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Millie & Andrea – Drop The Vowels

Although there are plenty of people who will tell you that jungle never really went anywhere, nobody could deny that the amount of critical attention paid to producers like Special Request, Tessela, Mumdance and Mark Pritchard last year for the way in which they seemed to take inspiration from the genre to create new musical forms. However, its did seem somewhat revisionist that most of the discourse around this hybrid sound seemed to forget that the likes of T++, Dave Huismans and Modern Love duo Andy Stott & Miles Whittaker’s Millie & Andrea project had been doing something similar several years before.

Millie & Andrea - Drop The Vowels
Millie & Andrea
Drop The Vowels
Modern Love
2LP, CD, digital
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Of these artists, it was perhaps Stott and Whittaker’s project that engaged most directly with jungle, but the music of Millie & Andrea was never just about one genre. Coinciding roughly with Whittaker’s involvement in the more hauntological Demdike Stare project with Sean Canty, and just before Stott went from making dub techno to something much slower, the duo explored a wide range of terrain over six 12″s released across the Modern Love-affiliated Daphne label from 2008-10. Although “You Still Got Me” and “Temper Tantrum” from these sessions could easily have been lost dubs from ’92, the first few records were marked by a sound more akin to percussive dubstep in the Skull Disco vein, while “Retail Juke” and “Write-Off” that seemed to close the project were probably some of the earliest example of UK producers consciously experimenting with footwork after Addison Groove’s “Footcrab”.

As such, Millie & Andrea seemed to be less about consciously adopting an overall aesthetic, and more about unfurling the hardcore continuum’s DNA to make genetically enhanced clones for optimum club use. Simply, Millie & Andrea felt like an opportunity for Whittaker and Stott to indulge the side that simply wanted to create no frills dance music – something which no doubt stems from their immersion in the culture of rave and jungle in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Given the legacy of Millie & Andrea’s previous material, Drop The Vowels comes as something as a surprise, in that it’s an album with a very singular sonic aesthetic running throughout. Jungle is the rhythmic glue holding most of it together, wisely choosing to focus on the tempo across five of the eight tracks to keep things reasonably unified. More importantly, it feels almost like a conscious attempt to reboot the project for a contemporary musical climate increasingly obsessed with noise and grit.

Drop The Vowels is still fundamentally Millie & Andrea, but it’s obvious that Stott and Whittaker’s recent music has bled into the project, most notably in the texture of the sound. Opening track “GIF RIFF” offers a potent scene-setter, as some archival folk music gives way to a chaotic barrage of metallic percussion with a primitive quality, and it’s what you might get if Andy Stott remixed a track from Demdike Stare’s Tryptych. This is something that could easily have fallen flat on its face – the collision of noise and techno is so overwhelming now that it could easily have been lost under a sea of similar music, but Stott and Whittaker’s styles are as much concerned with inertia and velocity than just texture. On “Stay Ugly” for instance, the distressed percussion is straight out the Demdike Stare Testpressing handbook, but the tempo and breaks are pure jungle, while the downtrodden, mushy zombie chords have the similarly intangible sense of sadness and disappointment as anything on Stott’s Passed Me By or We Stay Together.

Late LP track “Back Down” is a sluggish techno track characterised by Stott’s trademark sense of tectonic inertia, while ”Quay” which closes the record is elegiac in tone; utilising a sample of a classical string section it’s the kind of thing you’d imagine Demdike Stare sampling to create something equally as unsettling. Of course Drop The Vowels wouldn’t be what it is without the four centrepiece tracks, which take their earlier direction and pump it full of benzedrine. The idea that this is more of a reboot is lent extra credence by the fact that two early Daphne tracks – “Temper Tantrum” and “Spectral Source” – are both featured in new versions. In reality however, it doesn’t feel like there’s much of a difference; the former is still a face-melting barrage of breakbeats and gurning bass, and the latter still has that delicate balance of melody and atom-splitting rhythms that give you the memories of dirty rave-induced euphoria, but they both offer a much needed connection to their earlier material. The other two tracks are equally as powerful.

Rhythmically “Corrosive” is like a mutant hybrid of sputtering jungle and trap stitched together with an oscillating monosynth, while the album’s title track leads out of what sounds like a forlorn tuba sample into a bombardment of high treble drums and evil subs delivered by an audible bombing run, a flurry of angular breaks and bass that makes most of their peers making similar music sound about as threatening as Boards of Canada. Cynics might argue that the return of Stott and Whittaker’s return under this guise is simply an attempt to capitalise on a resugence in the interest of jungle, but it’s clear there is a lot more going on under the surface of Drop The Vowels. It very much fits in with much of Modern Love’s recent obsession with atmosphere, grit and tension – something that hasn’t always been entirely successful – but unlike a lot of the label’s recent output it’s the kind of thing that’s equally made for the club, with the spirit of hardcore running right through its veins. The jungle revival of 2013-14 may be forgotten about in a few years, but Drop The Vowels – like those early Daphne-released 12″s – is likely to endure.

Scott Wilson

2. Stay Ugly
3. Temper Tantrum
4. Spectral Source
5. Corrosive
6. Drop The Vowels
7. Back Down
8. Quay