Joedan has long been an unsung hero of UKG’s underground, garnering support and respect from many of the scene’s finest and foremost.
‘Forget the Girl’ is Joedan’s latest E.P. offering, making slick use of the oft-remixed Tony Terry vocal of the same name. The ‘Tunnel Mix’ is the EP’s first cut, combining a growling speed garage bass, a thudding four-to-the-floor kick, and the aforementioned vox to delectably sinister effect. Joedan seems to have thoroughly refined the art of making broody club bangers, and this introductory track is no different.
On the flip side Skillz pulls out his producer chops to craft an entry similar in vibe, but on more of a deep and jackin’ house tilt, teasing out some rave flavors with piano riffs, tight hats, and claps, and a crunchy, descending bass motif.
Forget the Girl is a welcome addition to a reemerging UK underground club scene. Expect dark, sulky rave energy alongside a healthy zesting of house and garage drums.
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.
“Homemade”, the first on this EP from DJ Tess and Nan Kolè, slinks to a start, building to one of the most flawless beats I’ve heard in a while. Kicks, then shakers, hats, then snares slowly come into focus and then join together in a perfectly syncopated shuffle, hinting not only at UK Funky and Gqom you’d expect but all manner of African rhythms. Simple melodies leave the beats space to breathe, ironically leaving me breathless with switchbacks, subtle pattern changes, and detailed reverb creating just enough depth. But encircling all that, there’s something warm and deep about the mix, something organic, that makes this tune a little surprising, and makes me want to listen more than if it was mixed like a club banger.
On to “Gimme Any Riddim”, the anthem getting all the attention. I’ll be honest. The light-heartedness of the video detracts from the weight of this tune. NyNy’s vocal perfectly compliments the wobbling towers of the lead and the dancehall beat. Try as you might, your muscles contract, your eyes squint, and the guy next to you is asking, “What’s with the screw face?”
The third tune, “Tears”, and fourth, “Problems feat. Jakhal”, feel a study in drama and movement. It feels to me like sitting backwards on a train as it goes through turns. You’re jolted from side-to-side without warning, and it’s exciting. But at the same time, there’s a sense of propulsion and you see behind all of the ground you’ve covered.
From the moment it starts, you’re transported to London at night when 2 step garage filled the airwaves, lights blurring by, pirate radio connecting you to the underground. I keep waiting for the DJ to start announcing callers. If “Grooves” wasn’t new, it could’ve easily been a hit back in the day. It’s such a warm and friendly sound if tied to a specific moment in time.
And “Cinco” follows suit. More bumpy than “Grooves”, infectious syncopation drives the tune, illustrating the classic divide between house and garage (from a US perspective).
In the early 2000s, major radio had made its way online and at work, I had a T1 line. Radio1 was pop all day, but thanks to the time difference in New York, I started catching some of the late-night and weekend programming that included garage and 2-step. It blew my mind. I was never a fan of the repetitive house music that dominated our dance floors. I was awed by the complexity of jungle and IDM, but they were not popular or accessible enough to hear in the club. garage and especially 2 step brought the drum programming I loved into house music. And because I was a few years late to the garage and 2 step game, it was starting to turn darker and producers were adding polish but also more creativity.
I love when this sound turns up in the mix.
This EP is pure vibes. Reminiscent of Bankongo and other studies in pure rhythm, all three tunes are all about color and tension. “Digi-tek”, the first track on this EP from Smoove Kriminal (take that, spell check), is a simple yet infectious beat accompanied by sonorous bells, off-kilter percussion, and oddly familiar sample chops. That moment in so many tracks where the high hat comes and it all comes together? This whole tune feels like that.
“Levels” is a bit more housey, but with a distinctly tech-meets-beach feel. I can hear Pete Tong’s voice over the breakdown during their Ibiza takeover. I hope he doesn’t sleep on this one.
Lastly “Sublmnl” is a return to the more tribal bongo feel one usually expects from Smoove Kriminal, though it wouldn’t be out of place in a techno set. Both light and dark, it feels like you’re traveling through a tunnel, headlights and fluorescents streaming by. It’s up to you if you’re looking forward or back.
“Love” ft. Jessica Wilde starts off so sweet and careful that it inspires reflection. Those bittersweet moments in Trainspotting come to mind. The piano hints at the rave nostalgia that made The Streets famous. The most bittersweet to this track is it should push Murder He Wrote above ground to regular Friday night rotation on Radio 1, and the underground will be sad to see him go. “Love” has anthem written all over it.
And “Loss” picks up where “Love” left off. Rave-up piano vamps drop you into a classic garage bassline that almost distracts you from the gorgeousness of the vocal oohs and aahs. The steppiness returns just in time to get your toes tapping. Not to be missed.
Oddly enough, the perfection of the “Cuica Riddim” is what inspired this review. It’s track three but don’t sleep. Melodically busier than much of the Murder He Wrote tracks I’m familiar with, I caught a 90’s Sunship vibe from this one that I couldn’t stop humming. I don’t know if you’ll hear this on a dancefloor, but queue it for the drive home. Any drive home. You’ll just feel better about everything.
Finally, the Titeknots remix of “Love” almost leaves me resentful. It’s a Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff summer-time interpretation and I want to send it back to the 80s, but it comes too correct. Middle school b-boys are choreographing dance routines in the weeks leading up to the release. Get out your Jncos and get it done.
in “HTSG”, from Doc Zee, crunchy drums and grime bleats lay an odd bed for gorgeous vocals from Dakota Sixx, but it works. Then heartache and Burial-style vocals-in-space set us up for searing bass, an odd counterpoint to the triumph of “it’s hard to say goodbye,” or maybe the perfect expression of emotion. Either way, it works. The tune does seem to go through a number of mood swings. Highly recommended as your next break-up tune.
