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.

“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.

“Temper”, the first track by Syn on this EP, is startling. The banshees call into the night, and they’ve answered with the bang and clang of drums. The sub is immense on this one, and altogether, the simple elements create a breath-taking atmosphere of the synthetic jungle, a video game you want to play all night.

The second track, “Void”, is a meaty drum work out with really fun grooves. Percussive phrases carve patterns out of the core beats, propelling the track forward. The craftsmanship is stellar. It’s got an Uncle Bakongo sort of feel. Not a lot of producers can do so much with so little. This is the subterranean theme in our video game when things get a little dark.

And lastly, “Cold”, is a really interesting switch up. Absolutely consistent with the other two tracks, it emphasizes filtered bass and percussion, with a bit more melody hinted at by bells. It’s a whole different way of painting a soundscape, and she accomplishes it to great effect.

Highly recommended listening, in and out of the club.

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.

“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.

Perhaps what’s remembered in “The Forgotten”, by Z-Kat, are the simple elements that can make a great dance tune. Scratchy samples hook you, driving bass propels you forward, and a great beat with subtle variation keeps you dancing. But wait for the second drop. Thick, loping pads block your way, holding you back just until you can’t stand it anymore, before clearing the way for more rolling goodness.

“Baio” is gnarly bass meets roller-skating electro. It’s an interesting back-and-forth between Thriller synths and searing bass lines that fit together surprisingly well.

Finally “Aquamortis” takes the DX7 a step further, following the Loveboat Into the Caribbean for some fantastically FM synth vibes over a classic UK Funky beat. It’s a little weird, but captivating, especially the way the melodies resolve so good.

The walls close in. The shadows move. Your heart beats faster. “Iene” by DJ Tess is utterly terrifying, at least listening alone at 4 AM. Claustrophobic and urgent, banshees chant over frenetic drums, while tension-filled drones build and hover overhead before crashing over your head in waves of sub and siren. The sound design is epic and arrangement holds you captive.

Then the tense precision Found in “Iene” set the stage for the authoritative vocals of Logan in “Watch How Mi Dweet”. If this EP were a cop drama, This would be the mystery-fueled debriefing just before they figure out what really happened out there. Our hero, Logan, won’t rest until the truth is told, taut rhythms and spooky Atmosphere giving way to strength. I’m glad he’s on our side.

This collection leaks UK funky at the edges, blending with bass house, bassline and the classic grime elements that made UK funky stand up as a separate genre. Catchy leads lure you over big drops into bumpy bass lines. Voices from far away connect you to places foreign yet familiar and the best nights you remember. There’s something here for anyone who likes the deeper motifs of bass music.

A few highlights:

“Ting and Ting” feels like a live mash-up, capturing the UK funky-meets-ragga feel perfectly, which not everyone can pull off. The vocal is high energy, over catchy UK funky beat, bass, and grime licks. It’s the type of tune that will get pulled up twice and then mixed into something else, which is a shame because it’s solid right to the end.

UK Funky on a bass house tip, “Dutch Cheese” Is a deep and dirty little roller centered around another ragga sample, but stands in contrast to “Ting and Ting”. This one’s about getting low. Grimey basses slither around your ankles in the dark, while toms and dry snares elbow for room.

“Afrobass” is tough as nails. Stacked basses hit hard over a snappy rhythm, offset only by 8 bar octave leaps and the tension and release that comes with it. “Afrobass” feels like the middle of a tune, off and running, setting a darker mood of classic UK garage.

“Standby” is the kind of track you want banking when you walk into the club at 10:50 PM, just before they raise the cover. It’s the first tune that gets pulled up. It’s the type of big bottom tune that kicks off a night. And there’s a whistle. You can’t go wrong with a whistle.

And “Congo play” is one of the more gorgeous tunes on the album. Simple and driving, it’s got less to prove and somehow ends up one of the stronger contenders. A driving vamp plays off of clever percussion and a simple sub-bassline. While a lot of the big bass drops in this collection will hype a crowd, the vibe set by “Congo play” is what might stay with you.

This compilation covers every inch of a small circle of UK bass-centric dance music, while never quite repeating itself. Most of these tunes are bangers, not anthems, the kind that the best DJs use to set a mood, make people get low, and go home with smiles.

Bakongo tracks bring you peace, like walking in the woods. So many tiny, fractal-like details form patterns, blend together, and become one, whole natural experience. These three gems are no exception.

“Momoweb”, by Bakongo, starts us off with an almost-ghom like rub before stepping off into crisp rhythmic complexity. “Disposition” begins with an uncharacteristic focus on melody, until the simple phrases fade into the background, becoming a soft bed for the beats to lie on. Just when you’re lulled into serene bliss, “Goulbap” smacks you around with slightly off-kilter percussion, straight out of a kitchen cabinet. The drum sounds are unusual individually but together make up a most natural drum set.

Let these tunes woo you, let your mind wander. It’s a delightful meditation.

Quirky garage hits give way to a UK funky beat which dissolves into electro madness, and then kuduro… “1471” by Bass Clef is the darkest carnival roller I’ve heard. This is one of those tunes that every DJ looks for. It’s five delightful minutes of post-garage vibes, but it’ll never age.

“Get on the A10 and Drive and Drive” is an alien grime riddim meant only for the bravest. Hard snares descend into drill-n-bass-style mayhem over spacious squidgy bass. But it’s only the first wave. So you have no idea what happens when huge synth pads descend like the mothership.

“One Hundred Point Three” is what Burial would sound like if he lived in the movie, Tron.

And on it goes. The album gets weirder and weirder, exploring Squarepusher jungle, itchy IDM, and shimmering, disorienting ambient. It’s an extremely thick 43 minutes of music but a rewarding listen, end to end.

“Naughty” by Dom 877 is a rah rah tribute to the harder, get-low side of UK Funky. The warning sirens and deep toms keep pace perfectly with the rugged vocals of Killa P. So good. I’d love to hear the instrumental released, too.