LSB and DRS should certainly need no introduction; the former one of the finest liquid producers of a generation, a rare pretender to Calibre & Marcus’s throne, while the latter is undoubtedly one of the best and most versatile lyricists in D&B. A handful of previous collaborations have proved their chemistry, not least the anthemic The View from DRS’s Mid Mic Crisis LP. So an LSB & DRS album should be something special, right?
Right indeed. The Blue Hour is an undeniable joy, a melding of minds and a proper musical journey. For one thing it’s almost equal parts soulful D&B rollers and equally soulful hip-hop beats; the yin and yang of an MC’s twin musical expressions filtered through the lens of the producer’s unique style.
Whether riffing on laid-back downtempo cuts like I’m Changing and Umbrellas, or bearing his soul on emotional rollers like Faded or Like It Used To, DRS is on fine form, and his thoughtful poetry finds a perfect match in the fluttering, delicate, jazz-infused beats found across the record. Mellow and melancholy but always with an uplifting edge, this is pure, honest and moving music…just as it should be.
The Blue Hour is out now via LSB’s Footnotes imprint; check out the tracks below and hit up your favourite store to grab a copy right now.
If you’ve been keeping your eyes and ears on the liquid D&B scene in the last few years, you could scarcely have missed LSB. Coming from humble beginnings as a promoter and DJ, Luke got his first breaks via solid releases on the likes of Bingo, Demand, Integral and Spearhead before catching the attention of Soul:R chief Marcus Intalex. Since then he’s been responsible for DRS smash The View and a host of other solid tracks for some of the biggest labels in the scene.
So with his place in D&B cemented, clearly the time felt right for a full length outing, bringing us to this month’s release of the long tipped Content LP. From the unusually detailed and personal (and un-hyperbolic for that matter) press release accompanying the album, it’s clear that Luke has striven not just to write a collection of beats and strap them together as an album, but to come up with a coherent body of music that has some shared meaning. That vision really shines through, and fans of the producer’s previous work will definitely find plenty to enjoy here.
Content is packed full of deceptively simple but ultimately really evocative pieces of music, and some surprising choices compared to the stock “deep roller” sound that LSB has made his name on. From the profound and moving downbeat hip-hop of Sense vox’d Pandora through the moody jazz influences of Circle and into the hypnotic progression of Sketches For My Sweetheart there’s a real sense of a producer pushing his own creative envelope, with rich and varied rewards.
Even on the album’s more predictable outings there’s little to fault; The View gets a fantastic follow up as DRS and Tyler Daley return for the equally sublime Missing You, and tracks like The Optimist and Capture My Heart prove that LSB has in no way lost his touch for penning solid vibesy rollers.
Sadly the album comes against the backdrop of Luke suffering from a degenerative eye disease which has already severely impaired his vision and threatens to eventually leave him completely blind. That experience has surely informed the melancholy beauty present on Content, from the understated eye-test influenced artwork to the tracks themselves, and possibly proves some of the old adages about suffering for one’s art; here’s hoping Luke’s talents aren’t robbed from the scene by further issues with his sight. Content is out now on vinyl, CD and digital from the Soul:R store.
The four track EP has a fine heritage in drum & bass, and with good reason. While everyone loves a solid two track single, the EP format allows for the exploration of a theme, either by a single artist or a like-minded collective. It doesn’t carry the pressure of an album, but it provides a great platform for creative expression across an easily digestible four-course musical meal.
While the heritage of these EPs very much lies in the distant vinyl heyday of the scene, the format has nonetheless carried through to the digital era and its appeal proves undiminished by the digital format. Enter Soul:R, and their hugely enjoyable Four:fit series, which now delivers its eighth volume courtesy of label chieftain Marcus Intalex.
With a host of strong entries to the series from the likes of Calibre, Seba and Skeptical there was a high bar to meet here, but the ever reliable Intalex has turned in a solid selection more than worthy of the existing legacy. From the deep halftime growlings of Mixed Bag, through the stark, moody Step Forward and into rowdy amen smasher (and Dojo highlight) Jupiter, this is vintage Marcus through and through, and the EP closer sees Lynx hop on board for a fantastic roller on Stingray.
Once again Soul:R are at the top of the game when it comes to deep but still dancefloor worthy D&B. Check out the tracks below and hit up their Bandcamp store to grab a copy on vinyl or digital right now!
Enei returns to Critical with his sophomore LP following up 2012’s excellent debut Machines. Rituals feels very much like a continuation of the themes found on Machines, with perhaps a slightly broader array of tones reflecting the evolution of Enei’s production in the intervening years.
The moody tech which formed so much of his debut LP (and indeed his discography) is still present here on tracks like Bad Proof and Iron Curtain, but there are also a selection of brighter cuts featuring some excellent vocalists. Frank Carter III (who you should recognise from Ivy Lab’s seminal tracks Oblique and Afterthought) turns in a typically deft and soulful performance on the playful, jazzy Moment of Now, while Charlie Brix steps up to the mic for up front roller Homeworld and the darker and more introspective Just One Look.
