Cutcross Recordings put out the third instalment of their compilation series, the second one with a theme, and is appropriately titled “With the Pulse”. Dubstep sonics run rampant over the nearly twenty minutes of runtime and, in the label’s own words, is led by “distinctly percussive driven sounds”–an appropriate name, then, for this four-tracker.
Conzi leads the dance with “Kway”, a warping, weighty sub line stomps beneath chopped vocals and ticking hats before morphing into something altogether more groove centred. The pad break midway through provides a little breathing room before the vocal chops reestablish their presence, the main motif again wresting control until the closing bars.
Ehua follows up with ‘Venom’, whose rain shakers, cabasas, tribal drums and dissonant strings make for great Mise-en-scène. Haunting vocals, wobbling subs and tuned drums make up the bulk of the theme, with flutes and well-chosen synth work adding colour on the fringes. An excellent cut for those looking to bridge dub over into funky territory and beyond.
Zygos‘ “’11” is a testament to the track order of this release; its harrowing atmosphere fits perfectly in the running, with a fluttering sub-bass pattern, an arsenal of drums to adumbrate the track’s rhythms and a delayed one-shot reminiscent of a Commodo track. Occasionally, a detuning ostinato plays that sounds like one’s smartphone has run out of battery, and somehow matches the overall tone incredibly well viz. a hazy, paranoid sway through a dancefloor populated by ghouls, and one that is riveting from the first second to the last.
Finally, what feels like a reprieve, though admittedly only on account of how murky the preceding tracks have been, Jamiu‘s “Rasaks” has skippy, grime-like qualities, whilst still retaining many of the EP’s dubstep sensibilities. It feels like emerging from a dark tunnel to find a familiar-yet-unfamiliar world, populated by hazy memories of a forgotten childhood, past lovers and shores yet reached. A suitably trippy end for a veritable quest of an EP.
“With the Pulse” is of impressive quality and contains four, well-portioned dancefloor experiments. Expect an unravelling journey from start to finish.
Seagrave’s second instalment of their compilation EPs “Quarters” is a tetrathlon of wonky club rockets, with the course charted out through the leftfield.
The release plods into action with “KEK”: a tightly-coiled collaboration between seasoned dubstepper Stereotyp and Malaysian standout Arabyrd. No stranger to eclectic pairings, Arabyrd’s riffs are a piquant accompaniment to the sinister instrumental–a rolling, sludgy effort with trap and dubstep flavours à la Disco Rekah. From Vienna to Kuala Lumpur via London, KEK shows the time-proven value in international link-ups.
Next on the billing, K-65 goes straight to the rave with unapologetic drum and bass flavours, matching uptempo drums, guttural strings and punchy 808s with histrionic vocals; bell-style arpeggios creep their way up through the middle of the track and make for a wonderfully euphoric crescendo–one to be heard through a post-covid club system.
Low End Activist then jumps aboard with a refix of “4am”–a murky UKG cut underscored by the click-clacks of a cold snare and a subby bass that fast finds itself front and centre after the halfway point. Dancehall vocals swell in and out along with terse synth motifs, providing brief flecks of light before again shrouding the listener in a moody soundscape.
Finally, on a release replete with disjointed features, Sentinel 793’s “Hat Rocks” is perhaps the most eccentric of them all. The range of stereo work is deft and anxiety pushing, with uncertainty emerging as the prevailing feeling. The format of a partially-reconstructed, progressive electronic track is there, but it is clear there’s intentional subversion at hand–one to annoy the purists.
Quarters volume 2 is a well-curated snapshot of leftfield bass music around the world, with a little something for everyone.
Martyn comes consistent with “Frozen Bread Snaps”, starting off this EP on a deep, orchestral vibe. Brooding basses rumble under melancholy strings and garage chords echo in the distance. Soft and warm, Martyn always knows how to create an atmosphere.
The atmospheric pressure changes with the second track “Door of Gulf” by Sin Gremlinz and Jesta. “Door” harkens back to my favorite period of jungle and drum and bass, when a Guy Called Gerald and Photek kept things steppy and dark. Beautiful elements of space and pace roll along, consistent but never repeating.
Noire brings in the UK Funky vibes with “Ballas”, serving as a great transition as the tempo slows. It’s deep and tribal but has the same big open atmosphere as the first two tracks. For the headphone crew, listen closely, the details hidden way in the back add a really nice natural feel.
We close with “Dusty Glass Bubbles” from Parris. The track drones and hiccups, while bubbles, as the title promises, float by. The simple, delightful little beat sneaks in and out. Overall, it’s a beautiful moment in time, stretched out into the five minutes before you have to come up for air.
At first listen, this EP felt a little incongruent, but the consistency lies in the spaces created. Each track might paint the same open field, just at different times of the day. And each painting is beautiful and deserves study.
