Mikal – Wilderness LP [Metalheadz]

Mikal’s journey through the D&B scene has been long and varied, with appearances on a host of labels since his debut single back in 2007. The bulk of his recent material has been for Metalheadz, and it’s Goldie’s label that is stepping up to release his debut LP, Wilderness.

Perhaps the first thing that jumped out at me about this album is how “headz” it sounds; the label family have managed to craft a very distinctive sound in recent years and while each of the producers in question have their own unique take on that sound, there is a common thread running through it. It could be a shared appreciation of the heritage of the D&B sound, or a slightly old school tinge to the material, but either way if you’ve enjoyed recent releases from SCAR, Jubei or Om Unit then you’ll probably find Mikal’s new album floats your boat.

That’s not to say this is a copycat work, merely that there is a commonality of tone and vibe running through the recent headz releases. The distinctive feature which sets Mikal’s take on this sound apart from Om Unit’s halftime business or SCAR’s slick rollers is definitely the use of rhythm; tracks like At The Controls and The Ruff Life eschew the more traditional 2-step beat patterns for unusual, skittering syncopations which keep the listener guessing. The symbiosis between these unusual rhythms and the basslines and textures gives the tracks an undeniable groove and character, keeping things rapid without leaning too heavily on genre tropes.

Mikal has recruited some fantastic guests to aid him in conjuring said rhythms, with Xtrah, RIOT, Break and Chimpo all on board for a track each and some of the albums best moments. Chimpo’s distinctive vocal stylings certainly aren’t getting old for this reviewer, and he’s on fine form on the clattering drum workout of Brain Matter.

If you enjoy dark D&B with an emphasis on absolutely stunning drum programming then this is absolutely the LP for you, and it’s great to see an artist given the space to create an album of tonally consistent material that can focus on rhythm with such purity and purpose. Check out the clips below and hit up the Metalheadz store to grab a copy on vinyl, CD or digital right now.

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.

Fracture x Chimpo – From Early / Hard Food [Metalheadz]

Leftfield D&B innovators Fracture & Chimpo land on the mighty ‘headz imprint with a fresh new 12″ showcasing their unusual take on the 170 sound. From Early taps into the swaggering half-time sound with more than a hint of LA bass, but for us at the Dojo it’s all about the old school stylings and fantastic drum work of Hard Food. Check out the clips below and head to the Metalheadz store to pre-order a copy now, with full release due from March 16th.

Chimpo – Out An Bad EP [Exit Records]

Exit Records continue to push the experimental sounds on the edges of 170BPM territory with a brand new EP from Manchester MC/producer Chimpo. Restless Leg Syndrome kicks the EP off with rapid fire footwork infused beats and vocal snippets, paired up with a cheeky rave stabs and hefty sub hits – bouncin’ stuff. Haymaker heads for darker and slightly less frantic territory with warm bass growls and a half-time rhythm, while title track Out An Bad sees the man providing vocals in his usual playful style over a tasty beat which owes some of its stylings to the LA Bass scene.

The EP also finds space for two collaborations with Diffrent alumni Fixate, both of which play with a fusion of dub, soca, trap and hip-hop to pretty stomping effect. Overall fans of the “slowfast” 170 style currently gaining traction in the scene will definitely enjoy this EP; check out the clips below and grab it on vinyl and digital from your favourite store now.

Competition – Win NB Audio T-Shirts and CDs!

nba romey D T 001 skull white copy

Manchester label NB Audio are gearing up for their third release with two brand new MC-led VIPs from Snap Shot. Dooms VIP combines a dubby half-time skank with the unmistakable vocal talents of Chimpo, while Dark Shadow VIP sees Tonn Piper taking up the mic on a rolling slice of dark jungle, all brooding bass and hard snares. Check out the video below for a taste of the beats and watch out for the release on Juno from Monday and elsewhere the week after.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8ubDKv2X94]

To celebrate the release we’ve teamed up with the label to give away two NBA ‘Skull’ t-shirts and two CDs of the label’s output so far, and the label will ship to winners anywhere in the world! To be in with a chance of winning a CD and a tee, all you have to do is like DNB Dojo on Facebook, like NB Audio on Facebook and drop an email to dnbdojo@gmail.com with the subject line “NB Audio Competition” and your name.  Winners will be drawn at random on Friday 15th November.

Chimpo – Frontline EP [Soul:R]

The Soul:R camp bring us tunes on a decidedly darker tip than usual from Manchester’s favourite MC/producer Chimpo. The titular Frontline sees Chimpo pass the mic to Fox for vocal duties while he gets on with the beats, delivering a moody half-time number imbued with bass and static in equal measure. Calibre steps in to deliver a remix and surprisingly avoids his usual smooth liquid territory in favour of a clattering amen refix of the tune, keeping things on a dark tip while significantly upping the tempo.

Elsewhere on the release Chimpo gets on the mic while Manchester buddies Dub Phizix & Skeptical provide a typically sparse, kick heavy beat for the man to air his unusual vocal style over. Finally All Over turns in a super-chopped up beat and ethereal, floaty pads to produce a style that sounds like the bastard child of drumfunk and dark garage. Truly innovative work on this one.

Watch out for this one dropping on vinyl and digital on July 15th.

Enei – Liberation EP [Critical]

Russian super-producer Enei returns with his first fresh cuts for Critical since the release of the excellent Machines LP. Opener Liberation sees him team up with Welsh rising star Emperor to craft a tidy stepper with some serious bass heft; warm, squelchy low end and that classic helter-skelter Enei percussion are both on show here to great effect.

Not content to merely tread familiar territory, track two immediately sees a switch of styles, with Enei teaming up with Chimpo to deliver a track that’s distinctly Dub Phizix-esque. Huge sub, half-time kicks and a distinctly trap influence all pervade the mix on Headtop.

Elsewhere on the EP Sam Wills provides some nice vocals on the dark but soulful roller Circles, and we get a couple of straight up techstep belters in the form of Mosquito (with its rather appropriately insect-like bass swoops) and the hard hitting percussion-led vibes of The Bonebreaker. Check out the whole EP below and look out for the release on June 24th.

Calibre – Spill [Signature]

The almost annual event that is a new album from the legendary Calibre is always a treat, and his 9th full length release keeps the quality high without falling into overly formulaic territory. Tracks like Think On, Key Flix and Simple Things provide the rolling, understated liquid we’ve come to know and love from the music man, while Cully Bridge explores slightly funkier territory with some interestingly treated vocal samples and Running adds a wee hint of samba with a great little guitar lick.

Elsewhere Sick Of It All explores moody, ethereal half-step, Keep Control superbly blends orchestral flourish with a tough, stepping beat and Wilderness sees an effortlessly soulful collaboration with vocalist Steo. Perhaps the most stand-out track on the album however comes in the form of Start Again, which sees Calibre teaming up with MC Chimpo to deliver a gritty, half stepping number that oozes atmosphere. Dark, oscillating bass, tight hats and deep, Mancunian tones; yes please!

Unfortunately only two previews of the album are up online so to hear the rest you’ll just have to buy yourself a copy from Surus, but trust me, you’ll not regret it.