This week takes us back to the early days of Samurai Music, a label that has been on the forefront of the more unconventional realm of Drum & Bass. Cold Blooded by Soul Intent marked the beginning of a shift in musical direction for Samurai Music that would gradually come to fruition over time.
This criminally underrated 2008 classic shows us a completely different side of Soul Intent, who savagely doles out coarse bass stabs, swells, and wobbles tempered with contemplative atmospherics. The rhythms here are measured in a military-esque discipline. Cold Blooded is an excellent balance between visceral and calculated, minimalist and elaborate. Definitely fitting for a label with the name of Samurai Music, Soul Intent’s intimidating tune entices us to become one with the way of the samurai.
Tokyo Prose is a rare producer in the scene, a man whose creations never fail to put a smile on my face. While Sam Reed certainly wasn’t the first to ply the deep, melodic style of Drum & Bass, he’s certainly developed his own voice over the years and his latest work is amongst his best.
Following last year’s Presence LPwas always going to be tough given the quality and diversity of that record, but the Dawn Chorus EP feels perfectly pitched in that regard; lesser in scope but finely crafted and showcasing that warmth and emotion that makes his work so special. Whether on the beautiful string section of Dawn Chorus, the effortless downtempo of Vanishing Point or the bright chimes and crisp breaks of Windtalkers, the instrumentation remains beautiful and evocative.
Anyone yet to be persuaded by the gentle depth of the liquid sound may not find anything new to change their mind here, but if you appreciate the more musical side of Drum & Bass then the Dawn Chorus EP provides four tracks you will lose yourself in again and again. Serenity and bliss, softness and speed, feeling and thought, all lovingly packaged at one hundred and seventy beats per minute; it doesn’t get much better than this.
Check out the clips below and hit up the Samurai Store to grab a copy on wax before it inevitably sells out.
Berlin-based producer Theme returns to Samurai Music after a popular release on their Horo imprint with a new EP blending halftime D&B with elements of dub techno, and the results are pretty stunning. Shimmering synth progressions, reverb drenched snares and a muted yet euphoric vibe characterise the tunes, and the compositions really draw you into the abstract world of their creator via a hypnotic, enveloping array of sonics.
While words like “hypnotic” and “meditation” get thrown around willy-nilly when discussing electronica that draws on ambience or floaty synths, these descriptions seem entirely fitting here. What exactly Theme is meditating on via these tracks is probably known only to him, but the body of work certainly carries a serene, thoughtful aesthetic which isn’t common in drum & bass…but then to many this isn’t drum & bass, and isn’t really trying to be either. The overall tone certainly shares more in common with dub techno, though the tempo and drum structures give away the influence of 85/170BPM music, call it what you will.
Pointless chin stroking regarding “true genre” aside, Scenes 1-4 is a breathtaking selection of tracks and one of the best attempts we’ve heard recently at the kind of musical zen producers of Theme’s ilk endeavour to create. Check out the clips below and lose yourself in it all…then head over to the Samurai Store and grab a copy on vinyl or digital, out right now.
If you want more from Theme, be sure to check out his mix for the Samurai Podcast below; 58 minutes of dubbed out halftime selections.
Samurai Music continue the relaunch of their trio of labels with a new single from Djrum on Red Seal. Samurai’s expansion beyond the confines of traditional D&B and into the wider worlds of electronica seems set to continue, with the tracks on this single melting down the merest hints of jungle into a sonic pot alongside a plethora of other influences to create something almost impossible to pigeon-hole.
Plantain brings together ethereal soundscapes, hewn from soft strings and mournful vocal samples, with constantly evolving percussion lines which at once seem quite junglist in heritage and on the other hand are anything but. The unusual combination of sounds bring to mind some of DJ Shadow’s best work, albeit without the hip-hop shine.
The rather obtusely titled What I Was Doing When I Was Doing What I Was Doing ups the tempo somewhat, with more insistent yet unusual drumwork layered under a tapestry of weird samples and spaced out atmospheres. The detail present in both tracks is incredible, with every crackly edit and drum hit seeming perfectly and lovingly placed. As usual Samurai can be counted on to push the envelope in exciting and unusual directions, unconcerned with genre tropes or mainstream popularity. Check out the clips below and grab this one from the Samurai Store now!
Living up to the promise of early releases is no mean feat for any artist in any scene. For D&B, it’s not so much the “difficult second album” of rock and pop as the “difficult first album following several great EPs or singles”. The album format may have become more popular in recent years, especially for purveyors of the deeper side of the music, but that makes it no less difficult to do well, and many have released competent LPs which nonetheless either feel too filler-heavy or merely like a collection of singles rather than a coherent body of work.
Thankfully, Tokyo Prose’s debut suffers neither of these criticisms. The quality and depth of the production is breathtaking, and the tracks flow effortlessly together through commonality of tone and spirit. Make no mistake though, there’s more than enough detail and variation to hold your interest across the LPs 13 tracks.
Picking favourites is a difficult exercise as with all top quality LPs, especially with the likes of Lenzman, Synkro and LSB popping in for collaborations. The soft strings of Covet, the effortless downtempo of 16 Bar Cycles and the uplifting piano and reverb drenched vocals of Small Gains all stand out, but this is an album where different tunes are likely to speak to different listeners. One thing is for sure; from the opening chimes to the beautiful, beatless outro of Dance With You, every new track is a treat and a pleasure. Check out the clips below and grab yourself a copy on vinyl or CD from the Samurai Store.
As Samurai prepare for the release of Tokyo Prose’s debut LP next month, the first glimpses have appeared via the LP sampler, and they’re a bit of a treat. Waiting On sees the ever talented Riya stepping up to the mic to deliver her trademark soulful vocals on an effortlessly smooth, piano-led roller. It would be easy to dismiss this as yet another deep tune with a Riya vocal, but while this may not be treading particularly innovative ground the execution is faultless. Perfectly reverbed vocals, soft, warm piano and crisp breaks come together in a perfect storm of mood and beauty.
Over on the flip Ventura proves no slouch either, kicking in with a slightly more insistent break and deep sub bass but keeping the tone somewhat distant; definitely one for the heads. Vinyl addicts can pre-order the 12″ from Samurai’s brand new store (along with pre-order options for the album itself) and the digital can be picked up right now exclusively from Samurai’s Bandcamp.
Samurai Music steal Sam KDC away from ASC’s Auxiliary imprint for a 12″ on their Red Seal arm and as usual it’s a treat. Deep, dubby vibes and plenty of crackly atmosphere pervade the tracks; a lazy description of “Burial makes 170” is tempting, but while apt doesn’t really do the tunes justice. Burial with more punch, perhaps, particularly on the more energetic B-side Erogenous.
As usual the release will be served up on wax for the vinyl collectors out there, with this particular release featuring excellent artwork from the talented Petra Zhivkova. Check out the clips below and watch out for the release dropping from March 17th.