Review: Following a couple of impressive collaborative releases last year, Bristol bass-head Halcyonic returns to action on debutant imprint Firmly Rooted. This time round, veteran roots-man Junior Dread handles mic duties, delivering a smoky vocal on "Can't Hide". The track itself is rolling, bass heavy and heady, with ricocheting electric piano notes and dub-wise horn lines rising above a riddim that sits somewhere between digi-dub and dubstep. On the flipside, Bristol stalwart Rob Smith dons his familiar RSD alias to deliver a dancefloor-focused deep dubstep revision that peppers a weighty groove with dubbed-out horn blasts, disconnected vocal snippets and mind-mangling angular electronic pulses.
Review: Mean Gene Headland returns to the perennial dub stable Innamind with three more bone-shaking beauties. "The Judge" slams the hammer of justice down and declares us all innocent as an accordion chord weaves around middle eastern strings, "Camino" puts its foot down and drives us into the horizon on a road made of naked drums under a sky of dreamy harpsicord arpeggios while "Strays" summons us all back to the courtroom and declares us guilty in one fell moody, groaning bassline swoop. Court dismissed.
Review: Uncompromised 140 magic right here as Tokyo's Helktram returns with their first full single in over two years. This time coming on Trusik, each cut flexes into a different dimension. Opening track "Suggestive Effect" hits like a pneumatic techno drill, marching militantly into your cortex with its staccato drill. "Insecure" plays the consummate foil with its glacial textures and weeping, woozy chords while "Iron Box" brings things together with a classic Coki-style pinched wobble driving the groove both back and forth in time.
Review: Second time around for Hi5ghost's most famous and celebrated release, 2015 single "Nook Shot". A bombastic chunk of grime heaviness built around military strength drums, Melodica style hooks, scattergun percussion hits and weighty bass, the producer's original version remains one of his most potent and dancefloor-friendly outings. In fact, it's still something of an anthem within the bass community, a factor that no doubt inspired this re-press. Arguably even better is Commodo's flipside revision, an altogether creepier and more clandestine affair that re-imagines Hi5ghost's bustling original as a weighty slab of post-dubstep brilliance replete with scattergun drum fills and woozy electronics.
Review: Having recently notched up 100 releases, Tectonic begins a new era by offering up a suitably weighty collaborative release from Peng Sound regular Ishan Sound. On side A, the Young Echo member joins forces with Hodge - owner of the nicest hair in techno - for the deep and dreamy dubstep shuffle of "C5", where fluid riffs dance above a blazed but powerful beat. Muttley lends a hand on flipside cut "Still Smoking", an altogether livelier and more aggressive - if still suitably deep and hazy - 140 BPM workout that comes complete with stabbing, grime style riffs and some serious subsonic bass.
Redders & Sam Binga & Hyroglifics - "Vintage" (feat MC DRS) (4:50)
Review: MC-focused EPs aren't particularly common in D&B. They're even less common on Critical. In fact this is the first. And it's a delight from the off as Redders teams up with mates old and new for a body of work that's more album than EP. "No Go" is all space-funk oddness with barely a bar in sight, "96 In One" is rapid fire storytelling over a dancehall version, "Dem Ones" is Redders' take on a dry-humping love song while "Sexy Or Sweet" sits somewhere between Toddla T and Barry White. Winding up "Aphasia" sees Redders and Sam flip Ruffhouse's dark tribal stamps into a carnival killer and "Vintage" sees the Bristol-based MC go toe-to-toe with the best MC in the game. One of a kind.