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White Noise: April 2012

Monday, 30 April 2012

LHF – Keepers Of The Light

Label: Keysound

The bloated decline of Dubstep was not a unique moment in musical history, seeing as more genres and sub-genres than I can name have died out in a similar way: some core producers jumping ship, others overextending the genre’s traits to ham-fisted formulas, more still mutating the sound into a pop-friendly affair that courts mainstream fans. It occurs to me that the only reason Dubstep’s fall was such a hot topic, written about by hundreds, is because now millions of people can share their opinions through the internet, and perhaps surprisingly, others actually want to read them. Either way, with Dubstep’s death rattle still fresh in our ears, here comes a release from Keysound set to tell the world that there’s life in the old girl yet.

LHF are a collective of seven London-based producers, of which only four make a showing on their debut album, who on past EPs have showcased an ability to push the established sound in brave and surprising directions. Using technical aspects familiar in Dubstep such as odd time signatures and beat/ bass experimentation, they revitalise a sound that seems now to exist in a largely watered down and derivative landscape. On this mammoth double album, notching up two and a half hours of material, the group collect all the tunes from their previous three EPs (excluding EP2’s Trifle) as well as giving us a host of unreleased tracks to chew on. Here the four producers each show a unique voice while simultaneously establishing a larger aim as a collective, and although it isn’t quite pulled off without a hitch, Keepers Of The Light is truly a remarkable achievement.

Double Helix - LDN

Whichever producer is at the helm of a particular track, there’s clearly a lot of skill and thought put into these tunes, with expert beatscience combined with a deep sense of atmosphere. The atmosphere in question is generally a dark one with a sense of the curiosity of exploration to its sounds, from noir-esque twinkles to tracks that snake structurally in unexpected directions. There’s also a keen element of spirituality to be found in these tunes, evoked through occasional Eastern melodies and religious samples. And what samples they are. Any source material is up for grabs, from Sun Ra and Wu Tang skits to dialogue from The Matrix and even the Lord of the Rings theme which pops up in Double Helix’s Voyages. While ripe for a game of sample-spotting, this is also symbolic of LHF’s general melting pot approach to their sound. Though clearly the LP is sonically a product of London, in a way it is also representative of the capital’s cultural mix and our post-everything culture where we can take, and re-interpret, whatever source material however we want. Simultaneously the group do a great job throughout of mining dance music’s past, and while Dubstep is the clear touchstone there are superb experimentations with Junglist rhythms, Ambient stretches and warped Hip Hop.

Each of these producers makes tunes that are in turn exciting, surprising and satisfying, but a clear voice can still be heard from each across Keepers Of The Light. And while all definitely have their moments, Double Helix is for me the star of this particular show. Helix excels in crafting deep cinematic atmospheres, frequently incorporating scifi touches, and anchoring them to dark Garage rhythms. Nowhere is this clearer than on the phenomenal Chamber Of Light, where a sharp selection of percussive layers jolt and shimmy beneath tight vocal samples and big grime synths. A similar success in pulled off in adjacent Bass 2 Dark, with a mysterious melodic snatch duelling with dark drumwork, and on early stunner LDN which simmers menacingly, encapsulating Helix’s keen control over space and atmosphere in his tracks. Elsewhere Inferno takes Loleatta Holloway’s famous ‘burning up’ sample and takes it down to hell, sonically assaulting the tinny sample from all angles, while bonus track Sonoluminescence is a more spacious and exploratory take on the sound.

No Fixed Abode - Indian Street Slang

Amen Ra makes up for the majority of the album along with Helix, and presents a less menacing selection of rhythmic explorations, deviating everywhere from Hip Hop to Halfstep. His tracks are full of strange, bouncing effects but never lose their groove, such as in the rolling saccharine assault of Candy Rain. He also produces what might just be the LP’s standout track in the transcendent Akashic Visions, combining mystical vocal cries with pacing beats and squiggly videogame synths. Similarly impressive is Essence Investigation, applying Eastern melodic touches to a loping bed of fractured Hip Hop beats to create a tune that sounds as unusual as it does impressive.