And then there are remixes!
Murder He Wrote draws on the emotion with luscious pads and bubbly vocal treatments. It’s the quieter, side-glances of the original, even when it breaks down to a drum roller. Like all good remixes, it has a mind of its own, focusing in on a single element of the original. The tears are drying. This is the angry-sad.
Finally, Higgo covers the housey, garage euphoria of “we should just move on”. It’s done. Sadly so is the EP. This second remix is the perfect joy of losing yourself on a night out, leaving your emotions at the door.
“Octave”, from MA1, slides in like chocolate. It’s rich, heavy and decadent. Classic stabs give energy to beautiful pianos, all over a slightly unconventional bassline. The drums are simple but propel you along. It’s Sunday morning bliss, any day of the week. All we’re missing is a bittersweet vocal about love and hope.
Oetker offers the second track, “Dates in Tunisia”, taking us into the shadier side of the vibe set by the first track. More sweetness and catchy melody, but with a focus on drops and bass. The best kind of UK funky vibes abound with simple changes and catchy riffs.
“Caliente”, by Fearz, is carnival through and through, big drums, pan flutes, and pure, hard fun. This is one of those tunes that will get stuck in your head, but you’ll never remember why. These are the grooves I love the best – simple, infectious and wiggle-inducing.
Ali McK & IYZ are a study in consistency with “1, 2, 3, 4”. Their beats are always a little different, which is sometimes needed in a UK funky setting. This drum workout is no exception. Percussive creativity over big belly subs carry the muted chords in a driving way. This is the ultimate drum breakdown. Deliver this after any tune and the crowd will double down, guaranteed.
“Echo Falls” by Fonzo feels the newest. Like most genres grow harder and darker, Echo Falls drives the grinding bass forward, wide and hard before dropping to steppy drums and sub. It’s a return to essentials that precedes a changing landscape.
Doctor Nick is new to me, but I’ve added a stick note to my monitor to follow up. “Mind” climbs in through a window with energy but also space and depth. It creeps along the floor, climbs up your leg and into your ears. It hurts so good. All we’re missing is the obvious, “this won’t hurt… much” sample during the breakdown.
“JAH” from L.R. Groove was the first tune I heard that made me want to write about this EP. When the kick hits, I’m dancing. The bongos drag you ever forward over slinky synth lines and, goddam, that bass. It’s an unbelievable way to end the EP. Huge, perfectly arranged and doubles down just when you want it to.
DJ Stolen collected seven amazing track on this EP that delivers fire.
It’s dangerous to write music reviews in a train to New York City. The metaphor is too easy.
“Do It Now”, by Intern Hook-up, is what you wish every Friday night in the city feels like, a little vintage rave, a little modern global club. Tons of attitude, trains rumbling under feet, you have no idea where you’ll end up, but you’re always moving forward.
And “Dessent” is when things get messy. Your friends have disappeared. The MTA has rerouted your train and somehow you’ve ended up in Queens. It ends well, safe back in your bed, but it took a lot to claw your way out of the quagmire.
Maybe just one more before calling it a night…
“Letting Off Steam in the Woods” is an odd yet appropriate comedown track. Creepy Aphex screams and moans, squeaky 90s blips and jabs, it matches your fears instead of trying to quiet them. Go to bed. Sleep it off. We’ll try again next weekend.
Smoove Kriminal lives up to his name. I’m really excited for this EP.
“Avalanche” is everything good about 90s Caribbean music, sped up. Choppy drum samples compete with staccato vocal quips, whistles and every other drum sound in the drum patch. The arrangement is perfect, and it’s nothing short of a thousand drum machines rolling downhill, about to bury your chalet. Pick any drum pattern and I challenge you not to bop along.
“Come Through” is way more sneaky. If we’re sticking with a 90s motif, I’m reminded of the rawness of early tribal house and later dark garage or whatever we’re calling pre-dubstep. It’s dark, bumpy, and routes out a groove with precision.
And finally “Depth” is the club banger. More up front, the riddim is less challenging, more vodka. This sits nicely next Roska’s clubbier joints and might be heard in a Detroit warehouse right around the time the sun was coming up. Probably on Monday, after raving since Friday.
“Touch” sneaks in with a tribal madness that can’t be topped. Then it drops to a simple house riff and the drum line is at it again. Drinks will spill. The stands will go wild. The football team will win and no one will care. Just listening in the car or at home will leave you exhausted. Please enjoy responsibly.
Thankfully, “Freak” is the same but different. It’s equally as unrelenting, but would fit better in a techno set in Berlin at 5AM than on a beach during a summer afternoon. It may just drive you mad. It reminds me a bit of Josh Wink’s Don’t Laugh.
This is an odd review, I know. These tunes from Drumwork are amazing, and I desperately hope to hear them on a dance floor. This one is truly for the DJs.
The summer will be good for anyone dancing to a set by DJ Whitecoat. It will be loud and bouncy.
“Stick Man” epitomizes banger not anthem in its rolling simplicity. You’ll be singing along to your favorite song, when suddenly it breaks down, you make a bass face and then dance harder for the next two minutes. Just kidding. It’s not a breakdown. It’s a magical tune like this that’s pure vibe. Tracks like this never get the attention they deserve.
“Belly Fire” is full of Roska-inspired stop-time joy. There’s no lead yet somehow you’re humming the bass-line an hour later. I’m reminded of early 80s video games where the concept is simple but you spent all of the sixth grade trying to complete the mission.
“Nah Nah No” takes us later into the night. It’s more romantic, which might be why I wish it had a vocal. The production is excellent, but I want to sing along. Since this is a sampler, I look forward to someone sampling this tune, taking it to the next level.
Out soon on Suntribe Terrace, who’s back catalog is well worth exploring.
© Bass Tourist