Review: Freddie Dixon returns to The North Quarter with his first full release since last year's TNQ album Better Days. Five tracks deep, each one reps his many nuanced shades. "The Creatures From Planet 9" kicks us off on a dark pranged out roll while "Dedication" follows the same momentum but brings a little soulful twang to the mix and "This Is Not Science" bumps and bruises us with badboy science. On the lighter, more soulful side of FD, "The Feeling" sees TNQ regular KinKai reflect on the other side's green grass over dreamy feels while "Lie To You" is all about the dusky sombre tones of Akemi Fox and more of FD's stunning drums. Light up your nights.
Simply Dread - "This Ain't Back In The Day" (5:45)
Omen Breaks - "Don Teifion" (6:22)
Supa Ape - "Leviathan" (5:07)
Junglord - "Pabst Blue Ribbon" (5:14)
Review: UK Jungle Records continues to set a fine standard with its third EP. It's a various artist affair that kicks off with Simply Dread's old school roller, complete with summery flute lines and old school vocals that bring good time vibes. Omen Breaks then grabs you by the synapses and runs with you down a darkened rabbit hole on "Don Teifion" and Supa Ape brings more celestial and soulful vibes on his widescreen gem "Leviathan". Junglord closes down with "Pabst Blue Ribbon", which is hard hitting and intense.
Review: German beat mutant Acid Lab dents the discogs on provocative burgeoning imprint AGN7 with four cavernous beasts. All flexing around the Samurai/Metalheadz axis in terms of space and palette, each cut hits hard with authenticity. "Secret Weapon" hits like it's 97 but on a halftime flex. "Unleash" is a savage Rupture level piece of breakbeat chaos. "Shadow Recruit" goes on some cosmic 160 Tipper style elastic bass funk while "Before The Storm" takes you right into it eye then blasts you out with a creepy breakbeat hurricane. Serious tackle, this.
Review: There's no details on the identity about the "mystery artist" behind this brilliant EP on Fokuz Recordings, which may have something to do with the cheeky - but utterly brilliant - drum and bass rework of a Phylis Hyman disco classic nestling at the end of side two ("You Know How To"). While that has "future festival anthem" written all over it, there's plenty to set the pulse racing elsewhere on the EP, not least the string-laden poignance of liquid opener "Lovely" and the tougher, wobble bass-propelled goodness that is "Blue Wine". The EP's other cut, a scratch-happy fusion of modern R&B and classic D&B, is also rather good.
Review: Vibez 93 is keeping shut on who they are, but word on the street is they are an already huge and established artist. Frankly, who cares, because the music has plenty to say for itself. This is the latest in a long line of big hitters that jungle fans old and new will immediately fall for. There are airy, spring time vibes on the lovely opener "One" and more dark and complex drums on "Evil Forces". "Passenger" ups the ante again with a flurry of snares and driving bass stabs, then "Ten Eighty Eight" closes out in elastic fashion with a real face melter.
Foul Play - "Black Sun" (Skeleton Army remix) (5:19)
Denham Audio - "Mercury Tint" (4:50)
Mani Festo - "Spiral" (6:34)
Review: Relooping the generations; John Morrow (AKA Skeleton Army AKA 4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse AKA Foul Play) serves up a collection that nods in both directions. 4 Hero's Marc Clair takes the lead under his old school hardcore alias Manix. Bouncy and loaded with positivity, it sets the scene before Morrow remixes his 23 old Foul Play track "Dark Horse" into a slinky, technoid breakbeat jam. Flip for some future flavours: Denham Audio looks to early Good Looking for inspiration on "Mercury Tint" while Mani Festo goes wild on a percussive dnb finale. Smile or kill trying.
Review: Back to 95! One of Source Direct's earliest cuts - prior to changing the game on Metalheadz - "A Different Groove" gets a 2020 remaster and its first repress since 96. It comes courtesy of the label where it all began: Odysee, home to early cuts from the likes of Photek as well the seminal St Albans duo. Recently rekindled with new remixes and reissues, this rampant piece of breakcraft still sounds every bit as full and future as it did 25 years ago. Loaded with a remix from original label co-boss Andy Odysee, this still knocks spots off the competition.
Review: Those interested in the roots of UK bass music have been well-served of late, with a number of books and compilations focusing on the first wave of British dance music in the late 80s and early 90s. Soul Jazz's latest compilation is a superb addition to this growing list. It showcases music made in the post-bleep and early breakbeat hardcore period, where basslines got bigger, drum breaks faster, and ragga influences started to come to the fore. The selections are on-point throughout from the dub-wise rave rush of Babylon Timewarp's "Durban Poison" and the bleep-and-breaks-meets-proto-jungle shuffle of DJ Dubplate's "Tings A Go On", to the rave-rap goodness of The Freaky's "Time & Age" and the heavily edited darkcore/early jungle insanity that is Krome & Time's terrific "Ganja Man". In a word: essential.
