense Bladerunner territory: a warping low-slung roller whip-lashed by rib-rollicking snares and classic old-skool bass-quakes. Tidy and engaging.
Deekline & Ed Solo
Bad Boyz (Jungle Cakes)
We’re absolute suckers for unapologetically retro jungle-d’n’b bangers, and there are few better at rocking the party with cheekily blatant beats than Brightonian breaks boss Ed Solo and retro-tastic jungle label Jungle Cakes. Guided by Top Cat’s golden tonsils, the classic reggae refrain is souped and spruced to a frenetic pace via police sirens, arcade game twinkles and plenty of scything bassline sizzle. If it’s clean beats, dubby vocals and simple bouncy bass fodder you’re after, then join the club – we’re busy having our Jungle Cakes and eating them noisily, thanks.
Stardust (Commercial Suicide)
Who could fail to love Budapest’s finest d’n’b conceptualist Mindscape, who’s only gone and lovingly chiselled a sci-fi themed long-player called ‘Martian Chronicles’ that’s positively bursting with spidery tech-roller dynamite? This, the sampler for the album, is a blisteringly infectious slab of humming bassline boomerangs and sand-blasted snares that tunnels along at fearsome speed. Commercial Suicide know how to mine the galaxy for gems, and this entire project is causing wide smiles all round. Hats off to a Hungarian trailblazer.
John B feat jillian ann
Love Again (Enei remix) (BETA Recordings)
Now this is right up our street: sparkly electro queenster John B and his sequins ’n’ bass melodica meets Russian bass scientist Enei and his sizzling industrial funk. It’s a killer combo – and easily the best of the three remixes that accompany this final single from John’s brilliant ‘Light Speed’ LP, where typically euphoric trance vocals surf high above a feast of searing mid-range electrodes and deliciously clean stepping breaks that shuffle and tickle hypnotically throughout. High-gloss production – in all senses.
Wickaman, SuddenDef & Hoodlum
Hurt You (Infrared Music)
It was always going to have to go some to match Craggz & Parallel’s recent single of the same name, but unfortunately this hectic concoction doesn’t get close. As a rip-roaring, synth-fulled electro-stepper it’s sure to do maximum damage come 4am, being chock full of the kind of euphoric dancefloor bass ballistics that are serving many labels so well right now. However the track has more gear changes than a joy-riding adolescent, and the stop-start synth-off is often more schizophrenic than spell-binding. On the plus side, there’s enough decent material for three tracks here – a bit like raving in multiple dimensions all at the same time.