The other two producers make up significantly less of the release but are still well worth the inclusion. Indeed, No Fixed Abode offers up the most consistently unexpected and exhilarating tunes on display, frequently applying culturally diverse melodies and samples in single tunes (as is appropriate really, given his moniker). He opens both discs in style, with Secret Lagoon transforming from a woozy ambient stretch to a tough and jangling percussive workout, while Strangelands is an impressively indefinable interlude marrying fuzzy chimes with a muffled sample of a man talking and singing slightly out of key. Both of Abode’s full productions prove to be highlights of the album, with Sunset (Mumbai Slum Edition) proving an early ethnic standout while Indian Street Slang ricochets between Eastern lullaby and instrumental Hip Hop by way of a phenomenal screeching synth that really defines the track. Low Density Matter only contributes two tunes out of the twenty-seven on offer, but Blue Steel in particular is worth a listen, with its masterful jazzy riffs complimenting a soundfield of light percussion that paces and prowls alongside a well applied array of vocal cuts.

Amen Ra - Akashic Visions

Having established that there’s good material here, and lots of it, a review wouldn’t be complete without bringing into question the length of this release. Because of the quality of production the music never gets dull over its 150 minute runtime but as a listener you do start to lose a sense of each individual track, which is a shame because there’s so much to love. This is probably down to the similarity of a lot of the noises and timbres used within each artist’s selection, and means that you won’t be sitting down frequently to give Keepers Of The Light a listen from start to finish. On the other hand, I’d argue that it’s almost impossible for a single group to put out two-and-a-half hours of Dubstep that you’d happily listen to in one go, and LHF pull it off better than I ever could have imagined. The tracks on show are constantly engaging and seem to be sequenced for the sake of variation rather than a smooth listen, lending the LP the feeling of an anthology more than an album which it is probably best to dip into rather than trying to tackle from start to finish. Another minor criticism is that occasionally the tracks can go on a bit without a whole lot of variation, particularly in the final run of Double Helix’s productions, and this means that good ideas get mired in repetitive percussive stretches and feel unmemorable in comparison to tracks that are presented more concisely and with greater variation.

Nevertheless, as an overall achievement Keepers Of The Light is nothing short of staggering, as four producers present an entirely unique vision that is consistently a joy to behold. With reports that the collective are sitting on more than 1000 unreleased tunes it doesn’t look like LHF’s star is going to burn out anytime soon, and as a primary mission statement this LP could hardly be stronger.


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Friday, 27 April 2012

Beaumont – Never Love Me

Label: Hotflush

After a consistently strong 2011, trend-setting Bass music label Hotflush have taken a rather unexpected turn this year. Beginning with Everywhere, Scuba’s jubilant throwback B-side to his Adrenalin EP last year, Hotflush has been systematically turning back time to focus on the neon sounds of 80s and early 90s electronic music. Scuba confirmed this movement on his inconsistent but worthwhile third LP Personality, and Hotflush are soon to put out Jimmy Edgar’s Majenta LP which focuses on the darker side of 80s vibes. Given this movement, relative newcomer Beaumont, aka Michael Rintoul, seems a perfect candidate for a Hotflush debut. On Beaumont’s debut EP Blush Response last year the Scottish producer showed off an interest in sweeping 80s synths and emotive melodies, re-interpreting the sounds to make something genuinely exciting and deeply atmospheric.

Never Love Me

Although looking backwards fuels a great deal of dance music’s progression, it’s always important that producers re-invent and innovate tropes of the past rather than merely repeating them, otherwise the sound they’re putting out doesn’t bring anything personal or new to the table. On this impressive EP, Beaumont neatly sidesteps this landmine with rich sounds laced through carefully constructed soundfields, eschewing the cheapness of his source material, and draws more than a passing comparison to contemporary Bass music.

The result of all this genre fusion is an inviting combination of dreamy Synth Pop and Bass music, with big 80s synth washes married to crisp drum machines. The sound isn’t exactly new but Beaumont has a certain finesse to his production that sets him ahead of the pack, and ensures he never ends up floundering in retro-worshipping purgatory. Title track Never Love Me is the most instantly engaging of the bunch, with a seriously punchy drum pattern paving the way for big synth growls and a vocal line manipulated to an unrecognisable android refrain. It all comes together later in the track as an almost overwhelming wash of sound without ever losing its distinctive individual elements, showcasing a producer with a deep understanding of the sounds he’s using and why. It also serves well as an opener because you immediately take notice, the big sounds drawing you into a track that’s admirably both technically impressive and surprisingly catchy.