Review: Moopie's A Colourful Storm label launched earlier this year as an extension of the popular online platform that has hosted a rich and diverse stream of mixes from the likes of Imaginary Softwoods, DJ Nobu, Frak and Rabih Beaini to name a few. Pro-tip: do check that latter live mix from the Morphine boss! It was the archival sounds of Denial and their lost Oz classic cover of "California Dreaming" that heralded the arrival of A Colourful Storm, but this second release on the label switches the focus to more contemporary fare. Power Relations is a two track 12" of bad-mannered, f*cked up club trax from Melbourne's Nerve. The stomping, nocturnal techno of the title track is backed with a Photek-meets-Sunn O))) terror stepper entitled "Heads & Ordinary Concrete". For fans of Regis, Emptyset and Blackest Ever Black.
Review: When it came to following up their surprise 1994 hit album "Amplified Heart", Everything But The Girl's Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn decided to rip up the rulebook and do things differently. Previously, their music has been considered, downtempo and - whisper it quietly - Balearic. 1996's "Walking Wounded" retained their inherent beauty and sense of melancholia, but updated their musical blueprint to include far more influences from (then) contemporary dance music. As this half-speed re-mastered reissue proves, they largely hit the spot, with warm deep house cut "Wrong", the sparkling drum and bass pop of the title track and the similarly minded "Big Deal" standing out.
Dark Soldier - "Dark Soldier" (Benny L remix) (4:56)
Review: The remixes we've been waiting for! Ray Keith follows up his exceptional album "Prophecy" with two of a whole collection of classics about to hit us over the coming months. First up: T>I and Benny L. The former takes the essential air-piano slapping 94 anthem and juices it up with his flabby bass and attention to hyperoid drum details, the latter takes his 97 weapon and turns it inside out with one of the fartiest, smelliest bassline he's committed to wax so far. Absolutely Dread-full... And we wouldn't have it any other way.
Review: DJ Central presents three new aliases on this elegantly put together 12". Conjuring up the perfect recipe for a DJ Cake, Central blends and explores the likes of pulsating atmospheric techno on the track "Balast", smoothly escalating breaks on "Ko Ko Dak Dak" and hazy crackling ambient on the finale "Daeksel". Unique, inspiring and truly excellent works from the one they call DJ Central.
Review: Breakbeat warriors Deekline and Ed Solo team up again, and this time they've gone for it. Not content with producing some of the nastiest, wobbliest breakbeat around, they've decided to turn their hand to drum & bass and another release on Jungle Cakes. Lead cut "King Of The Bongo" is a cheeky exercise in bootleg jump-up buffoonery - the sort of tune that boasts a grin a mile wide and a happy dancefloor to match. Flip "Stickybuds Guaranteed" opts for a slightly more old skool jungle approach, mashing up skankin' MC and familiar pop vocals. It goes without saying that both tunes feature stupidly heavy basslines.
Overlook - "All Of Them Witches" (Clarity remix) (7:41)
Review: We've always loved Clarity for the amount of space he finds between the beats, but the gaps between releases could be a bit tighter... It's been four years since we heard from the young Cornish producer but he's making up for lost time with four fresh breakbeat bits. "Torsion" dons its finest three-stripes and gets bouncy on a rolling tribal tip, "Stateless" hits with more of a DSCi4 two-step funk vibe while "Taking Effect" is a techno inspired acid creeper with a palpitating touch of Spirit about its make-up. Welcome back Mr Clarity.
Review: Skubi steps into the limelight with his debut release for Modern Ruin, an imprint reserved strictly for the finest in footwork killers. "Brain Music" is basically a modern hip-hop lick with cavernous low-ends and that familiar juke vocal stutter. The same goes for "Wet", a relatively darker, dreamier sort of affair. Remixes comes from none other than Slick Shoota and House Of Black Lanterns, the former opting for a jungle swing while the latter twists and funks that juke into an even nuttier bundle of drums and percussion. Large.
Review: They're back! Serum, Voltage and Bladerunner return with their first new originals since last year's album and, as the title "Main Event" suggests, it's a pretty big deal. "XXX" opens with disarming stripped back intent. There's a bleepy techno twist in the tale and the tension is higher than Voltage's monthly fashion budget. Elsewhere "Somebody Else" sees them re-enlisting the scorching vocal diesel of Lydia Plain for another emotional skin-burner and "Solar Heat" ends the EP on a real groany, smelly distorted introspective vibe. Tremendous... And we haven't even got to the dessert event, which is a super sweet Circuits remix of "Burnt Ends". Crumbs!
If Your Happy & You Know It Take An E (feat Puffin' Billy) (4:33)
Review: Few artists are on the rise quite as rapidly as Lavery right now. He's delivering the goods time after time and this time is certainly no exception. Re-linking with J.Robinson's Meditator Music it's another deadly dispatch: "Badman Sound" kicks the party off with some classic ragga ruffage, "My Darling" flips from a loose-fitting soul sample into a badboy Dread bass style romp-up while "If You're Happy & You Know It" closes with a self-collabo as he tags in his rave alter ego Puffin Billy for a savage hardcore finale. Go with the furlough.
