Under the Ice was apparently an effort by Snik to dig below the surface of his sound and focus on material not purely for the dance floor, and it shows in these tightly structured, breezy songs. Illustrating the ever dissolving gap between drum & bass and dubstep, Snik delivers on the promise of "Xylophobia," his convincing 140 BPM debut from last year, for the album's most inviting tracks. Owens' vocals haunt the swirling percussion on "Redemption," "1, 2 Go" colours its swing with catchy synth noodling, and the stunning "Breathing Again" dives from airy pockets of vocal-driven ethereality into caustic pits of LFO. Icicle's dubstep is marked by a prioritization of the percussion rather than bass, so even on songs like "Breathing Again" the power comes wholly from snapping drums instead of wobbling midrange.
But, for now, anyway, Icicle is largely a drum & bass producer and Shogun Audio is a drum & bass label, and Snik's 170 BM tracks are rightfully the main feature. Instead of making allegiances to current trends on either side of the underground spectrum—the Boeing 747 roar of modern neurofunk like Noisia and Spor or the hushed whispers of Autonomic—Icicle builds on the antiseptic textures of his past work while bringing that techno influence to the fore with reflective pads and lens flare glare shooting off of everything. Icicle's production values are top notch, futurist without being cheesy: he turns orientalist strings into a rigid gallop on "Arrows" and makes a perfect approximation of a Gundam Wing-style post-human world in the impossibly lustrous "Dreadnaught."
Under The Ice's most intriguing minutes are its final fifteen, as the depressive midtempo synth weeper "Europa" fades into ten minutes of silence, followed by something that could almost be called prog. The untitled hidden track (yes, we're still doing this unfortunate gimmick, apparently) goes so hard it makes Ben Klock sound like Anton Zap, almost garish in its ferocity and weighed down with all the low-frequency reverence of Icicle's more closely-connected communities. It's both a little indulgent and highly impressive, Snik openly acknowledging the music that apparently brings him the most inspiration and doing so in a way surprisingly unique and unflinchingly honest. It's a strange ending to an album that otherwise feels sealed shut, but it signals the opening of a significant new door for a promising producer to move beyond the restraints of a niche genre. Who knows what else he'll find there under the ice?