Album + Compilation + DJ-mix
FabricLive (number: 50)
Attention does funny things to UK bass music. Each time one of its many mutations has got anywhere near the mainstream in the last decade - be it garage, drum'n'bass, dubstep or UK funky - the attendant scene seems to have split itself into two at the crucial moment. Brains leave, brawn stays. In the absence of the minds who've moved on, the dance style tends to lose all imagination and turns into an athletics competition - witness UK funky's chart-lusty scuffle for the strongest hook, or Rusko and Nero seeking to fill dubstep's original, contemplative template with as much throw-down wobble and womp as possible.
When drum'n'bass seemed ready to snare mass attention around the turn of the last century, it too suffered a fracturing: leaving in charge a mob who imagined that 'pushing the envelope' meant making things ever faster and tougher, to the extent that the sound became largely parodic. But just as those now operating at a point beyond dubstep in UK bass's history continue to emerge with playful and daring variations on private dance themes, so dBridge and Instra:mental return with a post-generic vision of what drum'n'bass could be.
This mix for FabricLive - the 50th in the series - scans like an alternative future for drum'n'bass and profiles the work Darren White (dBridge), Alex Green and Damon Kirkham (Instra:mental) were busy with over the course of last year's Autonomic podcasts. Like those transmissions, this set ekes itself a space far away from dancefloor sweats, the dBridge-produced, Riya-sung opener Seems Like ornate and meditative, while the ambient and atmospheric noise corralled throughout is summoned to an early head by a reworking of Vaccine's gaze-juddering Ochre.
Such tracks bind this release - wordless and emotionally noble, Consequence's Lover's Shell and Instra:mental's Fist seem less the work of producers than echoes rebounding from future-urban scenery: bus windows rattling in odd rhythm, rush-hour throng hum and radio snatches lost in the wind between buildings. Though things become more direct towards the end - a back-to-back volley of Skream's Fire Call and Instra:mental's Machine Made proving particularly hardy - overall this mix struggles to match the sheer physicality of the genre's brawniest. However, dBridge and Instra:mental's gaseous, elusive vision of what drum'n'bass could be makes for one infinitely more intriguing than that heard between the hours of 2 and 3am out in clubland. As Scuba's Eclipse sees us out, various bass-heavy futures ring in our ears.