Under The Counter (Volume Eight)

Reviews of new releases and fresh promo’s.

Nymfo – Sting Blade (Metalheadz)

META084 welcomes Dutch producer Nymfo to the Metalheadz fold with his debut EP for the label. With previous releases on Hospital, RAM, Shogun and Dispatch among others, it’s great to see Headz opening their arms to invite producers from the wider scene to contribute their take on an iconic sound.

The EP first began to take shape last year upon the discovery of an old drum break, inspiring the artist to listen to  seminal Blue Note sets helping him craft what he describes as a “proper Headz tune”. That session spawned the title track “Sting Blade”, dark and bold with layers of bass, sounding just like an unreleased 90s dubplate. Breaks roll into each other, surgically chopped yet retaining their original funk while the bass is bold and brazen, engineered to grab your attention. All the Blue Note elements are there, eerie atmospherics, spoken word samples, strings are used sparingly adding character and drama, contributing to the dubplate feel. “Sting Blade” manages to capture the excitement of making a track, then cutting it to play to your friends and peers. One for the 96/97 heads.

Elsewhere on the EP, fellow Dutch producer Martyn features on the track “What’s Happening”. A soulful Rhodes sample creates a wonderful fusion of house and jungle, similar to early broken beat experiments of the late 90s. 

“No Choice” draws for the amen break and a snarling b-line that mutates it’s way through the arrangement while the digital exclusive “Lie Detection” takes a softer approach opting for techno chords and bleeps.

Various Artists – DROOGS005 (DROOGS)

The fifth release on UVB-76 offshoot DROOGS maybe their heaviest yet. From the amen frenzy of “Monolith” to the B-Boy fused paranoia of “City Limits”, both cuts are designed for rowdy dancefloors referencing the past while firmly pushing things forward. 

“Monolith” sees one of UVB-76’s founders, Gremlinz, team up with regular studio partner Jesta and DC resident Kalu for five minutes of carnage. Opening with intense strings and a distorted bass tone faintly in the background, the introduction hints at a storm brewing but nothing can quite prepare you for the ferocity of the drop. A wealth of amen variants, meticulously programmed, switch throughout this raucous battle of breaks. Constructed for maximum impact, the drums in “Monolith” are relentless, only stopping to pound for a few bars during its runtime.

“City Limits” by Friske (Metalheadz/Repertoire) is a stark contrast to the uncompromising nature of “Monolith”, drum breaks are replaced by drum machines and the bass, although still distorted, is warm instead of punishing. Early B-Boy references punctuate the track, from the sound of a subway train pulling into a yard or station to a primitive scratch of the word “break”. All this conjures images of youth trying to reclaim their identity through music and art in a city where streets are crime-ridden and their voices ignored. 

Like most cities, this track is sophisticated and atmospheric, with an ominous, almost sinister under-belly making this, possibly, my favourite DROOGS yet.

Bluematter – Real EP (Lore Limited)

More rugged amen action from Western Lore’s vinyl-only sub-label, Lore Limited. It’s great when you hear a track by an artist you haven’t heard before as it means you can do a bit of digging into the back catalogue and, in this case, be exposed to a wealth of music from different genres by the artist. Bluematter consists of Jozef K and Thomas Ragsdale, two producers whose background consists of making everything from “immersive soundscapes” to “blissful techno” receiving support from DJ’s including The Black Madonna and Maya Jane Coles. A recent track by the duo, “Aglaia” on Constant Circles, subtlely hinted a passion for drum and bass with its “Find Me” melody by Skanna.

“Real” begins sharply with rolling amens, similar to something Smith Inc would have done on Absolute 2 in 93, a high pitched string, techno pulses and Morpheus questioning “What is real? How do you define real?” before the “If you’re talking about what you can feel” line gives way to a 94 style amen, much heavier and chopped than the intro, resulting in a clever tonal change catapulting you forward through the evolution of hardcore into drum and bass.

“Zeus” and “Bunker” showcase the producer’s techno backgrounds with prominent kicks and dreamlike melodies, perfectly complimenting the chopped breaks that Western Lore is known for.

Out now on heavyweight black vinyl in a stickered sleeve, it’d be great to see this crossover into the experimental techno circuit as drum and bass owes so much to the genre for its own evolution.

Hooverian Blue – Old Gold (Sneaker Social Club)

Quality three-tracker from the ever-reliable Sneaker Social Club. After recent UKG style releases by Dream Cycle and Coco Bryce (under his Chavinsky moniker) the label return to breaks and bleeps with this bomb of an EP by Hooverian Blue. Among the three tracks is the “absolute weapon” fans of Ben UFO have been requesting an ID on since playing it at XOYO in August 2019.

