Stray is that most rare of beasts; a producer who gets better and more innovative as he advances in years, rather than settling into a comfort zone and churning out the releases. His latest EP for Exit Records finds his work in rude health, with seven new tracks spanning hip-hop, D&B and electronica.
Paradise opens things up with a big, slouching slice of bassy hip-hop which those of you who’ve caught Stray or Ivy Lab recently may well recognise. The groaningly bassy Walkonby and cheekily funky Movements continue the 85BPM hip-hop trend to great effect; it’s a style that Stray has clearly become both comfortable with and adept at over his last few releases both solo and with Ivy Lab.
Queen sees the tempo switch up for the EPs only straight D&B affair, an enjoyable little roller with plenty more of those signature vocal cutups among the soft synths and crisp breaks. Without U moves things in a jungle/footwork direction with big chunky breaks and hints of dub thrown into the mix, before Branflakes drops things back to the hip-hop swagger once again with massive punchy sub and interesting percussion.
Last but not least Dizzy provides a perfect little outro of mellow downtempo, with soft jazz and funk licks set to loose breaks. Blissful stuff. Essential listening once again; check out the clips below and hit up the Exit Store to grab this one on vinyl or digital now.
Stray’s latest venture sees him giving away an 11 track mixtape of older beats, apparently in preparation for the creation of his first ‘real’ LP. The material bears all the hallmarks of his hip-hop infused style, eschewing his higher tempo explorations in favour of lush musical elements and slouching beats.
The tracks are a pleasure to listen to and display a real finesse and groove uncommon in so much of the electronic scene today. Check out the clips below and head over here to grab the full album.
The release of Alix Perez’s second album for Shogun last year came as a disappointment to me – it felt like he’d been lured into the mainstream by the appeal of fame and fortune, with many of the tracks sounding completely unlike the style he’d been carving for himself in the D&B scene. News of an EP for Exit buoyed my hopes that he still had interesting tunes in him, and the results more than confirm that suspicion.
The influence of other electronica pervades the tracks on the EP, with trap, footwork and LA bass all playing into the sound, but thankfully the tracks make the influences their own rather than just copycatting new styles. U kicks things off with a breakneck take on the trap/footwork drum pattern and a smattering of cut up vocals, while Stray collab Sludge drops the tempo in favour of a gigantic, stalking, EPROM-style bassline; serious head-nod business.
The footwork influence comes full circle on Make It Worth as the original pioneers of the style Rashad & Spinn get in for a collab. The heavy sub and frantic syncopations oft associated with the genre are present, but with a level of polish which only D&B producers seem able to achieve. The vocal hook ices the cake nicely; no doubt this will be huge both in and out of the 170 scene. Last up the appropriately named Gully Halves strips things back for another minimalistic sub-fuelled slice of electronica that simply oozes with the swagger of the LA bass scene.
Watch out for this one dropping on vinyl and digital from April 7th – preorders are available from Surus now.
With February now upon us it seemed like time to round up the best mixes that have been on the DNB Dojo stereo over the last month. First up, Philth’s epic length 2 hour retrospective of his favourite tunes of 2013 delivers the goods and then some. Focusing on the dark and techy but with nods to the best liquid and experimental tunes of the year alongside plenty of the man’s own productions, this one is a treat from start to finish.
Next up we’ve got a half hour guest mix from Stray for Rockwell’s BBC Radio One show. Unsurprisingly given Stray’s recent output the mix is full of experimental, highly syncopated beats with hordes of material from Exit Records included as well as some tasty dubplates.
Finally Lifted’s Chris Renegade rounds up the best neurofunk of 2013 with a heavy selection of tunes from the like of Aeph, Memtrix and Chris.Su. Nice!
Critical Music are back with a vengeance with the Underground Sonics LP, a various artists compilation straddling all the styles of Drum & Bass via 18 tracks of cutting edge 170 BPM production from the label’s extended family. The compilation sees many artists exploring new territory away from their usual styles, to interesting effect.
Dub Phizix turns in an unusually mellow and unusually rolling beat in the form of The Clock Ticks, while Ivy Lab up the ante compared to their previous releases with a tougher and more energetic beat paired with the musicality we’ve come to know and love from the trio. Foreign Concept teams up with DRS to turn in the dark, skanking, hip-hop influenced halfstep of Falling Stars while Sam Binga and Redders blend trap, footwork and ragga to great effect on Lef Dem.
