The degree to which drum & bass's recent revival has been attributed to dBridge, Instra:mental, ASC and their respective imprints is, for the most part, fair. The simple fact is they're making, and very frequently putting out, better music than pretty much anyone else. Consequence too. But that's not the whole picture. Kasra Mowlavi's Critical Recordings, for one, deserves a good deal of credit. Home to some of the best bass music of the past decade (check out Breakage's ferocious Staggered Dub if you don't believe me), the label has really come into its own of late with a string of excellent 12-inches, EPs and LPs from vets and newbies alike. And whereas the aforementioned reformers have, in their own unique way(s), pretty much reinvented the rules of uptempo bass music (by making it a good deal more downtempo), Critical has, for the most part, remained faithful to the genre's core tenets of tuff breaks and low-end ruffage. The Jungle is still very much there.
Amongst the label's brightest talents is Tom Rockwell (although he's now exclusive to Shogun Audio, apparently). Much like his Noir and Stowaway EPs of last year, this release is rife with spine-snapping drum technicalism and sickeningly deep sub-bass. Almost breakcore-esque in their rhythmic precision, tracks like "Aria" and "Live for the Moment" fetishise jungle's obsession with the perfect break, but present it in a new, hyper-tense form which substitutes looseness for a kind of jittery, broken antifunk. "Aria," in particular, feels like it's perpetually toppling over (dancers beware), but even the relatively free-flowing "Live for the Moment" comes peppered with all manner of taut robotic syncopations, like percussive tripwire laid for less experienced steppers.
The involvement of Untold—a known ex-junglist whose savage, stuttering UKG works in a comparable fashion—makes total sense. "Rehoku Sunrise" is one of the deadliest things I've heard in quite some time, a sweltering furore of tribalised drums and stomach-turning sub-bass which sounds, very roughly, like Mala, Coki and Shackleton doing heroic amounts of speed in some godforsaken cranny of the Amazon rainforest and not quite living to tell the story. If this is the future of the Continuum (and I dearly hope it is), we're in for a wild start to the decade.
Buy Rockwell - Aria EP at
Tracklist: Rockwell - Aria EP A Rockwell - Aria
B Rockwell - Live for the Moment
C Rockwell & Untold - Rekohu Sunrise
D Rockwell - Noir (Ulterior Motive Remix)
Other Critical Recordings reviews