That “weapon” is “Old Gold”, sounding like a modern-day take on “Valley of The Shadows” by Origin Unkown, albeit at a house tempo and minus the famous NASA vocal sample from the STS-51C launch. Built around a rumbling bassline that grows larger throughout the track, a classic Lyn Collins “Think” loop and minimal bleeps, it’s an obvious one to draw for when needing to pick up the energy in a set without going overboard. Like the other two on the EP it’s constructed with very few parts, much like “Valley of The Shadows”, but importantly all of the elements work so well together the tracks really don’t need anything else as all three have such a great vibe and 90s authenticity about them. 

“Eyes Closed” gets going right from the start with its “Hot Pants” chops and UKG style bass, rave stabs adding to the old school feel deeper into the track. “Laluviah“ is my personal favourite from the EP with its spaced-out techno bleeps and acid b-line, reminiscent of the sounds filling warehouses in 1990.

A solid EP and a joy to mix.

K3Bee – Zoot EP (Next Phase Records)

K3Bee returns to Next Phase Records with four tracks of retrospective drum and bass, paying homage to the music’s golden era.

Notably heavier than his previous NPR release, the “Bristle EP”, this collection explores the experimental and rugged side of 90s jungle. Taking elements from hip hop, ambient and jazz, the “Zoot EP” reflects a time where the scene was an alchemy of styles.

The title track, “Zoot”, has this ethos at its core. Constructed with a medley of parts, obtained from a variety of genres, then assembled to create something fresh and different. “Blue Mango” features an iconic jazz melody, which 90s hip hop lovers will appreciate, and an amen drop that would have tore up pirate radio back in 1994.

“Lo-Fi” takes us down the experimental path, full of delay, atmospheric noises and more fantastically edited amens. “Freedom” begins with industrial loops and techstep beats before introducing the Blowfly break and a bubbling b-line for an authentic jungle experience.

A triumphant return to Next Phase for K3Bee, the “Zoot EP” successfully reflects the myriad of styles and sounds that flowed through the 90s drum and bass scene.

Words: Dave Sector

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

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

Under The Counter (Volume Six)

Reviews of new releases and fresh promo’s.

Marenn Sukie & Drummotiv – Had Enough Rain / 77 Astro Black (Next Phase Records)

Next Phase Records presents two tranquil yet powerful excursions into the leftfield world of 125-130 BPM electronica.

“Had Enough Rain” by Marenn Sukie fuses jazz and soul samples with a propulsive drum pattern. Reflective vocals and soft horns unite with techno stabs and spaced out chords to craft a captivating and hypnotic soundscape. Layers of FX build as the beat drives on with individual elements melting into one unstoppable energy.

“77 Astro Black” by Drummotive is a rich blend of old and new. An opulent synthesis of 1970s jazz fusion and modern-day unconventional house. Serene strings and delicate keys bind together creating an elegant beauty full of freedom, space and texture as the steady drum rhythm provides direction and structure.

Marenn Sukie has had previous releases on Apollo Records (R&S sister label) and Bannofee Pies (Bristol, UK). Drummotive is a Next Phase regular and has also recently appeared on the well-respected Drum and Bass label Subtle Audio Recordings.
Continue reading “Under The Counter (Volume Six)”

Under The Counter (Volume Five)

Reviews of new releases and fresh promo’s.

Dead Man’s Chest And Posse – EP (Sneaker Social Club)

Without a doubt, Dead Man’s Chest is one of the most prolific and reliable producers out there right now. With a string of releases on labels like Rupture, None60 and his own Western Lore imprint Alex kick starts 2019 with this four-track EP for Sneaker Social Club (DJ Mag’s 2018 Label Of The Year). The 12” features three collaborations and one new solo track. Collaborating with Western Lore artists Sonic and Response on “Pum Flex” and “We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes” respectively whilst “The Dead Will Dance” features DMC on the controls alongside Coco Bryce.

Alex has a distinct style, often utilising gritty drum samples, pulsating four four kicks, odd film quotes and unusual arrangements, his songs can be quite unpredictable. These tracks demonstrate that perfectly, they’re raw jungle inspired by the past but with a focus on doing things differently.

This EP is in the true spirit of early Drum and Bass 12’s, varied and adventurous with each track brimming with character. An essential purchase and a great start to the year for both Dead Man’s Chest and Sneaker Social Club. Continue reading “Under The Counter (Volume Five)”

Under The Counter (Volume Four)

Reviews of new releases and fresh promo’s.

X-Altera – X-Altera (Ghostly International)

The debut self-titled album by X-Altera (otherwise known as Tadd Mullinix or Dabrye) is a perfect example of reflective yet entirely modern composition, a digital love letter to the ghosts of 20 plus years past.

