Under The Counter (Volume Seven)

Reviews of new releases and fresh promo’s by Dave Sector (A Hungry Ghost) and Dominic Stanton (Sonar’s Ghost).

FFF – Alert And Waiting (7th Storey Projects)

Dave – Around a minute into this four-track EP you realise you are in for a wild mix of sounds from the history of drum and bass. The intro of the title track alone contains fierce hardcore stabs, twisted mentasms, soundclash FX and a piercing snare before launching into a heavy amen, fat enough to get any crowd moving. The EP then immediately changes tack with “They Know”, a traditional style roller with chunky looped breaks and a larger than life Reece bassline. The flipside opens with the rare groove sampling “The Way”, a perfect recreation of the classic feel-good jungle sound with ragga samples and a rugged second drop, sliced and diced to perfection. The twelve finishes with “So Good”, a track that features more ideas in six minutes than some producers have for a whole EP. Opening with a mystical cosmic pad, the classic “you make me feel so good” vocal, a melodic bassline underpinned with a four-four kick. All this may lead you to believe that the track is about to go into floaty 92 Bukem territory, what follows though is a balanced mash-up of dancefloor-ready amen edits and uplifting hands in the air piano… A thoroughly enjoyable release that deserves your attention and one that reminds you of the “good old days” when DJ’s played a bit of everything and 12’s were nice and diverse.

Dom – In terms of pricking up my producer’s ear, there certainly were a few parts in this EP that genuinely felt inventive with a nod to something familiar. “The Way” gave me that feeling I got the first time I heard Tango “Understanding” or Johnny Jungle “Flammable”, that something new and interesting with the pitch and the space between the drum hits was being explored so that the sparsity and space are as important as the drum hits. Add to that that the 808 notes hit in time with the perfectly chopped amen, then I am in – complaints of ‘too much Amen’ drip away when you have quality usage like this. The rest of the EP isn’t too shabby either. The non-amen moments are punctuated with other old faves like Hot Pants and it’s Charlie Says/Radio Babylon variant to great effect. Overall it has the feel of a classic EP that Carl Cox/Ramos/Grooverider/Bukem would all have had a track to play off in 1993 gives you an idea of its span and instant classic value.

Zero T And Beta 2 – Exiles EP (Metalheadz)

Dave – I know it is ridiculously early in 2020 but this is my favourite release of the year so far, and I think will be hard to top. It’s like they have listened to the whole Headz and Photek back catalogues then made a fresh homage to all the bits they love, and quite painstakingly by the sound of it. Old vibes for sure but crafted in their way, and how refreshing it is to hear artists inspired by a certain time/sound recreating it without just ripping off sounds taken from the tracks that served as the influence. Every attention has been made to ensure this is a timeless EP with the artists themselves saying “they went in” on its production. Each track has its journey with my highlight being the build to the incredible string section on “Misdemeanour”, worth noting that Dom pointed out comparisons in feel with this track to the 1998 release “An Evening With Hefner”. The “Exiles EP” is the first Metalheadz test press I’ve added to the collection since 1996, and it certainly holds its own alongside the early releases that formed the bedrock of the label. An EP so solid even the two digital-only bonus tracks blow most labels main releases out the water.

Dom – I can hear lots of Headz samples and classic era tropes on this which I would love to reference in a 12” I had made for Headz. I think the arrangements and production are incredible on this EP, I hope it gets the attention it deserves. The Photek nods are well painted on its sleeve, but done with genuine love and attention to the original source as opposed to lifting from Rupert’s records. This is a thing that fans and producers can appreciate more than punters, giving this a DJ’s DJ or Producer’s Producer feel which may work against it in terms of mass appeal. I genuinely hear throughout things referenced that directly influenced me and the way they are interpreted is in ways I could imagine I would come up with on my best creative days with months to spare to get it just right.

