Review Summary: Your club life needs this album
I would like to assume that when one thinks of pioneering drum & bass artists that Tom Withers would be one of the first names that came to mind, the reality however, is that sadly isn't the case. Now I use the term sadly very loosely, because though I'm positively assured in the notion that every artist slaving away wants the recognition that they either entirely deserve, or feel that they are owed (and this is an obvious proposition), but in the case of Withers (operating under the name of Klute), well I think he secretly relishes in the very underground nature that utterances of his name inspire in people. Very few are the artists who manage to seamlessly live in that fine line that separates the underground from the mainstream and/or recognized; for the most part these artists rely on bloggers and reviewers such as myself to sing their praises and spread untold gospels before they start to get the attention they so rightly deserve, in fact in this day and age word of mouth and street level press now leads to magazine and radio coverage (a definite turn around from the tail end of the last century), and it is with these faceless commentators that Klute has found his audience and fan base. Those deeply rooted in the drum & bass culture will recount romanticized tales regarding Klute's extensive back catalog , but the transition from tale swapping to being labeled “the next big thing” from the likes of NME or BBC has somehow backfired in the case of Withers. And as I mentioned earlier, I'm sure this doesn't affect him in the slightest (truth be told, I'm sure he's found the whole situation slightly bemusing) but the fact that drum & bass as a whole has spent the last ten years being subtly manipulated and shaped by Klute leads me to ponder how he hasn't received a star in the NME hall of fame, so to speak. The man behind the curtain has his drawbacks apparently.
Perhaps it is the very nature of the genre that's stunted Tom's rise to super stardom, for drum & bass, in in its simplest and truest form, is by no means an accessible and immediately rewarding musical style. It is frenetic, chaotic, and at times an acerbic genre, hard hitting and pummeling, composed of high tempo broken beats and deep subterranean bass lines. And while all the numerous off shoot genres have retained this basic blueprint, they've all layered the sound with various bells and whistles and dressed it up to make it just a little more “pretty”, and they've all reaped the benefits for it. Klute however, has steadfastly maintained his affiliation with the genesis of the genre, hovering far closer to its roots than playing with its distant cousins. In fact, this hard as nails unwillingness to change has resulted in both good and bad for Tom though, with the negative connotations detailed already. The plus however is that his full immersion has allowed him to warp and manipulate the style to absolute perfection, his unwavering desire to budge or deviate from the plan for 10+ years has resulted in one of the most consistent and remarkable discogs in not only drum & bass, but music in general. Due to his acclaimed level of consistency there's really no need to prove anything anymore because it is just generally expected of him, but the long awaited follow up to 2007's The Emperor's New Clothes
is potentially Klute's greatest work to date.
The album opens up in an extraordinary fashion, with 'Knowing How To Get There' and 'Will You Still Love Me' displaying intense levels of energy and warm expansive bass lines. The former presents a welcoming and, at times, thoughtful introduction to the album, with the drum line skipping and bouncing through a Balearic like lead, while the latter forms itself around a vibrant and uplifting jazz tinged piano lick. The remainder of the album goes through the standard motions for Klute, which is essentially a talented propensity of pouring untold levels of emotion over the cold and sterile nature of the mechanical like beats. He intertwines this industrial like nature with loose tribal beats and warm stabs of melancholy, scissor cutting and alternating between the two distinct parallels, at other times linking them together and over lapping them, sometimes even folding them into each other like distant rave lovers. 'Autumn' Stone' represents this unlikely comparison the most, as a sinister and pulsing bass line plays host to shimmering burst of synths that creep and pierce through the dense and murky layer of fuzz and rumble. And both 'Buy More Now' and 'Blackpony' drop the chill aspect completely, discarded in favor of explosions in energy and fury. Fueled by menacing breaks and destructive punk-like drums, both coupled together are like a dancefloor black hole, lifting everything up and sucking it into its destructive and soul shredding depths.
The second disc (packaged under Music For Prophet
but operating under the title of Authority Belief
) swoons through dizzying layers of ambiance, flirty tech house and teases out an intriguing descent into nu disco. 'Hypocrite' opens it all up with its smooth as silk stylings, as sunlight drenched synths casually slide their way over the lazy drum line. 'Giv A Lil Luv' is a little more playful in its approach, delightfully reveling in the acid house throwbacks it wraps itself in. 'Bleeding Sun' goes for the sinister approach, as dark grooves play host to female vocals that soar and dance across the cacophony, breathlessly moving from speaker to speaker before purposefully being drowned out in the mix. And 'Son Of Sam' ends everything just like you'd imagine it would given the slightly haunting title, its a paranoid jaunt through a tech house's dark psyche, it propels itself forward off a very nervous nature that courses its way throughout the track, a very stark turnaround from the more laconic atmosphere presented throughout the majority of the second disc.
Music For Prophet
marks the glorious return of Tom Withers to the drum & bass scene, the 3 years spent in between his last album and this have proven more than just fruitful for Klute as Music For Prophet
rips through shades of wistful ambiance and strangling beats with a passionate fury, and an unmatched energy. Despite any reservations you might have for the genre, this could be the album to persuade you, to tip you over the edge. In a very real way this is the culmination of all of Klute's intricacies and left field tastes, all stacked on top of one another – normally awkward pairings now meshed together so perfectly and delicately. Your club life needs this album.