dBridge and Instra:mental's Autonomic sound has been garnering increased attention from all sectors of electronic music, most of which has been focused upon Instra:mental's NonPlus+ imprint. That should change with Mosaic, a double-disc compilation of all new tracks on dBridge's own Exit Records, which firmly marks the label's shift into full-on Autonomic territory. Just look at the tracklist: All the usual Autonomic names are here—Consequence, ASC, et al.—rubbing elbows with like-minded rookies and even a few dubstep producers like Distance and Skream.
At two solid hours, there's a whole lot of deliberate and sparse bass music to process at once. While it's always pleasant, and its quality level rarely dips below above average, it's a mammoth undertaking to get through in its entirety. Fortunately, cherry-picking is often just as rewarding an experience. Some of the compilation's best moments are its surprises: Distance's synth-heavy "Fading" is uncharacteristically smooth and sumptuous, while Scuba pairs erupting diva wails with his usual sweeping chords on "In2." Newcomer Mode provides yet another fresh angle on Autonomic, floating in airy chords over meticulously time-stretched drums on "Stepping Stones," and Dan Harbanham's "Nu Este Roz" fiercely plucks strings over a sub-obsessed beat that sounds as if it's stuck underground. Commix, meanwhile, play with the vaporous matter of techno for their "City Section," and Instra:mental continue to explore their obsession with squawking electro on "Scene 3."
Autonomic has supported a growth in so-called "minimal" drum & bass, a trend that has seen tracks reduced to pedestrian drums and a few chords for spartan decoration, or simply watered-down imitations of existent d&b subgenres. dBridge's own meandering "Forgot What I Needed to Forget" is symptomatic of the too-minimal syndrome, while the second disc's second half drags and stalls with bland workouts. Barring that slight blip in the compilation's otherwise level topography, it's a remarkably solid listen, diverse and adventurous enough to keep up momentum without sprawl.
There is one moment on Mosaic that towers above all two discs, though, and one that signifies the greatest potential for the ever-evolving Autonomic sound. Croms' "Invisible Cities"—which closes out disc one—is an 8-minute opus that slowly unfolds a gorgeous and layered tapestry of warm, analogue synth tones. The Dutch producer deftly expands the movement's preoccupation with proto-electronic odysseys and Gothic and darkwave influences into a full-fledged synth colossus. Its mournful motifs and heart-tugging progression are the realization of Autonomic's hesitant hints towards overt melody and emotion. A promising debut for a previously unknown producer, it's a highlight almost strong enough to carry the 21 other tracks—ranging from excellent to mediocre—on its sturdy, reassuring shoulders. When a compilation can play host to something as brilliant as "Invisible Cities" in addition to audacious genre shifts and risky experiments, when it brings dissimilar artists across scenes to a unified front, you know it's something special. Mosaic is a landmark release for a fledgling movement.
Buy Various Artists - Mosaic - Volume 1 at
Tracklist: Various Artists - Mosaic - Volume 1CD 1
01. Scuba - In_2
02. Stray - Pushed
03. Distance - Fading
04. dBridge - Forgot What I Needed to Forget
05. Synkro - Open Arms
06. dBridge - Rendezvous
07. Dan Harbanham - Nu Este Roze
08. dBridge - Decayed
09. Consequence - Splinter
10. ASC - Modular Concepts
11. Croms - Invisible Cities
01. Commix - City Section
02. Indigo - Time
03. Mode - Stepping Stones
04. Instra:mental - Scene 3
05. Skeptical - Another World
06. Skream - Motorway
07. Genotype - Further Searching
08. Code 3 - Chasm
09. Abstract Elements - Essence of Time
10. System - Observation Point
11. Loxy & Resound - Vertigo
Other Exit Records reviews