Tag Archives: Critical Music

QZB – Systems Vol. 9 [Critical]

Ill be honest, until I did my homework I had no idea that QZB are the artists formerly known as QBig & Zenith B. I should have known better. Perhaps their latest EP on Critical Music will cast a net even wider than their old alias did. Systems Vol. 9 definitely demonstrates the full breadth of their talent.

WYGD features entrancing whispers of vocals throughout the track, a style that pops up elsewhere on the EP. Lace that with clever percussive elements for a perfect example of a techy roller. Apollo – my favourite on the EP – features that repetitive vocal again, but in a very different manner. A totally screwed and chopped vocal alongside jazz-funk elements make this sound like Die & Break’s Grand Funk Hustle, Octane & DLRs Let Me Go, and DJ Rashad managed to pop out a child from a threesome gone awry.

Turning Point is true to its name, as for me this is where your attention turns from the vibe to the sound design. QZB seem to have captured the perfect snare, alongside a bassline that provides both textures to applaud and a vibe that matches it. I’m ready for the slating, but for me this bassline is ‘grown up jump up’. That really was the turning point on the EP. Revenant is far more stripped back, but with the same attention to intricacy and quality. The track is punctuated by open snares and fidgety percussive FX, and dare I say it an arpeggiated synth that is perhaps a nod to the Stranger Things soundtrack.

Its apt that the final track of the EP is named after the mythological Norse heaven, Valhalla. Another concrete demonstration that technical prowess in sound design can be matched with the atmosphere it creates. A heavily reverberated siren in the breakdown brings that Valkyrie-esque soundscape into focus. And rightly so that QZB sit atop the mythological heavens. For me, Critical are returning to sounds that got me into the label in the first place. Whilst its clear that Kasra is building a team of artists with distinguishable traits in sound – something any team-builders should aim to replicate – I would speculate that most of their UK audience prefer their tunes deep, dark, and intricate.

Hit up the Critical Store to grab Systems Vol. 9 on vinyl and digital right now.

Written by James Austin, aka DJ Auzi, label manager at Terabyte Records

Facebook: facebook.com/auzidnb

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Emperor – Dispositions – The Remixes [Critical]

Material from Emperor’s recent Dispositions LP gets the remix treatment on the latest release from Critical, and true to form the label have delivered a really interesting selection for the EP. For our money you should just ignore the Phace remix; as weighty as it is it’s predictable fare and far from the most interesting work we’ve heard from the German neuro powerhouse.

Klax on the other hand have absolutely excelled themselves with their remix of Made of Light, taking the original’s moody vocal and setting it to a halftime beat punctuated with grime-tinged synth swells and some serious bassweight. This one positively swaggers along as the synth lines stalk through the mix, and the energy levels are kept high despite the plodding drum pace; top notch mid-set switch-up material.

Ivy Lab are next up and once again on a half time flex, flipping Jounce around from a full roll neuro workout into a hypnotic, bouncing slice of intergalactic hip-hop that just oozes character. Smooth melodies and warm low end reverberations make for a serious head-nodder. Last up we’re treated to the softest of renditions as Made of Light gets the accoustic treatment, stripped back to nothing but Solah’s beautiful vocal and a moving piano line. Something a little different from the usual Emperor material! Check out the clips below and hit up the Critical Store to grab the EP on vinyl or digital now.

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July Roundup

Real life has been getting in the way of the important matter of blogging about D&B lately here at Dojo HQ, leaving us with a glut of worthy releases in need of coverage. Without further ado then, here are some of the finest new beats from the last few weeks courtesy of Redders, Straying Reality, Gancher & Ruin and more…

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Vromm – Binary Vol. 8 [Critical]

The Binary series has been a mixed bag; the concept of a digital-only series allowing more rapid dissemination of music with less risk is certainly a solid idea for a label of Critical’s size, but (perhaps inevitably) the results have been a little inconsistent. To our mind, the series has been at it’s best when pushing the envelope with more experimental sounds, and that’s exactly where their latest EP from Vromm comes in.

There’s a fair amount of variation to be found in the four tracks on show. Nomad and Motor Hell provide Samurai/Cylon-esque slices of moody halftime which plenty of interesting sonic textures, but the other two tracks are where Vromm really excels himself. Zombie features some fantastically intricate percussion and a really nice second half progression, while star opening track Lake Monsters is a masterclass in sound design, with terrifying effect.

It’s great to see Kasra’s label providing a platform for an emerging artist with a fairly avantgarde sound; we hope to hear more of this kind of thing via Binary in the future, assuming it lasts longer than previous series Modulations. Check out the clips below and hit up the Critical Store to grab a copy now.

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Dojo Damager: Current Value – Biocellulose LP

We’ve got a Damager special this week, taking a break from our usual single track selection to take a look at Current Value’s new LP for Critical Music, Biocellulose.

As you’d expect from one of the brightest talents in the scene and an alumni of the likes of Blackout Music, the engineering and technicality on show here is of a ridiculously high standard, but that’s not what makes the album stand out from the mass of high sheen but ultimately cookie-cutter neurofunk available in 2016.

The atmospherics and sound design detail are what really make this album shine; from the majestic synth intro of Phace collab Thump, through the eerie bleep-led buildup of Footwork and into the technoid strains of Vigilant Minds, there are so many fantastic sonic elements in Biocellulose to contrast and complement the stomping beats and basslines. Heft, sure, but with a side helping of beauty and intrigue.

