Let’s get this out of the way straight off the bat; Conduct’s debut LP is one of the best album’s you’ll hear this year, if not this decade. Regular readers are unlikely to be surprised by this verdict given our glowing coverage of the previous album singles and general love of all things Blu Mar Ten Music, but don’t dismiss this review based on our apparent lack of objectivity.
To get another thing out of the way, anyone looking for an album of dancefloor rollers or constant 2-step drum beats will be heartily disappointed, but this has never been what Blu Mar Ten Music has been about. Following in the footsteps of Frederic Robinson and Kimyan Law, Conduct are doing their best to redefine the boundaries of what 170BPM music can or should be, and the results are breathtaking.
The most striking thing about many of the tracks on Borderlands is the bold use of prominent instrumentation not usually associated with drum & bass, particularly guitar lines. From the stark, country-style steel string lines of Bat Country to the lavish twin-guitar progressions of Archaic, it’s obvious that Conduct are more than just laptop junkies.
That use of natural instrumentation combined with more synthetic bass and drum elements defines the sound on many tracks, providing a fantastic duality. Soft, natural keys float above monstrous low end modulations on Pianotune, while mournful six-strings duel with warped vocals on Beta’s Error to highlight a couple of notable examples.
A strong sense of yearning shines through on the material too, such as the delicate and heartful strains of Turmoil and the more optimistic melodies of Grand Panjadrum; attempting to adequately describe the intention of these tracks is probably an exercise in futility, but they certainly carry an emotional component often lacking from even leftfield electronic music.
Overall this is an intense and powerful body of work; varied yet cohesive, musically deft and thoroughly evocative. It plays like no other drum & bass record you’re likely to hear, and it’s a huge achievement from a duo we hope to hear much more from in the coming years. Check out the previews below and head to the BMT store to grab it on vinyl, CD or digital right now.