The Austrian power quartet known as Fourward are back with their sophomore album, and first proper release since last year’s Elektrik EP. The title is literally very fitting of the album’s sound and scope, as the group throw in everything but the kitchen sink! Immense and impactful sound design, flawless engineering and mixdowns, incredibly engaging, emotion-filled and well-structured songs. In a year in which pretty much every LP from a major artist has been incredible, this one is among the very cream of that crop!
From the moment you press play, you are instantly hooked for the remainder of the album’s runtime. The journey kicks off with the mind-blowing “Bite The Dust” featuring the gravelly voice of Jakes on MC detail. The middle-eastern-style hip-hop intro makes you feel like you’ve stepped into an action film right before the big scene kicks off, and when it does, you have no choice but to grin ear to ear and headbang like a maniac!
Like every song that follows, you actually feel like you are listening to a fully fleshed out song, not just a track meant to be mixed into another structurally identical track… these songs each have their own personality and make for an extremely entertaining and varied, but very tight and cohesive listening experience!
After the Team America action-flick vibes, we are transported into the Halloween / horror flick mood of “Belly Of The Beast”, with its eerie melody reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas’s soundtrack or the Duck Tales NES game’s Transylvania stage music. As the melody’s intensity crescendos it paves the way for a huge and menacing analogous to the song’s said beast being unleashed!
We are then treated to their collaboration with their boss Friction, on the minimal techy funky number “Run Your Mouth”, which has a particular emphasis on the funk and a bit less on the neuro. Mid-way through a nice little uplifting melody kicks in and changes the mood just long enough for the second drop to kick in with even more effect.
After the opening trio of heavy dancefloor smashers, Fourward take a breather with the lighter Future Bass inspired halftime swagger of “Empty Souls”. This song rolls along with a very uplifting and pleasant vibe and heaps of cascading melodies, a bunch of fun little chirpy sounds and an ethereal vocal line before the funky twisted basses of the drops.
We are then thrown under the bass bus once again with a slew of infectious dancefloor numbers kicking off with “Beta Alpha Theta Delta”, which has sound similar to some of Phace and Misanthrop’s recent output, with ridiculously catchy harmonising synth lines merging into a funky robotic bass. It is reminiscent of their tune “Elektrik” with a funky but rigidly sequenced musical theme that has since become a core aspect of their sound.
This over the top madness continues on “Dewey” which samples one of the many ridiculously funny lines from Malcolm In The Middle’s character of the same name, paired with a heavy rolling drop that sounds a bit like Audio’s “Ambush”. However the effect isn’t the same, as the off-kilter humour really changes our perception and makes the song so much more unique and enjoyable. I really like it when producers incorporate humour into their tracks, as too often our genre takes itself too goddamn seriously and everyone seems to like robotic angry though guys with a pen stuck up their butts.
They follow this departure in tone with the epically epic robotic funk of “Sequencer”, which return to their trademark sound featured two songs prior, with an ever shifting sequenced arrangement of layered basses and top line synths. This track is simply a fucking BOMB! Incredibly catchy and engaging, is it the epitome of our burgeoning cyberpunk society’s rave insanity.
We are then treated to another shift in tone with “Over” and its dreamy, reverb drenched Future Bass melody and smooth liquid tones. It is a beautiful, fragile and peaceful moment on a mostly heavy record, punctuated with funky glitchy fills. I love their take on liquid, as it eschews the cheese that is so common on so many poppy, top-40 sound alike tunes that are so popular nowadays and that I abhor!!!
The tone shifts once again with a straight up, off-kilter purple-y hip-hop tune with Pep called “From East”. While I am not really a fan of hip-hop, I can definitely enjoy this track, with its sweet, staggering beat, funky a fuck bassline and blippy Skweeee-like synths!
Fourward deliver another brutal blow with the terrific “Everytime”, a collaboration with their compatriot Mefjus that distils the core elements of each party’s particular sound to sublime effect, delivering a devilish slice of cyberpunk DnB, with a bouncy rhythm section, crunchy bassline and incredibly intricate, tightly edited digitally altered sounds completing the soundscape.
The mood changes yet again, with a neuro-but-more-funky liquid tune with smooth and natural-sounding vocals from a very talented singer named René! It is certainly more poppy in its delivery than “Over”, but I really like the fact her vocal arrangement is fully fleshed-out with pretty harmonies and I like her voice’s timbre which doesn’t sound forced like so many singers. I’m incredibly difficult when it comes to vocals, comparing pretty much everything to 90’s Björk and singers like Chaka Kahn, so I dislike pretty much 98% of all vocals in poppy-sounding electronic music as it always sounds the same…
In the album’s “Ultimate Edition” that can only be obtained on Beatport, the 12th track is “No Escape” (which is now available on their webshop as well), which returns to the aesthetic and killer vibes of “Sequencer” and other similar tunes on the album. It has really neat ascending and descending melodic fills that remind me of chiptunes, but mutated and crossbred with evil robotic gabber kick-bass. Simply splendid!
We enter the home stretch with the more minimal techstep-like roller “Quiet Creep”, adorned with an eerie melody that alternates with a complexly modulated bassline. At this point I’m starting to run out of adjectives to properly describe it and while it may seem a bit simpler than some of the other tunes here, it is still highly enjoyable.
And finally… the last track: “Senseless”, a collaboration with Dutch legend and master of all things techy, Icicle! Like
their collab with Mefjus, this one distils the core elements of both sides’ sounds to great effect and they deliver a high impact sci-fi sounding masterpiece. It’s a killer way to end an astounding record and will leave wanting to press the play button over and over, as it is just so damn good!
As this track-to-track run through indicates, there may be a slight problem for some listeners with the album’s pacing, especially in its latter half, as it constantly switches between styles, but I think it’s actually a good thing, because it keeps us wondering what will come next provides a very diverse listening experience – which albums of a single genre often don’t try to do in fear of alienating their core audience.
Overall, this is one of the year’s greatest albums and I strongly recommend it to every DnB fan, regardless of your genre preferences, you will most likely find a lot to like here and it will probably broaden a lot of people’s tastes, thus perfectly embodying its namesake of “EXPANSION”!!!!!!!
Get it… NOW!
Shogun Audio: http://www.shogunaudio.co.uk/shop/fourward-expansion-lp-deluxe-edition-mp3