The longest cut on offer is Rendez-Vous, another upbeat number where Beaumont builds a real sense of movement with tense synth snippets and a wide array of pacing percussive touches. The building anticipation never actually amounts to an explosion, but that really works to the song’s advantage as a big crescendo would clearly be overkill. Instead the track drives at something more subtle, and as a result the listener notices the details, like the gorgeous breathy vocals looped deep in the mix in the track’s second half.
The other tracks on offer are more ambiguous moodsetters, such as second track Uptown. It’s a brief cut but by no means an interlude, as the two-minute runtime shows off a keen sense of structure and timing, with crystal clear synths adding a lush softness to the hard-edged bass sweeps and knife-sharp beats. The intensely cinematic atmosphere of these tracks is one summoned mostly by contrast between soft and hard, light and dark, displayed with equal skill in Verona Beach’s unstable soundfield. Here tunnelling synths underpin brief vocal snips until the track eventually distends into a taut duelling of synths and beats that never quite sits still.

This knack for atmosphere is only enhanced on digital-only closer Adrift, a mellower take where the listener only has skittering snares to anchor them amidst sweeping oceanic synths. The track is surprisingly worthy for a digital addition, taking you on a real journey through the hazy neon streets this EP continually evokes. Time and again on Never Love Me Beaumont rewards the dedicated listener with luxurious details and rich, atmospheric sounds, while simultaneously conjuring a great power of movement in his tracks. It may take a few listens to get your head round but this collection of tracks is definitely worth your time, and while the 80s sound is a little ubiquitous at the moment Beaumont does it better than any other producer I’ve heard.


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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Anenon - Acquiescence

Label: Non Projects

The intersection between electronic and organic instrumentation is a subject I’ve often found myself pondering, because the possibilities for real innovation and beauty are so clear but so few producers manage to get it right. Here Brian Simon sheds new light on the subject on his latest EP as Anenon for his own Non Projects label, crafting a cinematic and introspective record that treads new ground without ever feeling insistent or misdirected.

Using little more than a tenor sax, a Rhodes piano and a 909 drum machine, Anenon showcases variations on a delicate and refined sound, leaving a lot of the organic instrumentals richly untreated and combining them with clever drum patterns to great effect. Apparently the EP was crafted in two weeks, one for recording at the Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid and another mixing at home, but Acquiescence feels like an impossible combination between improvisation and perfectionism; with spontaneous and vibrant instrumentation that simultaneously feels carefully composed to provide a series of heartstoppingly beautiful moments embedded in deeply atmospheric soundscapes. This being the case, it’s fitting how Simon himself views production, comparing making records to live improvisation in an xlr8r review, “It's like slowed-down improvising for me. I take a microscope and make things how I want them to be, because, why wouldn't I do that?” Considering the gorgeous sounds on display here, the statement seems to challenge other similarly-minded producers to give their tracks a little more time under the microscope.


While light, opening track Clairvoyance is the perfect introduction to this sound, building layers of ambient textures over a stripped hint of percussion and gradually deepening piano chords. There is a patient quality to these tracks that rewards deeper listening, with subtle percussive and acoustic layers carefully implemented over time, such as the whirring effect that rises slowly in this track, threatening to overcome it before fading suddenly. On the beautiful title track Anenon gives his sound a fuller workout, building a melancholy atmosphere with piano and strings before crafting a careful tension with IDM-style beats. The track begins to take off midway through with the introduction of a fluttering tenor sax, before the beats drop away to leave these ethereal melodic lines to soar over the soundscape in a moment of naked beauty, before they are airily combined once more with the tight percussive sequencing.

There’s an unparalleled organic quality to these tunes, mostly thanks to the amount of unprocessed live instrumentation which is so rare in electronic releases. Mostly the live instruments are left untouched but a few are drenched in reverb and decayed, creating an interesting dichotomy where organic instruments play out alongside their processed counterparts, not to mention that it always sounds stunning. Because of this even a brief interlude like Equilibrium can cause a stir in the listener, as piano and strings are looped on top of each other and processed differently before they crumble away, seemingly crushed under their own accumulated weight.

