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.
“Change My Ting” marches through UK Funky territory to deliver a rambunctious vocal heater, ready to shut down any dance. With pitched drums, marching snares, and deep, groovy bass in the undertow, Secret Agent Gel’s latest serves as a perfect wave for the ever-charismatic Redders to ride. At four and a half minutes the track seems too short, and this serves as a testament to the track’s hypnotic instrumental and head-nodding vocal delivery.
The B-side provides an instrumental copy and stands out as a versatile potential pairing for a number of talented MCs in the UK underground and beyond.
With dollops of flavor and oozing with charm, Change My Ting is a saucy entry into Durkle Disco’s already impressive back catalog.
Horns and cackles greet you, as “Brizili”, by Daze Prism, kicks off. It’s tough not to smile at the silliness and good vibes, which is a nice change from the darker/harder vibe so much UK funky/carnival house/snare-focused garage is going for. But the beats are serious, and basslines should still please the “go in” enthusiast.
“Clank” continues the exalted sampling, painting a slightly different color. Showing off a bit more drum work, the UK Funky vibe is lifted up with shouts and bubbling riffs, and of course the bangs and clanks you’d expect with such a name. This is one of those tunes that feels like it could happily bounce along forever. It’s a DJ’s best friend.
“Mello” is a wet and wild ride through soupy synths and plucky melodies, but features the same big funky drums. A bit more straight on, the colors are warmer, the drums chunkier, and the same “rolls along” atmosphere. As we get away from the samplitude of the opening tracks, the clarity of the rhythms and overall structure come into focus. “Mello” feels somehow more grounded like Daze Prism is starting to get serious.
And finally “Proper”, built around a great vocal sample, is a bit of a departure, focusing more on a rave-up synth line but it’s no less amusing, especially when it smooths out a couple of1 minutes in. The pieces come together, and again there’s a feeling like the nice guy you just met at the coffee shop will save you when the apocalypse hits. Do not underestimate the resources that lie within.
The precisely funky percussion that starts off “Dayquil™️ Killer”, by PIHMS feels like kids’ toys have taken over the dance floor. Dry, crisp and endless variations inspire your toes to keep tapping. The creepy chimes are enough to offset the looming bass. This is one for the mix.
“Vaporub™️down” feels like variations on a theme, but comes in much harder. Birds squawk at the driving tribal drums, but sound wholly unnatural. Hats and noise sweeps slide by, like dry ice. I love the tension in this as it continually approaches and then recedes.
“Down Time” is a tight little groove that bops along, drawing on your walls with crayon.
And finally, while “New Gear” comes in a little different, the vibe is somehow consistent with the rest of the EP. A bit more garage than funky, it’s got the same concise, steppy feel with emphasis on drums and bass.
This EP offers some of my favorite arrangements of 2019. It’s like Tetris. A few simple shapes falling thick and fast in every possible combination. It’s wonderfully symmetric, almost mathematical while feeling human at the same time.
I love intros but don’t usually expect them to define the sound I’m about to hear. Most often they’re like interludes on old hip hop records – a chance for the artist to have a little fun before getting down to the “real” tracks.
But the intro on this EP does, truly, set you up for what you’re about to hear. Slightly off-kilter Kuduro beats set against organic percussion, horn bleats, and guitar chords. Soupy reverbed-out spaces and voices make you take off your headphones to make sure no one is talking to you. Misleadingly simple polyrhythms layer and build on and off of each other until you lose the downbeat altogether. All you can do is keep dancing…
“African Voice 06” hits the sweet spot for me, admittedly because it might be the most straight-forward track on the album. Voices like bird song ring out as a call-to-action, playing off the throbbing bass. It’s three minutes that’s over all too quickly.
And “African Whistle – Take Over Remix” wins as the most catchy tune. I look forward to hearing that on a dance floor.
We need more horns in garage. We need more garage. Thank you, TC4!
“Caracas” has a wonderfully classic 2-step garage feel. Shuffling drums, steppy vocal chops, and a bubbling bassline play off a simple horn riff to create a great summer vibe at home in the 90s or 2019. I am not dressed nearly well enough for this tune, but gun fingers are definitely out. And, oh my, it is so sweet when the strings come in before the second drop. Wait for it.
Speaking of drops, the drop in “Bongo” is immaculate. Latin piano over a classic rave-up drops you into madness with a bit of clever production. I won’t give it away, but it’s one of the more satisfying riddims I’ve heard in a while. This is the epitome of a producer seeing an idea through.
Finally, the flutes of “Lobos” take you away. In an odd way, “Lobos” feels like the joining of the other two tracks, straddling garage and brilliant arrangement, but maybe with a splash of Brazilian percussion for good measure. It would work great as a grime instrumental but stands satisfyingly on its own.
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.
Venga, this EP from Leda Stray and High Class Filter, starts with a ghom and kuduro vibe, filtered through UK funky with a touch of South America. It’s hard as hell, as much global dancehall and bang as you can cram into a dancefloor tune. The label, Symbols, is out of LA. I picture choreographed mobs facing off in the streets of Hollywood, the sign overrun with vines. Dance battles ensue. Everyone is left panting, with smiles on their faces.
Continuing the motif, “Bengal” takes us further into the jungle. We’re surrounded by natives. The dance rituals have begun, drums sounding like gunshots. Soon it will be dawn.
And the final track, “Sphinx”, might just be that ray of sunshine. It starts off a little more straight-forward UK funky, carnivalesque. And then the bass. Ooh, the bass. No matter how fast you run, the wildebeests keep pace, just behind the tree line. The sun shoots rays through the branches overhead, causing deep shadows with bursts of light.
This EP feels like this moment in time. Grime, ghom, kuduro and UK funky come together, all contemporary sounds that have had a huge impact on me and the dance music I love.
© Bass Tourist