The history and evolution of London Elektricity is best viewed in concert with that of Hospital Records. The imprint began as an outlet for London Elektricity's leftfield, jazzy and live orientated drum & bass recordings which in the beginning were receiving more play from DJs like Gilles Peterson than the big players in the drum & bass scene. From about 2000 onwards though, the label became a bastion of the so-called liquid funk sound and recruited some of the brightest new talent in the genre. Hospital has become one of the biggest in the drum & bass scene and their sound has evolved into epic big room anthems, far removed from their low-key origins.
Similarly, London Elektricity's music has also changed throughout the years: The 2005 album Power Ballads took on the linear approach of most contemporary drum & bass with tunes more fitting for the superclubs than previous album outings. Syncopated City, however, feels like a return, while still representing what Hospital is about today. It's London Elektricity's fourth album and live instrumentation and vocals are abundant with crisp production, big bass lines and hooks also to be found. Songs range from melancholy rock-influenced rollers to jazzy vocal outings.
Highlights include "South Eastern Dream" which hits a sombre note. Guitar riffs are interspersed with tribal sounding vocals and accompanied by brassy pads, while "Bare Religion" plays a junglistic bass line and drums against big string arrangements and epic inaudible vocals. Frequent vocal collaborator Liane lends her voice to "This Dark Matter," a complex drum excursion (by modern drum & bass standards anyway) with string and choir arrangements. "All Hell Is Breaking Loose" is a daft but funny little number, plenty of cheesy horn, electric guitar and string licks create a vibe akin to a James Bond theme. The same movie would probably feature "Sat Nav" on its soundtrack as well, with its suspense building strings, funk laden bass line and raspy singing.
There are definite weak points, though: "Attack Ships on Fire" starts off promising, but the rock-ish electric bassline is tiring. And do we really need more Blade Runner samples in drum & bass? Meanwhile, the growling bass of "USKA" might sound good on big system, but for home listening the track is an entirely skippable affair, and the vocal on "Just One Second" is just a little bit over the top.
Overall, though, London Elektricity brings together a fine album. Syncopated City takes into account the factors that have made Hospital and London Elektricity what it is today, but also dares to break some the rules that modern drum & bass has created for itself. One can't help but wonder whether the album wouldn't have benefited from more looking back, though: The nods to current drum & bass and what has made the imprint so successful in recent years often come at the expense of what made it so special in the first place.
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Tracklist: London Elektricity - Syncopated City 01. Bare Religion
02. This Dark Matter
03. Just One Second
04. All Hell Is Breaking Loose
05. Southeastern Dream
06. Attack Ships On Fire
07. Point Of No Return
10. Sat Nav
11. Syncopated City Revisited
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