In a new musical era where the “banger” single is king, it’s refreshing when an artist, especially a drum and bass artist, puts together an LP which is meant to be a cohesive work in itself, to be listened to in progression. In the case of Overlook’s new album, Smoke Signals, out last week on UVB-76, both the album as a whole and its individual tracks can be appreciated on multiple levels.
Smoke Signals accomplishes its cohesive LP structure because of a few key elements, most of which hearken back to the structure and styles of the late 90s and early 00s. First, there is a binding theme in the form of a horror movie motif. The album opens with a beatless ambient track full of almost industrial-sounding samples and spooky noises, and almost every track thereafter has direct dialog samples from horror movies or thrillers. The other binding theme is that of ambient or intelligent drum and bass beats and samples. Snare-heavy beats and amen breaks pervade every track, as well as one-off synth samples the like of which no one has heard since about 1998.
There is plenty of diversity in Smoke Signals as well, and Overlook even crosses genres fully throughout the LP. The album moves from old school ambient-style snare tracks like Out of the Unknown well into industrial territory with the very next track, Who Is this Who is Coming. Apparition, featuring Ruffhouse & Gremlins, is probably the most grinding track on the album, followed by more industrial-tinged beats with The Dream Unfolds. From there it launches right into the very jazzy, almost Mushroom Jazz-y Travelling Without Moving and Into the Night.
By the end of the album, the listener will feel a very distinct mood but find him or herself going back over favorite tracks. It’s a triumph of both the LP and single formats, and a great look back at dark ambient drum and bass. Smoke Signals can be streamed or purchased on Bandcamp and Discogs.
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Written by Layla Marino