Sub Focus & Wilkinson. Wilkinson & Sub Focus. Two of the bigger names going in UK drum & bass over past decade.
Just Hold On represents a bit of a departure from their template with some original melodies, and some live strings for extra depth (it was recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios in Bath). But really this isn’t one to think about too hard. Just turn it loud and rock out.
If you are fan, they released an album together, Portals, in 2020. For me, none of the tracks are quite as interesting as Just Hold On. But if it is 50 minutes of energy you are after, then check it out.
This is a really interesting album to listen to. Tracks are scattered from 81 to 147 bpm. I get that that might not sound like an appealing prospect to some people. But I think this is one worth a little effort. Each track feels like an event – they weave together in way that shouldn’t work but does.
You’ll know what I mean from the first two tracks The Relic and Star – they have more than a touch of Jacques Greene about them – building R&B vocal samples into a broody electronic aural landscape – but they go into a darker place than Jacques tends to. The album then swerves into over the top brass and hip-hop with Freddie Gibbs on the vocals, before reaching my top pick, Wait 4 U. It is neat and uncomplicated, like an early Ramadanman track. My other top pick is Believe in U is Wait 4 U‘s upbeat twin. A final mention goes to 1000 Miles, featuring Sub Focus.
Bonus track: this is what got Machinedrum onto my radar back in 2014. It’s his emotional remix of Kelis, and it’s a banger.
Some history: founded in 1996, Hospital Records are pretty much responsible for bringing drum & bass out of the shadows and into UK mainstream dance music. Hospital is known for popularising a sub-genre of drum & bass called ‘liquid funk’*. It is now thought of as the mother of Hospitality events, and the home of Netsky, Danny Byrd, Camo & Krooked, Logistics, etc. but basically it is founder Tony Colman’s baby. When Tony isn’t being the label boss, he produces under the name London Elektricity. London Elektricity is one of the most important drum & bass producers of the last two and a half decades. With me? Basically, Tony Colman is one of the most important people in the history of drum & bass.
Syncopated City is one of LE’s most famous albums – but I don’t think it will it go down as his best, or most impactful – but it is really interesting, and broad stylistically. Anyway, I wanted to post this one because: i) it has some bangers and; ii) it came out in 2008 so has some serious iPod-era nostalgia value for me.
For the tl:dr crew, listen to Just One Second with Elsa Esmeralda. Proper goosebump material. From South Eastern Dream to The Point of No Return (tracks 5-7) the album picks up momentum with some really nice jungle loops. See what you think, and don’t miss the final track – Syncopated City Revisited – which brings the album to a nice jazzy conclusion.
Bonus track: taking Just One Second onto the dancefloor, with the help of Apex. Iconic. RIP Rob ‘Apex’ Dickeson.
*personally, that descriptor really annoys me, but hey, what am I gonna do about it?
Drum & Bass / Jungle pioneer Photek released this drifty, meditative soundscape in 1995. One of his less-known tracks, it is pretty much impossible to find (Discogs only baby) but it always sends me deep every time. Mad to think it was released 25 years ago.
A couple of side-notes for the nerds. If it sounds familiar, it could be for two reasons. Option 1 is pretty cool, the 1971 jazz track Astral Traveling by Pharoah Sanders:
Option 2, is well, less so. The backing track to FA Premier League Football Manager 2000 on PS1. Yep.
Okay, so quite the controversial character is Mistabishi. If you cast yourself back to 2009 you’ll see one of the most exciting drum & bass producers on the scene. James Pullen has left his job in the city, and been signed by Hospital – the biggest label going – and released his first album, the critically acclaimed Drop.
Fast forward another 10 years and he has disgraced himself by fucking off just about everyone possible. Firstly the music-heads, by playing a pre-recorded mix at a gig and trying to pass it off (badly) as mixing live. Secondly (and repeatedly) anyone who isn’t a full-blown racist by claiming that ‘real’ Londoners are white – and blaming rising crime levels on immigrants and ethnic minorities. He then apologised for causing offence in about the least convincing way possible (and partially blaming some residual PTSD…). All in all, the guy is not a good egg.
So, if you want to enjoy this album you have to go through a real case of separating the art from the artist. If you are able to do that (and you want to) then Drop is a real gem. It mixes heavy and light, ecstasy and fear, all with a sharp dark sense of humour.
Drop contains three of my all-time favourite drum & bass tracks: No Matter What, a euphoric belter; The Light’s Really Bad, a cinematic roller full of hope and longing; and Falling in Love, another big’un with the emotional vocals of Danman.
There’s a lot to get your teeth into. Printer Jam will certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to admit that the guy has talent. Greed is a rolling dark monster with some hard right wing free-market philosophy thrown in to boot.
If you are listening for the first time, or the first time in a decade, let me know what you think.
Drum and bass. Granted it has slipped off the radar in the last few years, but every now and then a track comes along that is just such a good mix of merky and groovy that you can’t not get stuck in to it. This is one of those tracks. Turn it loud.
So this is obviously a post about Chase & Status. But stay with me. I’m talking ’08 Chase & Status. When they were playing at Neighbourhood and you have to try get in without ID and your mate was selling tickets to someone called Chasing Status because you were only 16 and didn’t really know what was going on and you probably weren’t going to be able to get in anyway because let’s face it, International Driving Licenses were a joke. But you do get in, and it is class. That’s the Chase & Status I’m talking about. And that Chase & Status is all over this album.
And let’s not forget we’ve got Kano, Plan B, Nneka and Jenna G on here. We’ve also got all-time classics like Take Me Away, and Hurt You. Put your drum n bass hat on and get jumping.