It wouldn’t be a Critical LP without a few label roster collaborations and these don’t disappoint either. Kasra & DRS get on board for a pessimistic ode to the music industry on Lessons, providing one of the album’s punchiest tracks. Elsewhere Foreign Concept gets involved on the more melodic and contemplative Forgotten Planet,fellow Russian producer Eastcolors joins Enei for the raved up flavours of Jungle Business and neuro badman Mefjus climbs aboard for the typically relentless Dead Space.
Polished and punchy but with more than enough variation to keep things interesting, this is a solid album from a producer at the top of his game. Check out a minimix of the album’s tracks below and hit up the Critical Store to pre-order on your pick of physical and digital formats; the LP drops Friday 4th December.
Soul:R warm up for the impending arrival of DRS’s sophomore LP (following up 2012’s rather excellent I Don’t Usually Like MCs But…) with a new single showcasing the first of the album’s wares. Jubei provides production on dancefloor stomper The Puppeteer on the A-side while Marcus Intalex brings the dubby vibes on Emergency on the flip. Check out the tracks below and grab them exclusively from the Soul:R Bandcamp now; full release following from Jan 19th.
It seems like Critical Music can do no wrong right now. This year has seen the label release a slew of quality tunes from top flight producers (including the positively anthemic Oblique) not to mension label boss Kasra‘s induction to the Fabriclive mix family. Not content with that, Critical are now stepping up to the plate once again with the debut album from Russian producer Enei, and it’s pretty stunning. 2012 has already been quite a year for drum & bass albums with great releases from Octane & DLR, BCee, Symmetry Recordings and DRS to name but a few, and Enei’s debut sits alongside and perhaps even a little above the efforts of his peers.
From the soulful liquid of Runnin to the face smashing basslines of Centrifuge, through the dark jungle cutups of Saligia and off into the rolling grime of Cracker VIP the record oozes production quality left right and centre, and should feature something for everyone. There’s even a cheeky old skool throwback in the form of Rotate and a tidy deep house number in the digital exclusives.
Better still the label have teamed up with the Surus store to offer a bundle of CD, 2×12″ vinyl, 1×10″ vinyl, posters, bag and digital download for the frankly ridiculous price of £20. Vinyl heads should be rushing over here for that one. Check out the previews and watch for the album dropping on November 12th.
MCs in dance music; often a contentious topic. And one that has been prominent in the drum & bass scene in recent times, with the rise of MC-led (or at least MC-imbued) tracks, particularly in the wake of the huge success of Dub Phizix’s smash hit Marka. So despite the excellent track record DRS has in the scene, I must admit I was a little ambivalent when I heard that he was doing a full length album of solo material. Would there be the necessary variation here to justify a solo LP, or would this merely amount to 14 similar tracks chucked together to cash in on the current trend for MCing over half-step D&B beats?
While the initial single from the album was promising, it was treading familiar ground for the MC. Thankfully the album doesn’t disappoint in any way – lyricism and production (from the host of guest producers including dBridge, Lynx & Genotype) are both top notch, and most importantly the album shows real variation in tone and musical style.
The first welcome surprise of the album comes on Autonomic, bringing the tempo down to the 120 range for a slice of stripped back but supremely funky hip-hop. “This beat’s so autonomic, automatic, supersonic” goes the chorus, with DRS settling into a beautifully laid back yet insistent flow that instantly has the head nodding. It Ain’t Easy provides another, with a pleasant cross between grime-esque 140 beat patterns and warm, soulful synth lines.
Even when the tunes are occupying more familiar drum & bass led territory there is a good selection of different offerings, from soulful liquid funk affairs like Star Voyager and Keep the Faith to slightly predictable but nonetheless high calibre grimey half-steppers like Play With Fire.
If MCs are stepping up to become a bigger feature of the drum & bass scene, on record as well as in their more natural habitat of the club, then DRS has certainly set the bar for what an MCs album should be on every level. Watch out for the full release via Soul:R on Monday – and to whet your appetite you can check out a teaser mix below.
Marcus Intalex‘s Manchester based Soul:R imprint is gearing up to release the debut album from MC DRS, and ahead of that they’ve put together a quality 12″ taken from the album. The A-side sees DRS teaming up with Russian producer Enei, with tight rhymes over a classic “steppa”-style D&B beat. Over on the flip is Holding On with Lenzman, Jehst & Riya, an altogether more soulful, liquid-funk affair with a warm, uplifting chorus.
DRS has also put together a youtube playlist of his influences which features a wide variety of quality tunes from the likes of Goldie, Otis Reading and The Pharcyde – well worth a listen!
Check out the video for Count to Ten below, grab the single (out Monday on Soul:R from all good outlets) and watch out for the album over the next few months.