London-based production duo Al Bleek and Kid Drama—better know to UK bass freaks as Instra:mental—appear to be on a mission to make 2009 a great year for drum & bass (and, in the case of this release, dubstep too). It's one hell of a tall order, if only because of the sheer volume of dross being put out, but thanks to a string of superlative offerings and a peerless monthly podcast, they're well on their way. This release only furthers the cause.
"Watching You," which features the sugary vocals of fellow reformer D Bridge, is like nothing you'll hear all year. Sure, it clocks in at 170 BPM, but to place it in the same bracket as generic tearout fare would be to do it a very great injustice. Essentially, it's drum & bass reimagined as pop, with a bouncy R&B flex and big, bright arcade game melodies providing sparkling ambience. Imagine Deep Cuts-era Knife given a healthy dose of the Intalex treatment, with added shades of Chicago house, and you'll be about there. It's ace.
And if you though things couldn't get much better, wait until you hear the B-side. Once again confounding expectations, it's a lesson in how drum & bass producers sliding down the tempo scale should be going about their business (if not most straight-up dubstep producers to boot). Built over an unfathomably deep 4/4 kick, muffled bass, skippety hats and swirling synths interlock to create a dark, driving, powerfully ruminant atmosphere, like Peverelist, Photek and Convextion doing mortal battle in some distant region of outer space. It's stripped-back, soul-drenched machine music of the highest order, and evidence of a duo fairly racing away from the pack.
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Tracklist: Instra:mental - Watching You A Watching You