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…
DLR – Seeing Sounds [Dispatch]
The follow up to Octane & DLR’s phenomenal Method In The Madness LP was hotly anticipated. Could a newly solo DLR deliver the goods without his previous studio sparring partner? The result was a resounding “yes”, bringing super crisp production to the table and an excellent balance of dancefloor weight and musical soul, with a nod to the rich heritage of early techstep for good measure. We can’t wait to hear what DLR has in store for 2016, with a new solo LP coming on Dispatch and a collaborative album with Mako as One Mind due to drop on Metalheadz early in the new year.
Xanadu – Through The Oort Clouds [Dom & Roland Productions]
Back in January we said that Through The Oort Clouds could well be one of the albums of 2015 and it turns out we weren’t wrong! Sporting some of the best drums in the scene and exploring the sci-fi themes that have long influenced the techstep sound, this is an unbelievably accomplished debut from a producer we can’t wait to hear more from.
Sam Binga – Wasted Days [Critical]
Sam Binga’s Wasted Days takes in grime, dancehall, jungle, UK bass and so much more on it’s illustrious tour of sound system culture, and the result is one of the most exciting LPs we had the privilege to hear this year. Featuring a slew of big name collaborations, some superb vocals and an entirely unique take on the 170BPM sound, this is an absolutely essential piece of listening.
Spor – Calligo [Sotto Voce]
The much hyped and highly anticipated return of D&B’s prodigal son after a lengthy hiatus working on his lower tempo Feed Me project proved to be every bit as enjoyable as we’d hoped. Sure, there were relatively few surprises on show and James Hadouken’s vocals on Empire are predictably terrible but the rest of the album offers detailed, high energy neurofunk in spades and some absolutely cracking sound design. Sometimes predictable can still be awesome!
Bensley – Next Generation [RAM]
RAM’s young signing was unveiled in a fanfare of press hype many months before Next Generation arrived, leading some in the press to wonder what had happened to the young Canadian producer. It seems he’d been busy cooking up a full length LP for his debut release and the results were refreshingly different to most of the scene’s offerings this year.
Combining high energy, futuristic productions with a knack for melodic compositions, Bensley has created a style for himself that sidesteps the cliches of the typical liquid sound while offering much of the same appeal. If soaring synths and an emphasis on musicality over bassline heft sound good to you then definitely check this one out.
Electrosoul System – Flawless [Med School]
Once again cementing Med School’s position at the forefront of left-field D&B, the cockily named Flawless came out of the blue and surprised us with its versatility, depth and undeniable quality. Keeping the vibes rolling but the sonic palette fantastically varied, the album shifts gear from glitchy to smooth and dark to light absolutely effortlessly. Flawless indeed!
Quadrant, Kid Hops & Iris – 206 [Commercial Suicide]
Featuring a host of chunky rollers and some nice collabs along the way, the 206 LP from Quadrant, Iris & Kid Hops is another great example of how the depths of the 2-step D&B template have yet to be entirely plumbed even after 20+ years. Fans of chunky dancefloor techstep with a nod to old school production should enjoy this one; we certainly did!
Break – Simpler Times [Symmetry]
One of the scene’s biggest names returned for his third solo album this year and surprised noone at all by turning in another essential record. Featuring a more melodic selection than on previous LPs but still keeping the drums crispy as hell and the basslines suitably scuzzy, Break remains at the top of the game.
Module Eight [Exit Records]
170BPM supergroup Module Eight emerged from the shadows a couple of months ago and unveiled thirteen experimental and relatively minimalist explorations in the form of the Legacy LP. The production chops on show here are absolutely undeniable and the body of work is brooding, dark, complex, yet refined and in some ways restrained. The deeper side of D&B has never sounded better.
Rockwell – Obsolete Medium [Shogun]
Rounding off our picks for 2015 is the debut LP from Shogun originator Rockwell. Four years in the making and hugely anticipated, Obsolete Medium feels like the logical conclusion (or at least a solid milestone) in the musical journey begun on tracks like Detroit. Take pop influences, hyper-active synth lines and beat patterns that have more in common with house or garage, chuck it in the blender with a healthy dollop of D&B energy and this is what would come out; genre bending business, and so, so sharp for it.