In my opinion, a rather significant chunk of recent Drum & Bass has been suffering from a glut of insularity and conformance to established conventions. Astrophonica, however, is one of a few labels shaping the future of the genre while remaining true to its ethos. You won’t find bland 2-step “rollers” here; instead, you’ll be delighted by syncopated breaks and half-time rhythms, flavoured with tinges of dub, footwork and R&B. Yum.
Big Fish Theory is Vince Staples at his best, an excellent showcase of his raw energy and menacing bravado: “Ain’t no gentrifying us, we finna buy the whole town/Tell the one percent to suck a dick, because we on now!” I chuckled at a few of Vince’s memorable wisecracks — in Big Fish, he nonchalantly delivers a line about being in his foreign whip “with the GPS addressed to your mama house.” The album’s unique production ventures beyond the usual, taking cues from UK garage and gritty bass beats that would not be out of place on a label like LuckyMe.
Shigeto’s relocation back to Detroit four years ago, manifests itself in this LP, as he re-imagines the raw vibe the city is known for with tinges of jazzy solos & the ambience of synths. Masterfully applying that across a few different tempos & genres, from low slung House to Techno & Ghetto Tech, and Rap tracks with ZelooperZ & Silas Green features, to a Juke & Footwork homage on ‘Don’t Trip’. The album wraps up with ‘When We Low’, a down tempo, blue number that musically speaks messages of hope for the city of Detroit through the emotion of a saxophone.
A sound designer by profession, Lewis James comes through with a retro-Jungle offering on Astrophonica, with a stunningly cinematic contribution to the current ‘anything-almost-goes’ perspective of 170BPM (Jungle or D&B) music in 2017. The biggest track on this is without a doubt ‘Your Love Is A Power’, which features an unforgettable vocal from DanDansK,. The intro alone would provoke whistles of appreciation from corners of an attentive room, which of course drops into drum break rinse out, Jungle style! All these combined, serves the sole purpose of re-empowering the tired limbs of any REAL raver.
An eight track production by El Rass, a rapper & beatmaker from Lebanon, probably has to be my top music discovery in 2017. I do not understand a word El Rass spits, but his flow is relentless, dynamic & I hear him baring his soul throughout this release. Plus, all the samples on top of the beats are dope. ‘Ya Rab’, translated ‘Oh God’, produced by Al Nather from Ramallah, Palestine, is a stand out. An Arab state of mind. Hi-ly recommended.
First single off the release “Rhymes to the East” got me hook, line and sinker. Have always been a fan of Sampa The Great since The Great Mixtape days, and it’s great to hear this third culture kid (born in Zambia, raised in Botswana and now based in Australia) come back with a force – slick flow, empowering content, and exciting collaborations with talented producers (SilentJ, Kwes Darko, etc).
Even I’m sick of myself saying this – but Children of Zeus is the shit for bringing unadulterated R&B back in the game. Catchy, sexy, and highly infectious – if you hear me humming lately, it’s most likely to their songs [“yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahhhh” (Still Standing) or “Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, TONIGHT, I’ve been watching you….” (Tonight) ] The Mancunian duo, made up of crooner Tyler Dayley, and MC Konny Kon, also have a strong foothold in drum and bass – Tyler has been touring with Goldie, and the “Still Standing” single off the release has a Lenzman edit feat DRS.
It is my mission to catch them live in 2018, who wants to come with me?
3.World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
Jazz has been experiencing a sort of renaissance lately, with the recent modern and contemporary take on the genre. But this exquisite catalog of worship music recorded in the 80s and 90s by Alice Coltrane, threw everything I thought I knew about the conformities of jazz (and spirituality out of the window.) Esoteric, free spirited and devotional; music is stripped back to its simplest form, made up of traditional instruments and chants – the vibrations are authentic and pure, a delightfully uplifting experience as the listener. Put this on the first thing when you get up for a great day ahead.
Kamasi Washington is one of my favourite American Jazz musicians and my interest for him grew from catching him live, once in Tokyo and once in New York last year, performing with West Coast Get Down. They were partially responsible for reviving the Los Angeles Jazz fusion and bringing the spotlight back to his hometown following his acclaimed 2015 debut album The Epic.
He returns again with this complex and beautiful 6 track ep that was originally composed for his multimedia piece featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial (Rolling Stone).
Charlotte Dos Santos is an up and coming vocalist reigns from Norway and I personally am a huge fan of her, the looks and sultry vocals. I honestly fell in love with her work firstly on Sofie’s SOS Tape (Stones Throw). Her track “Watching You” was featured and is produced by Fredfades, who did most of the tracks on this album. Suitable for an after-date scenario with a cup of Pimm’s!
Lord Echo is currently the best kept secret in Wellington, New Zealand, from The Black Seeds back in 1998 and also Fly My Pretties, which is a folk band. He ranges from Reggae and Rocksteady, Latin, Disco, African Soul, which we totally relate to at Revision Music.
Sweetest Meditation is one of the tunes that is on rotation regularly because it reminds me of the beaches in Croatia for Dimensions Festival, a total feel good tune.
Mara K is heavily featured on this album, his vocals packs a punch in each track, deepening the sound of soul with Mike Fabulous’s production.