A couple years ago, Coles left London after living there for 15 years—he grew up in a small village in Berkshire—and moved to Bristol, where he wrote his latest LP, Self. The move has marked a turn inward for the producer. While his recent collaborations with Sam Binga or the Torchlight 12-inches on his label, Cosmic Bridge, swerved gleefully between dubstep and jungle, Self is moody yet heartfelt drum & bass. That's no surprise, since the LP was inspired by themes of personal healing and artistic development (hence the egg on the artwork). Self's arrangements are mostly skeletal and atmospheric, underpinned by Cole's "slowfast" rhythm and an unrestrained, emotive feel.
Self's attention to detail is impressive. On the dramatic "Cold Love," Coles lays down an understated melody with keys that reverberate in a crackly, spectral atmosphere. The chilly ambient of "Fieldofdreams" is a rich, somnambulist blanket of chiming tones and vocal sighs. Coles finds his most convincing balance of gentler moods and pummeling breaks on "Out Of The Shadows." Though he nearly overcooks the cinematic strings, Coles' delicate touch wins out once the beat finally hits, after two and a half minutes. "Twilight," "Cloudwerk" and "Despite It All" reveal subtle shades of Chicago footwork. (And there's a touch of Kuedo about the DRS-featuring "Make Believe.")
Coming from a place of reflection and personal growth, Self was never meant to be a collection of bangers. Still, the LP doesn't seem as fertile with ideas as we've come to expect. Vocal tracks like "Make Believe" and "What I Can Be," with Amos, are sincerely expressed yet lack truly rousing instrumentals. "Unmasked" and "Cloudwerk"'s use of pitched vocal shots can feel cluttered. In moments like these, Coles seems to lean on old ideas instead of connecting them. Though Self has a few weak spots, its best moments feel genuine and self-assured, and the work of an artist taking a step back to relocate his voice.
Sun / 3 Dec 2017
01. Cold Love
03. Out of the Shadows
04. Nothing feat. Rider Shafique
06. Make Believe feat. DRS
09. Despite It All
11. What I Can Be feat. Amos