Hailing from the vaults of Fade’s label Faded Music, in Wroclaw Poland, comes a pristine selection of 5 tracks that do exactly what it says on the tin: bring you “Back To [your] Roots”! And beautifully so indeed!
For this release, the label boss has selected an all-star, international roster of producers in addition to himself. We are thus graced with works from Coma & Semitone, Acid Lab remixing Fade, 59crime and US DnB warriors BT Liminal & Bengal.
I go into this review without prior knowledge of any of these producers, except Liminal whose music I have been acquainted with for a few months. I, therefore, have no empirical data to evaluate how these songs relate to the producers bodies of work, so my analysis rests purely on the vibe and the direct experience of my initial listening session.
However, my initial impression is one of awe and sheer joy!
I love old school DnB and deeper/atmospheric jungle, my favourite album in the genre remains to this day Goldie’s “Timeless” and I the phenomenal and imaginative creations producers were making, especially considering how limited technology is compared to today, is simply mind-boggling. The enveloping mood with the lush pads, the complex rhythms and earth-rattling sub bass, the singular vision of the future that was translated so perfectly into sound… what an era it was for music!
And the producers taking part in this project have managed to re-contextualise that mood and give us a slice of nostalgia with a fresh modern edge.
The EP starts with Fade’s offering “Orange Balloon”, setting the tone with “that” classic atmosphere interspersed with chopped up breaks. Our genre needs more chopped-up up breaks, and this EP contributes to the cause! This tune will work wonders whether you’re having a blast on a packed dance floor or comfortably sit in your living room. It’s highly energetic, yet not too frantic, sitting on the deeper end of the spectrum and it’s also very melodic, with a dubby lead layered with a chiptune sound, going into a percussive tribal lead line and so forth. This is a good candidate advocating for more melody and alternating melodies within the same song…something DnB also needs more of!
Next up, we have Coma & Semitone with “Isolation Tank” which keeps the deep atmospheric, reverb-drenched mood intact, but delves into more experimental rhythmic structures, oscillating between halftime and stuttering, razor-sharp beats. The synths in this track are more minimal and also quite dubby, the focus really being put in the insane drum work worthy of Fanu! I would definitely see b-boys popping and robot-dancing like crazy to this tune! I think it also fits in well with the current trend of blending footwork and jungle, for a devastating effect on the dance floor. The song carries its namesake quite well, reminding me of Walter Bishop’s experiments on LSD in an Isolation Tank in a few episodes of the awesome series Fringe: very claustrophobic and kinda alienating, but very trippy!
We then have an Acid Lab remix of Fade’s “Nebula”, which starts off on a halftime tangent similar to the previous song. The intro of this one reminds me of that dark Source Direct vibe and it follows up a minimal, earth-shaking Techstep drop. Crisp drums and a subtle didgeridoo-esque sub bass punctuated by menacing reeses and the occasional high-pitched mentalism! This track is also a very good example of why having pads in a tune carrying over to the drop can be such a great way build atmosphere and tension in relation to a deep and dark bassline. And the eerie pads and punctual reverberated elements of the song provide it with a terrific, dark sci-fi-horror type of vibe. I only wish that stuttering synth from the breakdown were more present later on, as it sounds so cool, but we only hear it once!
While the 2 previous tracks explored the darker sonic territory, this next one brings us back the lighter tones one could find in classic LTJ Bukem tracks… “Edibles” by 59crime is propelled by an energetic break a very house-y bassline and pad riff. I am a sucker for intros with those classic pad sounds and delayed percussion and this one starts things on a very promising note. And it doe not disappoint! Later on in the drop, the pads also become an electric-piano-type lead, playing the always-enjoyable fifth chord in a very jazzy progression, punctuated by airy reverb washed impacts and Apache break fills. This all melds into a beautiful, nostalgic moment, quite a laidback, but also very adept at packing a dance floor. A very stylish throwback to the sound that would eventually become liquid funk, pure class, pure fire, devoid of the subgenre’s current poppy and cheesier tendencies.
On to the final track, “Smokin’” by BT Liminal & Bengal. This is the EPs clearly dance floor oriented tune, very energetic with an unrelenting beat and a heavier bassline than the other songs on the release. And whereas the first drop puts more focus on the heavy bassline, the second drop switches things up by layering a battery of old school breaks on top the of the main beat: quite a few iterations of the Amen, some bits of the Apache and even the legendary and under-used Boymerang break from “Soul Beat Runna”! I really enjoy how the drops go from strictly beats and bass dancefloor material and progress into more psychedelic territory as more and more washy percussive effects are layered in, adding an ethereal feel and a nice contrast to the heavier elements. Some might even think this decision could have brought about by “smokin’ all night ‘til the sun comes ups” as the sampled hip-hop vocal iterates a few times throughout the track.
This just came out today, as I’m writing this review, and believe me, you want these tunes! So much class, so much dance floor fire and many nods to what made Drum & Bass so great in its golden age and undeniable evidence of what still makes it so great to this day!
Buy this release here.