The beautiful "Photograph" opens with poignant ]shifting synths that stutter in and out of tune as if they were broken archaic machines; despite these disharmonic shifts, though, the melody makes sense and progresses gracefully within the framework of the song. "Translucent" features similar elements, with floating and evocative synth riffs layered over harmonic pads and a steady beat.
Both these tracks eschew the kick-snare breakbeat patterns that have come to signify drum & bass and, in turn, seem much slower than they really are. Coupled with simple but gorgeous melodies and a smattering of inaudible vocal samples and field recordings, these tunes evoke memories of IDM just as much as they bring drum & bass to mind.
The other half of this release, however, is drum & bass—pure and simple. In "The Dead Zone" stark synths feature over a two step beat, the heaviness of which makes it seem much slower than it actually is. A growling and menacing bassline appears out of nowhere and the tune progresses in a minimalist vein, with ticking hi-hats, resounding drum hits and synth pads playing with the foundational elements of the simple beat and snarling distorted bass. "Detuned" operates in similar territory, the core ingredients being a slow rolling reese bassline filtered up and down over a steppy beat, and a vocal sample that seems half sarcastic, preaching the arrival of a techno utopia over the rigid and machine-like bleakness of the backing track.
Nothing particularly new is being done in these two tracks, in fact you'd even be forgiven for mistaking "The Dead Zone" for a remix of the 1997 tech-step anthem "Quadrant Six" by Dom and Optical. But Instra:mental and dBridge sidestep about ten years of evolution (or devolution depending on who you ask) in the harder-end of drum & bass. Their open and spacious analogue sound is a breath of fresh air and a diversion from the over-compressed ultra loud sound that dominates modern productions in this drum & bass subgenre, a place where production values and engineering skills sometimes seem to be valued over ideas or musical content.