Drummotive – Petulia (Subtle Audio)

Dave – I really like this, it’s pretty out there which you’d probably expect coming from Conor’s label known for taking risks and pushing the more left-field side of the scene. “Petulia” chooses the more experimental side of jazz as an influence so it gets quite hectic, it certainly doesn’t play it safe but then neither did jazz in the seventies. The intro sounds like something that would get diggers excited with those warm Rhodes, in fact, the whole song is like one of those random fusion tracks you discover while looking for samples on obscure LP’s. Drum and bass in style, jazz at heart.

Dom – I love the drums. They are very busy at points I imagine some people may get lost in it (either dancing or attempting to play it out/mix it), but it’s refreshing in the context of modern DnB and brings to mind the Reinforced/Bassbin mindset of forgetting what everyone else is doing or expecting, and just making it because it is the collection of sounds you enjoy. I have great respect for this ethos, the risk of releasing it on vinyl at least continues a flame held for the creativity of a genre constantly accused of all sounding the same.

Coco Bryce – 1 Luh (Sweet Sensi Records)

Dave – This is taken from a forthcoming 12” on Canadian label Sweet Sensi, this isn’t the only forthcoming Coco Bryce track we listened to tonight but the only one we are allowed to review. Yoel certainly knows how to select sounds that sit well together, producing tracks that are balanced and carefully composed. On “1 Luh” it’s nice to see Funky Mule take centre stage, whenever I hear that break I can’t help but think of “Journey To The Light”, which in my mind kind of owns that break and always felt you’d be brave to use it, but countless others have since and I have to say this really works. The vocal sample requesting you to chant “one love” gives it character and the cheeky Six Million Dollar Man sound effect is pure nerd nostalgia which had Dom and I trying to remember whether we knew it from He-Man or the Hulk, turned out it was neither! Thanks, YouTube.

Dom – Good combination of sounds and breaks. Not obvious at all, and we LOVE the “Doing” noise (is it He-man? Classic Hanna Barbera? Oldschool Hulk/Spiderman? I think they used to ‘borrow’ it in something other than Six Billion Dollar Man I am sure!) Anyway Coco delivers some great non-amen sturdiness, that if played out would definitely work wonders in terms of sound quality and arrangement hitting all the spots. Coco does really well at Juxtapositioning, and unexpected sound or genre reference can be worked in most effectively and both sides display elements of that. A reliable buy.

Booca – Ringin In The Night EP (Next Phase Records)

Dave – I love it when people make stuff that doesn’t pay much mind to the dancefloor. This EP is a wild outing into sample manipulation, reminiscent in style of the 2003 LP “Soulhack” by Forss on German label Sonar Kollektiv, which we would highly recommend if you haven’t heard it. By the way, it’s crazy to think Forss AKA Eric Wahlforss then went on to co-found Soundcloud… not even sure if he still produces, which is a shame. Anyway, “Ringing In The Night” is great to listen too. If you enjoy the late 90s drum and bass experiments by the likes of Luke Vibert and Squarepusher on Ninja Tune and Mo Wax then you will most likely really enjoy this. Like those, this may be based on the foundations of DnB but it manages to flip those principles into something fresh and exciting. In my humble opinion, this EP deserves to reach a much wider audience than just the jungle crowd, purely for its scale and production wizardry. Once again, it’s great to see labels who are prepared to take a risk or two avoiding the obvious. Just don’t ask me to mix any of them.

Dom – Textually and rhythmically interesting, and daring and atmospheric but would a DJ play it? Probably not, but that is not a bad thing. This type of sample mangling is smokers/producers heaven, to lie back and let it wash over you then try to catch fragments of elements you could place. The time and effort are immaterial though, as the end effect is stunning. Both subversive and referential to its own history, this is what advanced producers of this genre who remained to study sample manipulation should aspire to create, as I indeed do.

Words: Dave Sector and Dominic Stanton

Many thanks to the artists and labels who send me music. If you would like your release considered for inclusion on Two Hungry Ghosts please email your submission to twohungryghosts@gmail.com

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