Asides from recruiting Phace and Mefjus for a collab each, Critical have also grabbed some tasty remixes; Enei delivers a tough, rolling take on the savage Jump while Anode takes the angular danger of Pneumatics and flips it round into a Raiden-esque techo-D&B roller of impressive relentlessness. Overall it’s a wicked album and ample proof that dancefloor neurofunk can still hold hidden depths. Check out the clips below and hit up the Critical Store to grab a copy now!

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Klax – Systems Vol. 3 [Critical Music]

Brighton production trio Klax are kicking off their 2016 in a big way with their entry to the Critical Music Systems series, following on from the previous volumes by Halogenix and Fre4knc.

Systems Vol. 3 continues the Critical trend for genre-blending experimentations, bringing together the energy and intricacy of D&B with the influence of hip-hop and the wider world of bass music for a potent selection of sonic weapons. The appropriately titled Ritalin leads the charge with an onslaught of off kilter drum rolls, hard metallic snares and ADHD vocal chop ups. Hotline continues this theme, slowing the roll slightly to focus on a hip-hop swagger and the influence of trap and footwork, while The Level brings more of a carnival vibe to the table.

Just to switch things up a bit we’re treated to a thoroughly tasty remix of previous Klax/Critical outing Blackball with Foreign Concept lending the tune his own distinctive touch. The distinctive bassline remains but the previously stark arrangement are replaced with a more rolling breakbeat and some extra pads to pack the tune out a little. Last but by no means least Wait For Me provides one last hefty halftime stomper, and stomping it is with massive kicks, echoing claps and some pretty badass synth action on the go.

As we’ve come to expect now Critical continue to push the envelope of what D&B can and should be, while keeping it firmly dancefloor focussed. We’ll have plenty more of this please; check out the clips below and hit up the Critical Store to grab the EP on vinyl or digital now.

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Top 10 Albums of 2015

2015 has been another strong year for the D&B LP in what seems to be a growing trend for more established artists to explore their sound across a full length record rather than just churning out singles. As the year draws to a close, here’s our run down of the then best albums we’ve heard this year. In no particular order… Continue reading

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Fre4knc – Systems 002 [Critical]

Critical’s Systems series continues with it’s second instalment coming from Dutch techstep innovator Fre4knc. Fans of the man’s style should know what to expect here; dark textures abound with a generally threatening tone but there’s still innovation to be found within that niche.

Highlights come on the ominous halftime of Mongoose-vocalled opener This Misery, the bouncy swung riddim of Fender Bender and minimal drum workout Rebus. Tasty business all round! Check out the clips below and hit up the Critical Store to grab a copy right now.

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Sam Binga – Wasted Days LP [Critical Music]

UK dance music’s cross-pollination of musical styles and influences has contributed to the excitement, longevity and innovation of the scene from the very genesis of rave in the late 80s, with everything from jazz to metal at some point playing its part in the evolution of some corner of the electronic sound. Perhaps the strongest of those influences though is that of dub and reggae, without which it’s difficult to imagine the early Jungle sound ever having emerged at all.

All of which brings us to Sam Binga and his new LP, Wasted Days. To say that Jamaican soundsystem culture informs this album would be a vast understatement; while there are many other elements being smashed into the aural supercollider that is Binga’s sound, the reverberations from Kingston can be felt everywhere from the patois of the vocals to the deep bass hums and beyond.

This isn’t mere cultural appropriation though, but more accurately a fantastic melding of musical styles by one of Critical Music’s most exciting and relevant artists. Bring together the positivity of dub with the urgency of grime and footwork, topped off with the polish and engineering expected within the D&B scene and you have an album that couldn’t feel more potent.

Refreshingly, this also feels like an album engineered for listening rather than for the selector’s convenience. Tracks weigh in at two and three minutes rather than five or six, and you’ll find few yawningly DJ friendly intros amongst the material. Rather than relying on breakdowns to change the energy, the track sequencing changes the pace instead, such as the fantastic switchup as the hyperactive grime of Run The Dance gives way to the beautiful, deep ambience of Hyroglifics collab Dark Day.

Speaking of collaborators, Wasted Days is stuffed with so many featuring credits that the whole thing should probably be credited to “Binga & Friends”. Deft, Chimpo, Om Unit and Hyroglifics all get in on the beats while vocal stylings come from Warrior Queen, Fox, Rudey Lee, Rider Shafique, Romaine, TT The Artist, Slick Don and of course the inimitable Redders. Quite a roster!

Overall this is one of the best albums we’ve heard in a year that continues to prove not only the quality but the diversity of the 170BPM sound. Absolutely essential listening! You can check out a selection of the tracks below (including some fearsome remixes from Ivy Lab available on a special edition 10″) so get yourself a flavour of Wasted Days before you hit up the Critical Store for a copy.

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Subtension – Binary Vol. 6 [Critical Music]

Critical’s digital only Binary imprint returns for their 6th instalment and this time it’s Solvakian techstep producer Subtension on the buttons. The EP follows on from Subtension’s last release for Renegade Hardware, further exploring his innovative trap-tech fusion. While the influence of trap and footwork on D&B is already becoming well trodden ground fewer producers are blending it with the harder edged techstep and neurofunk stylings and the result is pretty damn ravey.

There’s still space for a more traditional rollout on chunky low end damager No Worries and closing track What Do You Want provides a pleasant surprise with a hefty dose of disco’n’bass! Vibes all round. Check out the clips below and grab this one from the Critical Store right now.

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