21 is defined by its buffed textures and surprisingly soft palette: Intalex's synth work is luscious, drums perfectly placed and the velvety smooth sloping basslines prop up the tracks rather than tear through them. It's fascinating to hear him explore synth-heavy territory close to Autonomic on the crystalline "Celestial Navigation," or make sense of an assortment of strange noises on "Strangeways," an inspired take on Stray-style minimal drum & bass by way of Actress' tortured frequencies.
The album features a wealth of collaborations, adding to its charming homemade patchwork feel. Brazilian producer S.P.Y. provides the album with its most driving moments on opener "Make A Raise" and "Paulista Dub," Calibre's mournful basslines and gentle pads are all over "Meltdown," and garage royalty Zed Bias provides the aforementioned "Strangeways" with a little bit of its strange swing.
Intalex moves beyond just drum & bass on 21, cooking up a workmanlike take on 303-infused dubstep with "TB Or Not TB?" and a speedy house workout in "Dusk," but they fit so perfectly that the obvious tempo changes almost go unnoticed. When he sticks to more familiar tempos, the results reflect, as Lachie Gordon observed recently, the penchant for this sort of drum & bass to "pop its camo-clad head through the mire of pop music." There are a few moments on 21 that are, for lack of a better term, pop songs, and the product is not only convincing but persuasive: Riya's turn on "Regrets" is given all the space it needs, DRS's vocal on "Makeway" is backed by a legitimately sentimental instrumental and Intalex even attempts a cover version of Radiohead's "Climbing Up The Walls." While the latter is an audacious and risky move, the fact that it somehow isn't utterly garbage says something for Intalex's understated prowess. 21 might not be a breathless tour de force, but it's rarely ever less than "good," and drum & bass can always use a bit of reassuring stability.
Fri / 29 Apr 2011
01. Make A Raise feat. S.P.Y. & Ras Tweed
02. Climbing Up The Walls feat. Lynx & Danny Fierce
03. Meltdown feat. Calibre
04. Hot Hands
06. Celestial Navigation feat. S.P.Y.
07. Paulista feat. S.P.Y.
08. TB Or Not TB?
09. Regrets feat. Riya
10. Wacky Races
11. Strangeways feat. Zed Bias
12. Make Way feat. DRS