Calibre – ‘Even If…’ album review

‘Even If’ is Calibre’s seventh album, which, notwithstanding the sheer achievement of attaining the longevity and continued creativity which this entails, is even more of an event seeing as how different all of the artist’s albums have been from each other.

In addition to being an outstanding collection of drum & bass tracks, ‘Even…’ is a showcase of Calibre’s ideas in different styles, most notably dub and reggae, the feel of which pervades the tracks on this CD. As well as the techniques and end results of these types of music, the term ‘dub’ is used on a number of track titles. Calibre being Calibre of course, doesn’t take the influence directly into his work, but changes it, and forges his own, 2010 identity on it.

If the tracks contained on this album show different influences from the recent influx of releases which take a lead from, for example, house and techno, we should not be overly surprised – Calibre is a different kind of artist.

Spending many years shaping and defining his sound, Dominick Calibre is a classically trained musician who moved to production and Djing in the 1990s. He has exhibited different styles of music throughout his output, which, as mentioned above, includes not only sevens long players but also a series of EP s. ‘Even If’ can be seen as a return to home turf, after 2009’s down tempo effort, ‘Shine A Light’. The artist makes the point of stressing not only the dub/reggae and off-tempo parts of his work on this album, but also the “songwriter, blues feel“ [1], highlighted on a number of tracks on which he himself sings, to great effect.

Opener All You Got sets the tone for the tracks on the album. Whilst I’m not happy about describing some kinds of drum & bass as ‘more’ ‘musical’ than others, perhaps what might be meant by the use of this term to describe Calibre’s work is that it is less dance floor oriented, and the countless hours and indescribable effort taken to create and produce these tracks is immediately obvious, right from the get-go of this CD. The title track illustrates perfectly how Calibre’s production is put together, and how the hours pass to make things right. A hi hat ticker gives way to layered elements of strings and drums, with urgent, questing vocals giving a feeling of warmth in winter, underpinned by rolling beats and bass.

Rose has a more electronic intro, followed by a dusky, dusty removed piano sample, which opens out and leads to other places within the track, whilst the balance of the album is maintained by Broken.

Thirst is the first of the dub pieces, and would, I imagine, not feel out of place on a pure dub release, albeit with a ‘modern’ or ‘future’ bent. Complete with ‘calling on’ horn sample (surely a pre-requisite of good dub music), rimshot drums and heavy but not overpowering bassline, this is surely as good an introduction to the joys of dub as newcomers are to find in 2010/11, as is the powerful Steptoe. Me, Myself and I has a more laid back approach, with an organic, ambling half-step beat, whist still managing a skittering, skanking feel.

‘Even If’ is not your everyday run-of-the-mill dance floor album. It is neither ravey nor grimey. Nevertheless, Open Your Eyes begins a little faster-paced, whilst still managing to be contemplative, before morphing into a futurebound, shimmering effort, and Gone Away, with its skanking drums & bass is, in my opinion, is the CD s ‘most’ dancefloor friendly track. Acid Hands is very different , with a frightening, off-tempo rhythm which seems to have been mangled and reshaped by a mad doctor in his lab into an invasive, nagging piece. Not for the faint-hearted.

Of all the dub tracks on the album, Section is by far the best, and reaches near-perfection in dub for me. An unusual use of a clarinet sample leads into a reggae-type bass set up, leaving the Listerine slightly tense and expectant. The pay-off is an understated tear into the wickedest riddim track I think I have heard all year. Reminiscent, as it should be, of old skool, Rebel MC-esque tracks, this is how music should sound, perfect for the club and the street.

No Reply is the sting in the tail of the album, and perhaps the most sublime track of all.

Words to describe ‘Even If‘ may be ‘different‘, but must also be ‘quality‘, ‘musical’ ‘deep’ and ‘flavoursome’. What is different about Calibre’s efforts on this release are the mix of moods and expressions, meaning truly that no two tracks sound the same.

[1] http://www.stholdings.co.uk/2010/10/08/coming-soon-calibre-even-if-lp-signature/ [accessed 08/01/2011]

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