Elsewhere we’re treated to two surprising collaborations from tech heavyweights, with InsideInfo and Mefjus turning in a surprisingly minimal slice of tribal tech with Repentance while Noisia & The Upbeats put aside their usual aggression for a hypnotic deep liquid roller on Little Fling. Fans of brutal tech need not worry though – Stealth and Phace are both on hand to provide the dancefloor darkness, as are Emperor & Centra with the huge digital exclusive The Saboteur.
Enei and Kasra turn in a selection of characteristically heavy hitting beats, while Stray and Halogenix look to the experimental/hyperactive end of the spectrum with their individual takes on frantic drum syncopation with a footwork bent. Finally Blocks and Escher give Enei’s Thinline the old school tech workover with a huge beat and some serious menace on the low end.
Overall it’s hard to argue with this as the first essential release of 2014. Check out the tracks below and grab yourself a copy now from the Critical Surus store.
Foreign Concept is kindly raising a bit of money for Water Aid this Christmas by asking folks to donate in exchange for downloads of a couple of festive VIPs! First up there’s the amen tinged madness of Foreign Concept & Stray’s Bang It (Amen Bang OutVIP), which does exactly what it says on the tin, and for desert Foreign Concept & Xtrah’s Harsh Reality VIP delivering a healthy portion of sub bass and heavy kick drums.
Check out the beats below and head over to the Just Giving page to donate. Go on, you know you want to.
Following on from his excellent Ginseng Smash12″ for Critical, Stray once again revisits the footwork-influenced side of 170 on his latest EP for Exit. Prof Popper feels like Ginseng at 5am…the same syncopated riddims and cut up vocals are present but the overall vibe of the track is much more laid back, with smooth pads allowing the track to float along on a mellow plane. Dropping Bombs provides the antithesis, amping up the drums for a totally bouncing raved up belter.
Bounce That sees Stray teaming up with Fracture for a tune that’s one part half-step and one part old skool Jungle with a hint of ghetto-tech thrown in for good measure. Eerie keys and a drum line that sounds like 4×4 garage on steroids prevail on the duo’s evolution of the sound Fracture pioneered on Get Busy. Last but not least the titular Matchsticks takes things back to a more mellow place, bringing a skanking LA hip-hop vibe to the mix; this could just as easily have been written by Flying Lotus, and it sounds fantastic for it.
As usual Exit and Stray are at the cutting edge of all things 170. Check out the beats bellow and watch out for the EP dropping October 28th.
It feels almost redundant to be reviewing this but just in case anyone has somehow slept on what is definitely one of the best compilations of 2013, then feast your ears on Mosaic Vol. 2. Bringing together some seriously deep and innovative cuts from thirty different producers and spanning four plates of vinyl for the wax enthusiasts, Exit have truly outdone themselves.
Among the standout tracks (and this is a tough choice given the quality on show from all concerned) are the glitchy madness of Rockwell’s *)*, the lush halfstep liquid of Synkro’s The Way and the classic Fist Level 2B from Insta:mental (only been waiting three years for this one guys…)
Elsewhere Kryptic Minds deliver a fantastic slice of moody halfstep with Burnt To Ashes (a rare return to the 170 tempo since their exit to Dubstep realms several years back), Om Unit and Sam Binga collab on some deeply hip-hop/footwork influenced business, and Fracture & Dawn Day Night bring us the sounds of the ghetto on Sick Wid It. Check out clips of every track below and watch out for this one dropping on digital July 29th with vinyl following on August 5th.
Following hot on the heels of his excellent release for Blu Mar Ten Music, Thing has put together an hour long mix featuring some great cuts from the deep, dark end of the D&B spectrum. Including tracks from his own catalogue alongside selections from Stray, Clarity, Mtwn, Skeptical and Ruffhouse, it doesn’t get much grittier than this. Brooding halfstep lovers should definitely give this a listen.
The ever versatile Stray steps up for Critical sub-label Modulations to deliver a pair of cut-up jungle smashers! Ginseng Smash combines ’94 era jungle breaks with some heavy sub stabs and a vocal that is as weird as it is infectious, while Akina takes a few notes from Fracture’s book of production, cutting up the breaks and another odd vocal to create a seriously hyperactive juke-infused belter. Syncopation ADHD! Look out for these dropping on vinyl and Digital May 20th.