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White Noise: Various Artists – Future Foundations

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Various Artists – Future Foundations

Label: 2nd Drop

Since its inception focusing on leftfield dubstep in 2007, 2nd Drop has done a remarkable job of keeping up with the scene, seemingly always a step ahead. While their releases haven’t always garnered a huge amount of attention, it’s not for a lack of quality: over twenty releases they’ve tackled a broad array of styles along the bass spectrum with great releases from the likes of Ramadanman, Sully and Gerry Read, alongside key early releases from DjRum and South London Ordnance. For their first compilation, the London label sticks largely to 4/4 excursions, offering a varied and impressive selection of exclusive tunes from label alumni and newcomers alike.

Mancunian Alex Coulton kicks things off with his 2nd Drop debut (following a nice slab of wax on Hypercolour) in the form of the percussive workout Grande Swing. Fans will recognise Coulton’s off-grid beat patterns and spare arrangement, here coming together in a tough house flex made of metallic clanks, scifi synthwork and a range of nuanced effects that keep things interesting. More club material is supplied by Pedestrian, whose uncharacteristically straight Sliding Down Rainbows is a menacing assault of shuttering beats and a nasty bass bounce, bristling with impressively coherent sonic details and a softened two-note synth loop that adds a key melodic element. Later penultimate inclusion Daphne marks South London Ordnance’s return to the label, with a tough techy exercise typically focused on the low-end.

Low-key house cuts with the requisite RnB vocal snips are provided by Youandewan and Last Magpie, a pair of producers who have both honed their atmospheric cuts down to a tee in the last few years. Youandewan’s Faith comes out as the more impressive number, breathing life into a familiar sample. Here he follows up a tasteful EP on Hypercolour with a spacious 9-minute odyssey of misty synthwork, rattling percussive accents and mood to spare. Last Magpie takes a similar approach on the downbeat Without You, all rattling 2step, ghosted vocals and dubbed-out synth stabs, but without Youandewan’s effortless knack for atmosphere, his contribution ends up lacking a real sense of progression.

The three remaining tracks are the odd ones out, the tunes that sidestepped expectations somewhat. LV enlist the honeyed reggae vocal chops of Dan Bowskill for a sensuous burner on Livin Up, where syrupy horns and soft vocal harmonies make for a surprising oasis amidst the compilation’s harder dance material. The closer is left to Manni Dee & Deft, who throw a curveball with the frantic workout of This One, The Art of the Possible. Despite the vocal sample’s discussion of garage and hardcore, this one is all about footwork, an impressively structured and distinctively British take on the genre.

While many of these are great offerings, 2nd Drop regular DjRum effortlessly steals the show with his phenomenal Blue On Blue (Voodoo). A stunning collage of pitch-perfect vocal and musical samples are twinned with growling bassweight and off-kilter rhythms, all patched together into a lush symphonic piece which descends in its finale quarter into a beautiful collision of dubbed-out vocals and operatic harmonies. Given time, Blue On Blue takes the proud place of a highlight among highlights. Overall there’s not much material here to challenge what we know as the 2nd Drop sound, Future Foundations is more a feat of consolidation, drawing together the label’s different styles and returning to some its past contributors. As such, it stands as a consistent and enjoyable dissection of one of London’s definite labels that clearly still has so much left to give.


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