Angas has a rare skill with drums. Whether it's breaks or meticulously composed loops, he can make them feel loose and almost improvised. The quality has made him stand out in a genre known for rigidity and precision, but by 2011's The Big Bang, Angas was starting to spin his wheels. Enter Metalheadz. In 2013, the label released "Unofficial Jah," one of Angas's most powerful (and popular) records in years. He's returned to the label for his latest album, Last Refuge Of A Scoundrel, and it's nearly as much of a triumph, upgrading the strengths of Angas's earliest albums with modern production values.
You can hear the difference from the get-go on "Sirens Song," featuring veteran drum & bass singer Robert Manos. The silky piano and husky vocal approach the level of schmaltz, but once Angas's drums hit, all bets are off. The percussion is to be savoured, admired and dissected: listen to the way the sounds seem to fly off at the end of each bar, and how they feel volatile while remaining firmly in place.
Almost every track has a similar feature, like the tightly wound breaks on "Inna Soul Jah"—punishing but lithe—or the uplifting jungle of "A New Renegade," which calls back to classic albums like Industry. "Innersense" has Photek-style drum surgery and basslines worthy of Teebee & K's Black Science. "King Of The Hustlers" is a thwacking beatdown, while "DMT," with a rare appearance from American producer Hive, builds so gradually it begs to be played out in its entirety.
Of course Angas's music is drum-centric, but the well-rounded songwriting and variety are equally central to the album's appeal. Scoundrel doesn't have any interludes or experiments, but the sequencing is savvy enough to make its 70 minutes fly by. Harder rave-ups are intersected with gentler moments, so that you never feel bludgeoned (a fate that past Dom & Roland LPs have fallen victim to). A few rotten apples—the cheesy "Tone Poem," the hammy Break worship of "Sacrifice"—threaten to spoil the bunch, but Scoundrel is still worthy of the Dom & Roland pedigree.
If Angas seems to have benefitted from Metalheadz, it's actually a two way street. Scoundrel is one of the best full-lengths on the label in years, following releases from the likes of Om Unit, Commix and Artificial Intelligence. So much of drum & bass's recent critically acclaimed work, from producers like Sam Binga and Fracture, moves between uptempo genres, but Metalheadz keeps a careful, classicist take on the genre that pays heed to its past as much as its future. (You can also see this in the ongoing reissues of classic records.) Scoundrel is possibly the best example of this—one of 2016's strongest drum & bass full-lengths sounds like it could have come from any time in the past 20 years, but it doesn't sound dated either.
Sat / 19 Nov 2016
01. Sirens Song feat. Robert Manos
02. Tone Poem
03. Inna Soul Jah
04. Through The Rays
05. King Of The Hustlers
06. A New Renegade
08. Sacrifice feat. Natalie Duncan
11. DMT feat. Hive
12. Steam (The Final Chapter)