Fusing jungle and techno elements in a 93-95 style will draw obvious comparisons to Jacob’s Optical Stairway (a 4 Hero project for R&S) which whilst arguably justified overlook the influence of other artists on the album. These range from high profile protagonists Alex Reece, Wax Doctor, Justice and A Guy Called Gerald through to the 96 excursions into techno by Photek, the early 90’s breakbeat experiments of The Black Dog and Reinforced releases by Covert Operations, Tek 9 and Project A-KO.

Richly electronic this LP references an era when drum and bass pioneers were injecting a fresh vibrancy into techno. Jungle producers were replacing their Detroit record samples with hardware and synths to craft their own melodies. It was this period of creativity that led to some of the scenes most forward-thinking experiments, much of which were neglected at the time yet revered today.

The album has many stand out tracks including the opening song “Compound Extraprotus” with its alluring build and unexpected piercing stab centerpiece, the 2018 equivalent of Rufige Kru’s “Manslaughter”. The juxtaposition of heavenly atmospherics and nasty bass of “In My Life” and the elegance of “Parallel Rites (Kepler-452b)” and “Holotyd Neo-Optika”.

Whilst heavily influenced by the mentioned producers X-Altera successfully takes this inspiration and crafts a sound truly his own. The LP works in part due to the individual quality of the tracks but its the overall structure of the album that makes this a modern classic. Harmony, balance, rhythm and character are abundant throughout its entire sonic journey. More than a collection of tributes this is a beautifully constructed debut that is polished, adept and an essential listen for anyone who coverts their early Rivets. Continue reading “Under The Counter (Volume Four)”

Under The Counter (Volume Three)

Reviews of new releases and fresh promo’s.

Q-Project – Guitar Thing (MJAZZ Unreleased)

This year has seen a plethora of unreleased 90’s music finally see the light of day with a rare few being true sought after “holy grails” from the golden era, “Guitar Thing” falls into this category. Originally played by Jumping Jack Frost, Ratty and LTJ Bukem during the Summer of 1994 it has until now remained unreleased in any form.

Anything with “unreleased” and “as played by LTJ Bukem” in the description is bound to help shift units but like the Peshay & Roger Johnson track “Crazy Daydreams” (finally released last year on Basement Records) there has always been an air of mystery around “Guitar Thing” which only adds to the interest surrounding this release as not much is really known about it. Always believed to be from the Legend Records stable no one knew who it was by with the Invisible Man at one time suggesting he may have worked on it with Quiff whilst also admitting his memory of that era was a “little hazy”. No original release information was mentioned when it was played on KISS and it was also mooted that the track was never finished or properly titled which also added to the intrigue.

Fast forward to 2018 and Tony Justice has managed to secure its release on his new MJAZZ unreleased imprint backed with “Wild Pitched” and a sublime remix of one of their finest Good Looking moments “The Instrumental”. Taken from DAT and remastered by Macc the twelve inch sounds glorious with “Guitar Thing” taking up the A-Side and “Wild Pitched” and “Instrumental (Remix)” sitting comfortably on the flip. A must for any collector of Good Looking or Legend Records this would have been a seminal release when it was originally made and has lost none of its edge now. Minimal yet affirming drum and bass and arguably some of Q-Project’s greatest work from the early days of jungles evolution. Continue reading “Under The Counter (Volume Three)”

Under The Counter (Volume Two)

Reviews of new releases and fresh promo’s.

Lewis James – Praying Out Loud (Laundry Zero)

Lewis James follows up his recent releases on None60 and Rua Sound with this sublime take on modern electronic soul. The first release on his new vocal label Laundry Zero “Praying Out Loud” also features an Om Unit remix which plunges the track further into a bittersweet cinematic territory. Lewis once again takes inspiration from all forms of electronic music to create a sound that is both heartfelt and personal. Telling the tale of how it’s a fool’s errand to try and change someone vocalist Dan Dans K delivers the message of the song with emotion and intent. A collaboration between friends the first release on Laundry Zero demonstrates a real desire to create meaningful songs that leave the listener with hope and a sense of community where feelings and emotions are shared. Gospel music for the electronic generation. Continue reading “Under The Counter (Volume Two)”

Under The Counter (Volume One)

Reviews of new releases and fresh promo’s.

Vroom – For The New Dawn (Cosmic Bridge)

First time I heard “For The New Dawn” I was reminded of “Universal Love” by 4hero. Blending live keys, horns and reflective vocals courtesy of Agama the title track is a wonderful example of space jazz fit for bass lovers. The flip side features the mesmerising opus “Stargazing” featuring label boss Om Unit. Coming in at almost ten minutes imagine a modern drum and bass collaboration between Weather Report and Autechre and you should get an idea of what to expect. If you like your jungle experimental and expressive I can’t recommend this EP enough. Continue reading “Under The Counter (Volume One)”