Review Summary: Fashionable label Night Slugs finally gets its 2011 feather in the cap with Kingdom's follow up to the acclaimed That Mystic
2011 has been a quiet year of sorts for trail blazing imprint Night Slugs, in stark contrast to the slew of jaw dropping releases that solidified their presence in the UK bass scene last year. Both co-founders Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990 have kept the label’s output rate up to a considerable level, along with help from regulars Egyptrixx and Jam City, but it seems as if Night Slugs has been going through a much needed period of rest and reassessment in the wake of their daylight robbery takeover that saw them ending up on the tips of just about everyone’s tongue. And while the label’s roster were by no means the first to gravitate towards the urban battleground of swaggerish US hip hop, their unified assault was perhaps the most solidified effort within the genre, one that’s since given rise to a host of imitators intent on fusing their own paranoid and stammering takes on more grime heavy garage joints.
Kingdom’s debut release for the imprint, That Mystic
, was a release borne out of leading by example, but one that ended up rising to the top of the pile as perhaps the most rewarding of all of the labels releases, one that perfectly exemplified the violent and bruised marriage of 2-step percussion with the backseat bass of hip hop. Dreama
follows in much the same direction, as he attempts to craft apocalyptic anthems out of the sonic collision, wrapping his damaged and warped garage beats around devastating amounts of east coast hip hop influence. And while Dreama
is perhaps a touch less dangerous than anything off of That Mystic
, the more subtle and emotive nuances end up only accentuating his broken dance floor fillers.
‘Let You No’s’ recent inclusion on Bok Bok’s FACT mix was a small yet significant watershed moment for that compilation, delicately sliding in unassumingly into the fray with its bombastic bass and winding synth trails. Here it’s lost none of that magic appeal, slipping back and forth from thunderous half-stepper to hypnotizing r&b jam; and while pitch shifted vocal samples border on the cliche, here they form yet another foundation for the track to bounce off, they accentuate rather than simply existing as another piece in the jumbled puzzle. ‘Stalker Ha’ tones down the aggressiveness a few notches and trades in the booming hip hop for more fashionable house, riding the beat over a John Carpenter Halloween-esque piano line that inadvertently sends the track into far more sinister territory than That Mystic
’s title track wallowed in.
The release suffers at the hands of the title track however, not so much in quality but in energy as the wayward forward momentum takes a detour at the hands of a much more laid back approach. It’s conceptually inventive, riding a fine line between hip hop arrogance and dreamy retro funk stylings, with its heartbeat a groove laden timpani that slowly pops along at its own leisurely pace. ‘Hood By Air Theme’ ups the ante and attempts for a touch more ambiguity than the previous tracks, squeezing its tight and syncopated rhythm into a claustrophobic grip of footwork inspired 808 snares and tom hits. It’s a dirty and sleazy excursion into packed to the rafters dancefloors, where the audience seems to move as one unified entity, joined together in sweaty unison riding wave after wave of crushing euphoria. He even throws a curveball into the mix when the beat suddenly drops out and is replaced by a rather sinister Madonna(!) vocal sample that ends up sounding eerily haunting amidst the dense reverie the track’s been slowly building towards. And while that might not sound like a great deal on paper, it shows Kingdom’s continued evolution, how he always seems to be challenging, always willing and looking for ways to pull the rug out from beneath us. It's a satisfying conclusion to the eerily decadent nightmare beat making we've come to expect from the artist, and Dreama
is just another example of his technical acumen.