If I have one criticism of the record, it’s that occasionally the drums feel like they could use a little more punch, occasionally seeming reliant on quite simple patterns that, while effective, just can’t sound as lush and powerful as the sax and piano they are placed next to. Twenty Twenty rights this issue with a loping beat that scrapes from side to side, pacing over simmering ambient sounds where a melody seems always on the point of rising from the fog but never quite makes it. Rites shows Anenon at his most emotive, but it’s a curious emotion that he conjures. The twinkling piano notes that meld with a range of punchy beat patterns on this final track could be interpreted as any number of emotions that the listener wishes to attribute to it, while still remaining powerful despite its vagueness. Across Acquiescence Simon offers unique sounds with rare beauty and power, and the tracks on its 18-minute runtime are more than meaty enough to tide listeners over until the release of his debut LP, Inner Hue in May.


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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Classic US Hip Hop Playlist

I was putting together a playlist for a friend as an introduction to the more chilled out side of American rap, and I thought I’d put it up here to share with you all. Most of the tracks here are stone-cold classics but there might be a few you don’t know, either way it’s a relaxed playlist that’s carefully sequenced for a smooth listen. It’s mostly 90s stuff so I’m not exactly aiming for cutting edge here. Anyway, hope you all enjoy it!

If you like this, check out the Alternative Hip Hop playlist White Noise covered last year.

Nas – Halftime
Souls of Mischief – 93 ‘til Infinity
The Pharcyde – Passing Me By
Mos Def – Sunshine
Black Moon – Who Got Da Props
Big L – Put It On
De La Soul – Stakes Is High
Snoop Dogg – Who Am I (What’s My Name)?
Wu-Tang Clan – Gravel Pit
Common – The 6th Sense
CunninLynguists – Hypnotized (feat. PackFM & Club Dub)
DangerDoom – Sofa King
Masta Ace Incorporated – Sittin On Chrome (Ummah Remix)
A Tribe Called Quest – Electric Relaxation
The Notorious B.I.G. – Unbelievable
Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg – Nuthin’ But A G Thang
Outkast – Git Up, Git Out
Busta Rhymes – Everything Remains Raw
Jurassic 5 – Concrete Schoolyard
Q-Tip – We Fight, We Love
Slum Village – The Look Of Love
Fugees – The Mask
Lil’ Kim – Spend A Little Doe
Slum Village – Fall In Love
Luniz – I Got Five On It

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Friday, 13 April 2012

Midland – Placement

Label: Aus

Harry Aguis, aka Midland, occupies an interesting space in the dance world. Within two years he’s released a series of top-quality House records alongside an impressive selection of great remixes for the likes of Caribou, Julio Bashmore, Lone and many more. As a producer he has yet to release something that could be called significantly different from current Dance trends, but the consistent quality of his tunes both on and off the dancefloor halts that from being a true criticism of his work – after all, the ‘contemporary sound’ from which the originals diverge wouldn’t be popular in the first place if there weren’t a certain amount of producers furthering that sound with a great deal of finesse.

Tape Burn

Up until this point, and excluding his excellent collaboration with Ramadanman Your Words Matter, Midland’s releases have always been characterised by a certain density and darkness, and with Placement he begins to lift the veil, these tracks having a certain airy quality to them despite retaining a depth and weight which always makes Midland’s tracks killers on the dancefloor. The slow-building Tape Burn is a perfect entry to this accomplished EP, loping forward on well applied percussive textures and gradually accumulating an ambient hum, subtle finger clicks keeping time, a dusty beat and a subdued bassline which come together to form a warm and rich listen with a great deal of movement. Add that to the dawn-breaking pause midway through and the mounting anticipation beats as the track draws to a close and you have a near-perfect opener, fluidly preparing the listener for what’s to come while serving as a brilliant track in its own right.


