Those lovely chaps over at Psychoactive Records have been busy bees lately. As well as furnishing us with some mighty fine psytrance and psybreaks EPs recently, label head honchos Re:Creation and Unconscious Mind(s) have both now released full-length LPs on the label for free on Soundcloud!
The Unconscious Mind(s) album Broken Dreams Of Euphoria [PSY007] is a 10-track tour-de-force of psychedelic breaks and tech-funk. It’s full of great grooves, chunky rolling basslines, powerful acid lines, and squelches galore!
Hot off the presses today, 11/11/11, at precisely 11:11:11, the long-awaited debut album from Re:Creation was released to an unsuspecting world. Entitled Infinite Expansion, it offers up a smorgasbord of psychedelic sensory delights, from the convention-defying 5/4-signature 100bpm psystep of the opening track, to rolling and melodic soundscapes of full-on psytrance, to blistering high-octane psybreaks and more, this is a truly epic journey of the imagination!
The fact that this is only the second time I ‘ve gone to the trouble of recommending someone else’s mix on this site, should tell you I don’t do so lightly. Frankly it takes a very special mix to motivate me to the effort of writing a post about it!
But there’s no question that this is just such a mix, and who better to deliver it than someone who repeatedly delivers the goods in both his DJ sets and his outstanding productions: Hedflux. From the first few seconds of the opening track, his own Introversion — which, by the way, he has now kindly offered up as a free download — to the blistering finale, we are taken on a beautifully evolving journey whose variety of sounds and landscapes offers a far greater range of stimulants for body and mind than you (or I) might have thought possible from such an apparently narrow focus on one subgenre.
In the past I’ve tended to find the majority of tech-funk rather dull – it often fails to add sufficient interest, rhythmic melody or groove to its instrumentation to make up for its simplistic beat structure (relative to breaks), earning it the nickname “plodstep” among its detractors. But Hedflux has often produced exceptions to this rule, and this is a mix of the exceptions (his and others’); while I might not personally like every single tune on here, there’s no plodding here, no dull moments, which is really saying something when there’s hardly a broken beat in sight for the whole 80 minutes. This is truly the state of the art.
Time for a long-overdue update to the Watchlist, where I list artists and labels who have proven themselves worthy of close attention. And it’s also overdue to give some recognition to those who are forcing forward the field of drum&bass, so this time around the focus is primarily on them…
Before we get there though, let’s deal with the other artists making their way onto this exclusive list. First up is Opiuo, one of a good handful of Aussie guys who are breaking new ground in the midtempo glitch-crunk market. If we’re being brutally honest, Opiuo’s sound is so instantly recognisable and unique, that sometimes it seems like he’s recycling his own tunes a little too much… but nonetheless he deserves recognition as the fattest thing to happen to midtempo since VENT’s Bear Crunk.
Sensient has been around quite a while, but until recently I only owned one of his rare forays into breakbeat. That all changed on seeing him live at Ozora this year. Deep, driving, maxi-minimal, hypnotic, and uber-squelchy, this is another artist with a totally unique sound. It doesn’t necessarily easily fit into a mix, but it deserves to be shoehorned in wherever possible.
We have two new players representing psybreaks — not just that, but progressive psybreaks, the very genre I most want to hear more of in the world… At the lighter end we have Blazer, keeping it rolling, hypnotic, techy and trippy. At the heavier end, still very psychedelic but rising more to a electro/tech-funk/acid mentality, is Triple Agent, whose music I have been very excited about from the beginning but initially dissuaded me with a psychotic tendancy to have odd bars with odd numbers of beats right in the middle of the mixin/out zones. He hasn’t abandoned this trope entirely, but has calmed it down enough that his tunes are now mixable (thanks Luk!)
So then, we turn to the drum’n’bass…
There are two main subgenres of dnb that I’m all over at the moment: blissed out daytime progressive, and gnarly twisted psychedelic neurofunk. One label in particular has been promoting excellent examples of both styles, and generally pushing the envelope, and that’s Hospital Records’ experimental baby brother Med School. Meanwhile two smaller labels that have also been consistently delivering the goods are Mindtech (generally on the twisted tip), and relative newcomer Offworld (generally on the proggy side).
Of all the artists on that progressive, sunny-afternoon vibe, it’s LM1 who most beautifully combines emotive melody with kickass rolling beats, precisely engineered and produced to perfection. If you’ve downloaded my mix Chilliquid Drum’n’Bliss you’ll already be familiar with the power of his tunes, and Frontier remains my absolute favourite track in this style of the past few years. So far…
If there’s an artist or label you think I ought to check out, let me know… get in touch via the contact page
I download a lot of other DJ’s mixes. Most of them warrant no more than a cursory scrub before being discarded as Not My Kind Of Music. Some get a more detailed scan, with a couple of interesting tracks noted down to check later. A few get played in full, chugging along in the background while I work, a good track interrupting me every so often demanding to be ID’d.
But once in a while, a mix comes along which, gently but firmly, grabs hold of me, takes me over. A mix that cannot be a background to any other activity, but draws in more and more attention, and rewards it.
Such mixes are very rare.
But it should be no great surprise that BETA should come up with one, because he is a man of very rare talent. He’s repeatedly blown me away with his productions over the last two years. And while others may jostle to be flavour of the month, BETA’s sheer consistency, razor sharp production, and the way that each new release nudges the sound of progressive breaks forward, have earned him a place at the very top of my personal league table of producers.
Somehow, in all of the time I’ve been buying his music, I’ve never heard him mix. It was worth the wait. This is what progressive breaks is supposed to be like. The mix traces out a beautiful curving flow, through bigger and ever more epic tunes, until the last track, which goes way beyond merely “huge”, shoots straight through “immense” and breaks off the top of the chart. Shock Theropy[sic] – Void is the first breaks tune to really knock me flat in a long while – I hope it’s getting released soon, cos I can’t wait to play it out and watch it knock other people flat…
In the meantime, I so wanted you to hear this mix, that I started a new section of my website for it. Only a very few selected mixes and tracks will earn a place in Recommendations. By starting with this mix, the benchmark has been set pretty high.