Upfront/promo music reviews – 2/5/11

A couple of forthcoming drum & bass releases that I wanted to let you know about, coming from two different labels. Two very different releases, but tracks which realise their potential and accomplish positive results in their own ways.

Spearhead LTD 006 – BCee – Count The Stars feat. Lingby / Switchfoot

New music from Spearhead is always much anticipated, and releases from artist and label boss Steve BCee are always in demand! I first heard the first track as part of a mix by Blu Mar Ten at the end of last year (see my review of that mix here, and it now gets a full release. How best to review this perfect piece of music? Well, suffice to say that it perfectly illustrates modern drum & bass song & music writing, for surely the two have been done together to create a complete package of beautiful music. The track does what it needs to do – it lifts you up, and carries you to other places – from the opening bars right through to the ending, and isn’t this what all good music should do?
What I am particularly impressed by with this track is that it doesn’t show off – it simply doesn’t need to. The production shines (pardon the pun) through. I know this is something I always say, but the need for, and effect of, quality, knowledgeable production should not be, and cannot be, ignored. I guess it’s like officiating in sports or something like that – you recognise good production when you don’t notice it, it should just be there, and you know when it is. I think that’s the case on this track and it’s flip, Switchfoot, on which all elements are in perfect synchronicity – piano, breaks, drums and effects. Switchfoot starts out with piano chords, with the break in the background, which leads into a vocal sample. This is followed by the bass line and some nice off-key effects. Switchfoot is a head-nodder in the best way, and evokes the key feelings which pervade the label’s releases as a whole (cf the Bungle tracks reviewed last time), those of urban-ness, coupled with a carefree feel.

On a very different vibe is the new release from Foundation X Records, FDX003 – Skitty – Hornzman / Nolige – Ain’t No Stoppin, which actually drops this week!

The first track sees Skitty invoking a ragga-flavoured effort on ‘Hornzman’, which begins with build-up drums, and ragga vocal samples. The hold is good and sparse before (and you know there was going to be a ‘before’) the track opens up, but in this instance things don’t go too far (like so many these days), and the whole package hangs together well. Bleeps and effects contribute to an old skool feeling, and the space left in the production for synths is reminiscent of early jungle and also slightly of the late ’90s techstep era. The track also has time for a bouncing break, but does run the risk of sounding slightly overlong – sure, it does explores new territory around the 4 minute mark or so – but I’m not sure this is entirely necessary. Indeed, the track is not ‘unusual’ per se, but I’m interested to see where this would fit with other tracks, for example in a mix.

Nolige’s Ain’t No Stoppin has a deep, spacey intro with resonant drums underneath. This goes through to some effects after which the drums begin, peppered, once again with ragga vox samples. This rolling, jungle-flavoured tune is a good representation of the current future jungle sound, with trademark intense drums and bassline but also with space – the synths really come through on this track, not least during the beautiful ending of the track. Here old-skool synths abound – I’d be interested to know if this is samples, vintage equipment or contemporary software. A couple of really good tracks out this week – so check them!

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