The two central tracks on the EP serve as the real dancefloor meat, and both are sensitively handled House tracks that build a strong groove while retaining a certain delicacy which ensures the tight detailing is just as present as the staggering beats. Placement is another slow-build, with a heavy drum pattern underpinning a rising synth line and a whole range of detailed sounds. Every so often a new layer comes into play expertly; a looped clap, a forceful snare or a woozy breakdown that simmers, threatening to boil over, beneath the fabric of the tune. All these sounds lead up to the showstopping synth-line which, while simple, is very effective and dominates the second half of the track. Afterwards comes the densest and moodiest cut on offer, What We Know, and it’s all the better for being both of those things. An earworm vocal snippet lays a slight hook over another bed of rich and masterful percussion, while simmering detuned synths make an unexpected but very welcome appearance at the breakdown.

What We Know

The EP goes out with Tail Ender, a novel departure from 4/4 to a syncopated 2step beat. Something feels off-kilter about the seesawing synths and unstable percussion but this works towards a great atmospheric track that undulates rather than moving forward, proving that Midland can work magic even outside of his tried and tested House beats. The tracks on offer across Placement may not grab you on first listen, but they’re all worth repeated spins. To pay attention to Midland’s finely-woven webs of sound, where every layer is perfectly treated and applied, is to realise this is more than just a contemporary release somewhere in between House and Techno, it’s another jewel in the crown of a fantastic producer who crafts straightforward dance music with rare skill and force.


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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Si’Ke DJs – Safe House

Label: Say Ahh!

Some people might not know too much about Scottie Deep (aka Scott Kinchen) and his brother MK, but back in the 90s New York House scene the pair were practically legendary, putting on events and parties as well as releasing a series of strong EPs on the hottest labels of the time such as Strictly Rhythm and Henry Street Music. They faded from the limelight in the last ten years or so, but apparently in 2012 they’re back, setting up the Say Ahh! label for a pure love of music and because they “missed the smell of new vinyl”. However on the first Say Ahh! release it’s not Scottie or MK at the helm but Manchester newcomers Si’Ke Dj’s (aka Si Jones and Mike Morgan) who do an admirable job of catapulting us back in time to the very height of New Jersey House. This EP doesn’t do anything particularly new but it contains four tracks of excellent dance music, and if that’s not enough for the House-heads then I don’t know what it is.

EP Minimix

The pair leap straight in on A-side Safe House, with powerful drums and classic keys setting up a heavy groove instantly. The hardware used sounds more vintage than cutting edge but with such a great knack for structure it hardly needs to be modern, with stuttering vocals and a shifting bassline layered expertly onto the track. As the tune continues the simple but catchy keys come to the fore along with an elongated version of the vocal sample, cementing the strength of the opener. Say What! is on the flipside, a different take on a similar sound that adds light organs and a nagging vocal line to the potent drums. The track really comes into its own with the addition of a great bass loop deep in the mix, introduced on its own with a singular kick drum. Again, each layer is stripped away and re-introduced to give maximum satisfaction to the listener, with both tracks sounding like the products of real House legends.

Although the sound on display here won’t be particularly new or surprising to anyone, the impressive inclusion of two very accomplished Dubs might just be. Normally a Dub adds little to a song or strips down a few layers to make it ‘deeper’, but the alternate versions of these two tracks are significantly different from the originals, and clearly aimed at being incorporated at different stages of a mix. On Safe House (Deep Dub), the addition of some emotive piano chords and searing synth strings makes a world of difference, resulting in a track that is lighter while remaining just as catchy and inviting. The Dub of Say What! goes really deep, transforming the tune completely into a heady House workout replete with piano, extended vocal line and a rolling synthline that holds it all together over the simple percussion. The House sound on display here still works because it’s essentially timeless, and on the two original tracks here (and the surprisingly worthy Dubs) we’re treated a collection of tight and perfectly produced dance music that is guaranteed to make anyone move.


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Friday, 6 April 2012

Mix: I'll See You After The Function

A very special surprise for you all today, a massive mix from our resident DJ G More, and it really couldn't be better. The mix focuses mainly on the housey side of things and it includes more White Noise favourites than you can  count, so sit back (or get on up) and enjoy!


