Review Summary: Another unrelenting testament to the powers and prowess of one of the leading drum & bass labels in the business
Over the last few years, the drum & bass scene has seen itself go through a renaissance of sorts, a resurgence not just in popularity, but in design. Over the twenty or so years since breakbeat hardcore first emerged and then became assimilated into the world of jungle, there hasn’t been a singular moment when the genre has ever found itself on its knees, desperately clamoring to reach the finishing line, but moments of stagnation have peppered the genre’s existence ever since its bastard birth. And while the likes of Pendulum inadvertently bought the genre into the mainstream with their infectious and hook-laden brand of drum & pop, the reality is they did more harm than good at attempting to reach a wider audience, with the end result a genre hastily retreating back in an attempt to save face and win back that much sought-after critical integrity.
And it’s been interesting to watch the majority of up and coming drum & bass artists jump into the now commercially relevant dubstep scene and form their own jock friendly bass concoctions, with the likes of Nero, Chase & Status and Camo & Krooked moving further away from uptempo calamities. And sure, the likes of Phace, Misanthrop, Spor and Noisia have dabbled in it as well (with mixed results), and there’s always been a sense that they’re just pandering to a mouth watering crowd looking for the next quick fix. So to see them back in form, in full “neurofunk” lockdown as it were, is something of a treat. And while this is accredited to Phace & Misanthrop (in celebration of their Neosignal imprint), Energy
is an all star affair filled with fully charged mechanical implosions and needlepoint precision.
ends up becoming a showcase and, perhaps a crowning achievement for, is the aforementioned new stylistic shift in drum & bass, where the technical and clinical has been discarded in favor of ruthless and unrelenting 4x4 percussion and deeply funneled bass, that calls to mind images of rows upon rows of machines at work in some industrial assembly line, every movement of their fused ligaments creating the perfect mechanical symphony, recorded and set for dancefloor fury. Which gives the whole project a kind of unrelenting industrial and automated vibe, a hybrid collision of sorts that extends from the gun-metal gray of Rockwell’s collaboration on ‘No!’ with its jumbled complexities hidden in the tumbles of the tick-tock-ing percussion, to the molten heavy ‘Amboss’ with its end of the world signaling snare hits.
The lack of pacing on this ep is the only true letdown on offer, with the two clear frontrunner's positioned right at the onset, leaving the good but not grand Spor inclusion struggling to bring up the rear. ‘Micro Organism’ benefits greatly from both Phace & Noisia’s love of sound
; filtered and studied under a microscope and deftly recreated into a fragmented army of jittery basslines, the track plays host to arguably one of the biggest and grandiose introductions not seen in drum & bass since Goldie decided hour long jungle tracks were a smart idea, before catapulting almost reluctantly into a jagged onslaught of padded weight and subterranean drum kicks. The big star however, is ‘Energie’ with its rollicking wall of sound production and beefed up bass template that hits like a speedball at high velocity and fails to look back. It’s one of those rare bangers that works on both style and substance, that still packs the much needed hit without resorting to immature necessities to keep the crowds interested. And that’s perhaps the biggest testament to Neosignal, that while operating under the same guise as every other bassweight doing the rounds, they accomplish the same task while retaining a head on their shoulders. It’s drum & bass that retains a much needed maturity, a thinking man’s soundtrack for the end of the world.