This collection of bass-heavy tunes from Roadman Joel is just about everything you need for your summer bangers. It sticks pretty close to the subterranean styles you can seek out around the UK, with a few exceptions.
Sergic’s “The Prince” is one of those exceptions, starting us off with pure fun. Harkening back to 90’s sample-ridden breakbeat, you’ve got vamps, record scratches and all the vocal chops you could need to lose your mind on a beach at sunrise.
Then the light fades to dark, and we get serious with “Keep Guard” from Archive. Chatty vocals are wrapped in steppy kicks and grinding atmospheric bass, with just enough snare to keep you guessing.
Then a step to the left and we’re skanking. “Violinz” from Doctor Jeep is grime-meets-UK funky in the spirit of 10 years ago. It’s simple and edgy, pairing the catchy top riff with 8-bar switches.
Along with Ali McK & IYZ X Retrospect’s “An Again (ft. Rame)”, your funky needs are met. Rame delivers the grime feel and the bass will scare the hell out of you, but to vibe is the same. Get dark, go hard, get low.
Also on the UK funky vibe, Leda Stray‘s “Astray” and Murder He Wrote‘s remix of TMSV’s “Expensive Suit” don’t disappoint. A bit more on the dancefloor tip, the big chunky snares set a sunshine vibe you’ll want to hear all summer long. The feeling culminates with Killjoy “Gangrene” with its sirens and straight-up marching rhythms.
You can’t have UK funky without bassline. Lyka’s “Buff Girls (Killjoy Remix)” set the tone early in this collection with sexy vocals and wonky bass. Sounding like either an aerobics class or porn, the result is the same. You’ll end up sweaty.
“Jawnz” from Frost and Majora’s “Boss Key” also touches on bassline, but are a bit more leftfield. “Boss Key” explores some different percussion, clearly Majora did “have some fun” in the studio, as the vocal sample insists.
The collection also visits 2-step with “Beeston Bandit” from Major Oak, garage with “Ravers (Coldpast Remix)” from Exit99 and Arctic’s “A Little Bit More Reese”, and a bit of chaos from Timbah’s “No Bootlegs”. DJ Madd and Archive hint at dubstep in their leftfield bass “Badman Talkin (Archive Remix)”. And not to be left out, there’s a bit of juke-y madness from Arma’s Elevate.
All of which might culminate in the near-breakcore roller that is “Badboy Business” by Private Caller, bringing in the oldschool, proto-jungle vibes.
Overall, you’ll need everything from glow sticks to sandals for this collection, as it covers a lot of ground. I’d say most of the tunes are closer to riddims than anthems, but all bring solid vibes, perfect for another summer of raving.
The Acid Pan EP by Fork and Knife comes together like the soundtrack for a post-apocalyptic video game, but one where you’re winning.
“Acid Pan”, the first, drips acid as you’d expect, but it’s the basslines that will get you. Somewhere post-2step garage, post-dubstep, post-UK funky, the beats are huge, steppy and the basslines twist and turn like aurora borealis.
The bass is the theme, I think. “Goblin Choir” centers around early grime-blips and a creepy choir sample, but again it’s the bass that makes you nearly crash the car. Way up front, you may be dancing but face contortions are inevitable.
“Tombstone” could be the B-side to “Goblin Choir” or vice versa. Along with its Tik&Borrow remix, the bass is captured and carefully controlled. The big difference is Tik&Borrow might’ve tranquilized it for a dubstep interpretation and rode it around like a T-rex. But who could blame them?
Dunman runs with the dubstep theme, remixing the title track, “Acid Pan”. The bass weight sits well over half time drums, dramatic strings, and huge drops.
While a lot of EPs feel like a few good tracks put together, or one good track and filler, the Acid Pan EP feels like coherent variations on a dark, teeth-gnashing theme. The continuing future of bass music is terrifying, but well illustrated in these five tracks.
Back in the day, what drew me to UK funky was the split between the lush pop feel of acts like Crazy Cousinz and the motif-driven side with the likes of Lil Silva and Roska. “Prism” and “Reactor Core”, the first two tracks on this EP from DJ BMW, are perfect examples of compelling ideas, well explored. Danceable, dancehall-influenced polyrhythm intermingles with just enough sound design to distract you. Just when your brain says, “I get it,” there’s a tasteful twist, a slight variation on a bass swell, more grit, and suddenly another two minutes go by.
The Murder He Wrote remix of “Prism” sounds like the missing middle eight filtered through the dirty sublow that preceded dubstep, which continues the theme of tastefully bass weight.
Lastly, Coldpast remixes “Reactor Core”, and the EP is complete. This one scares me, it really does. Kicks replace bass, pound for pound, and I only pray I’m sober when this comes on. My face might melt off.
© Bass Tourist