Metro - Brownstone Express 
Jimmy Edgar - This One's For The Children 
Christophe - The Scene 
Late Nite Tuff Guy - A Deal With God 
Krystal Klear - From The Start 
Storm Queen - It Goes On (Dub) 
Omar - Feeling You (Henrik Schwarz Remix) 
Kato - Booty Dance (Nicholas Raw Interpretation) 
Brawther - Do It Yourself (Alternative Mix) 
NY Stomp - The NY House Trak 
Simpson - Till You Were Dead 
Dominic Martin - Homage New Jersey 
Si'Ke DJs - Safe House 
FCL - More Than Seven 
Huxley - Let It Go 
Maurice Donovan - Call My Name 
Omar S Presents Aaron "Fit" Siegel feat. L'Renee - Tonite (Detroit Mix) 
Late Nite Tuff Guy - I Get Deeper 
Christophe - The Force (Julio Bashmore Piano Mix) 
Behling - Last Chance 
Krystal Klear - We're Wrong 
Equation - I'll Say A Prayer 4 U 
Johnny Osbourne - We Need Love

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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

March Roundup

It’s been 2012’s biggest month yet, so here’s a selection of March’s finest tunes for anyone who missed a few or needs a catch-up.

We kick off on the brighter end of Dance tracks, with some warm House and Bass courtesy of Krystal Klear, Lorca and DJ Q, as well as Aaron “Fit” Siegel’s stunning House epic Tonite. Next up Pearson Sound delivers a predictably brilliant new single and we move to darker Bass tracks from the likes of Duct and Trikk. Things get a bit frantic with Machinedrum and Om Unit’s Dream Continuum collaboration, fusing Jungle with Footwork, and Boddika keeps up the pace with his thrilling Acid Jackson. Akkord and 2562 offer a couple of deep, dark percussive workouts before Romare and Midland slow the pace with some fresh and intriguing tunes from the brilliant EPs both released last month. The final few tracks are less dance-orientated, with some excellent vocal workouts from Bondax and Doc Daneeka, all topped off by Anenon’s achingly beautiful Acquiescence.

Krystal Klear – From The Start
Omar S Presents Aaron “Fit” Siegel feat. L’Renee – Tonite (Detroit Mix)
DJ Q – Brandy & Coke
Lorca – Can’t See Higher
October – String Theory
Pearson Sound – Untitled
Duct – Love Crazy
Trikk – Jointly
Dream Continuum – Giv A Lil Luv
Boddika – Acid Jackson
Akkord – The Drum
2562 – Jerash Hekwerken
Romare – Down The Line (It Takes A Number)
Midland – Tape Burn
Burial & Four Tet – Nova
Bondax – All Inside
Airhead – Wait
Doc Daneeka & Abigail Wyles – Tobyjug
Anenon - Acquiescence

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Monday, 2 April 2012

Trikk – Jointly / I Fall Down

Label: ManMakeMusic

George Fitzgerald’s ManMakeMusic is still just getting on its feet, but with this newest release, a debut from Portugese import Bruno Deodato, the label proves itself a real force to be reckoned with. Although you may not associate the darker fringes of Bass and Techno with Southern Europe, Trikk shows a lineage grounded in the last ten years of underground dance music, and these two tight tracks show off that heritage with style.


Even though this is his debut, Trikk rapidly establishes a clear voice through his spare style, opening out A-side Jointly with a ferocious kick drum and skeletal clicks. The track would clearly be monstrous on the dancefloor, with a deep bassline paving the way for cut-up Garage vocals and searing old-school synths that are sequenced over the latter half of the track. These synths are particularly note-worthy, constantly shifting the track’s focus while taking nothing from its powerful groove.

I Fall Down

On the flipside I Fall Down is a more unusual 4-am cut, introducing itself with sampled applause and a full run-through of the vocal line that haunts the seasick synths underpinning the tune. Tight drum programming adds to the punch but it’s the details here that really count; a far-off sax cry, perfectly syncopated claps in the track’s second half, and that ungodly heart-in-mouth moment around the two-minute mark where the whole track drops out for four bars, springing back to life after a lethal bass stab. Although Trikk doesn’t tread any radically new ground on this release, his production chops are clearly strong, demonstrating an impressive grasp of space and timing, and his particular fusion of Techno, House and Bass music definitely cements him, along with the nascent label, as ones to watch this year.

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