Review: Recently spotted shaking bones and souls on Inperspective, Dissident's 2017 Alphacut release gets a well needed reissue. Stepping between halftime, full pelt and ambient, the 12" is a vast bag of treats. "Flowhunt", "Soteria" and "Bricolage" all writhe around the snake-like halftime dynamic under heavy atmospherics, "Through The Eyes Of Ice" is a stark slice of beatless atmospherics while "Thelema" is a straight up neck-snapper. Glow big or glow home.
Review: Oh gosh. Last spotted on the mothership label in 2015 on Mikal's "Where They At" EP, Danger Dutchman Nymfo returns to Metalheadz with his first full EP for the label. It's every bit as heavy and badass as you'd hope it to be. "Sting Blade" rolls out with a skinny-fit break and a bassline so flabby and bulbous it folds over the edges. It's backed by two more monoliths; "What's Happening" sees fellow Dutchy Martyn join the action with just a touch of classic Blue Note style jazziness. Finally, "No Choice" settles the matter on some 23rd century twisted Optical style funk. Easily one of Nymfo's finest moments so far (which is saying something).
Review: It's another Headz special! Bristol's finest Utopian, the man like Mako, delivers his debut solo album and it's every bit as deep, detailed and sense-slapping as you'd expect it to be. From the brilliantly brutalist "One Reality" to the rave-melting halftime switching "Flip It" via the bouncy harmonics of "Hoxton Home" and the depth plunge bassline and Subtitles-style rawness of the stripped back arrangement on "Offline", like all Metalheadz albums - and indeed Mako productions - this is a properly considered, thoughtful and detailed body of work. Essential.
Review: A master of all things dark and gritty when it comes to jungle and drum & bass, Ray Keith is back with a vengeance here across two devastating cuts. A side "Jungle Fi Dread" is built on his archetypal dread bass sound, stepping breaks and flailing hits, and it adds up to a controlled bit of dance floor frenzy with numerous peaks and troughs. "What Time Dread" on the flip has a rude vocal stretched and warped over rinsed out breakbeats that shimmer while a droning bassline conjures up some sort of doom-laden final level boss scene from your favourite RPG.
Review: Back in the autumn, sometime Metalheadz regular Lenzman launched his own label, The North Quarter. Here he returns for a second outing, bringing with him a quartet of tasty tracks. IAMDDB lends a hand on the sweet, skittish and soulful opener "In My Mind" - all fizzing D&B breakbeats, tumbling piano lines and evocative vocals - before soul man Steo unfurls a heartfelt vocal on the similarly breezy "Tender Love". On the flip, you'll find the moody, urban-sounding D&B-rap roller "Park Hill" (which may or may not be a tribute to the infamously bleak Sheffield housing estate of the same name), and the jazzy D&B warmth of Subphonics' collaboration "Bayview".
Review: Nodding to the days of widespread dance anonymity, where the focus was firmly placed on the music rather than reputations and brand hype, Bring Back's fourth release is soaked in hardcore and jungle tones in keeping with both the mysterious artist tip and the label's name. Basically music to make you sweat. 'Night Selector' is perhaps the least rave-y of the lot, and that's saying something considering its stretched amens and mysterious, futurist ambience. 'Light In Ghetto' throws itself fully into the revivalist movement, beautiful female lyrics and pitched vocal cuts crying out over a rhythm section that's stripped enough to make room for choppy, distorted keys. 'Lobster', meanwhile, plays with time signatures, paying respect to the roots of these sounds- dub and soundystem culture- in between full-throttle nastiness.
Review: Having set our world alight with his third Ilian Tape 12", 2012, back in the spring, Munich man Skee Mask delivers another essential collection of loose-limbed, broken techno workouts. Typically, he's on point from the word go, enveloping swinging, off-kilter techno breakbeats with swirling chords and cascading melodies on brilliant opener "Inti". His love of African-influenced polyrhythms is explored further on the ghostly, percussion-rich club cut "Kappelberg Chant" (which, incidentally, makes great use of choral chants), while "Routine" is a warm, loved-up and evocative tribute to rave-era British breakbeat-house. His debt to British dance music's formative years also comes to the fore on killer proto-jungle jam "Skreet Lvl Dub".
Review: Back by dope demand! One of 7th Storey's most popular excavations gets a reissue after it sold out on sight five years ago. Here the Timeless Records founder is celebrated in three pristine slices of pedigree jungle. "The Journey" is big typewriter breaks and techno stabs, "The Flute Tune" is the lush Good Looking flavoured dreamer of the set while "Space" sends us packing off round the cosmos with more energy than you'd ever expect from a 26 year old tune. Blink and you'll miss this... A bit like ol' Mr Invisible himself.