Review Summary: Just call it ultrafunk, silly
Xilent is a popular producer. He’s quite good at his two most popular styles - trance-infused heavy dubstep and poppy neurofunk - and he’s become quite popular among fans around the globe ever since his insanely popular Choose Me
EP, a showcase of both these stylings, was released back in 2011. More importantly, though, he’s coined the term “ultrafunk,” which has become somewhat popular, to describe his DnB approach. He defines the term as a maximalist take on neurofunk, with intensely melodic synth chords joining the typical guttural wobbles of the genre. His Ultrafunk
EP saw him embracing the approach, and if his nearly 50,000 likes on Facebook are any indication it seems his fans are embracing this manner of production as well.
What does this have to do with Neonlight, though? It’s interesting to note that though the German duo and the Polish star are apparently good friends and were labelmates at one point on Ammunition Recordings, Neonlight has cautiously refrained from using the term “ultrafunk.” Though Neonlight and Xilent have similar styles when producing in the DnB realm, Neonlight still refers to their own music (and the music of other producers which might fit into Xilent’s genre) as “neurofunk.” While it’s entirely possible they haven’t thought yet to describe their music as such, it seems more likely that the reason Neonlight hasn’t labeled their music as such is because they’d prefer to stay away from a term as questionable as “ultrafunk.” After all, “ultrafunk” holds no more weight than a term like “moombahcore” - just as the latter was almost accidentally created when someone decided he’d mix together a reggaeton beat with some brostep-influenced house, the former was created when Xilent decided to lay some trance synths down on top of a simple neurofunk pattern. And, just as many people dismiss the word “moombahcore” as silly, “ultrafunk” is treated with scorn and disdain by the drum & bass purists who complain about new-school Hospital Records and praise every Critical Music release on a daily basis. Though it’s unclear as to what Neonlight actually thinks about the label, it’s probably a good idea that they’ve shied away from it for so long, choosing instead to label their music as neurofunk and let the “maximalist” part speak for itself.
On a level that’s more important than squabbling about genres, Neonlight’s “maximalist neurofunk” is pretty damn good. The duo’s Byte Bites Bit
EP displays four tracks of neurofunk working at its maximum potential. The blips and bleeps of “Computer Music” leading straight to the seriously heavy and surprisingly melodic main section demonstrate Neonlight’s shockingly adept production skills, especially considering the two producers have been seriously making music for only three years. Plus, while we’re on the topic of “Computer Music,” the song is fun. Neonlight isn’t going to win any awards for subtlety with this EP, but although there are better examples of intricate production out there Byte Bites Bit
will most certainly get people moving on the dancefloor. The twitchy beeps and drum taps at the beginning of “Sprech Funk” seem specifically crafted to make a sweaty crowd of all ages go nuts, especially considering how heavy the bass is for most of the song. While it’s true that there’s virtually nothing by way of variety on the EP, over the course of four songs it doesn’t matter as much as it might over a full album (see Enei’s Machines
for an example of what could go wrong with homogeneity). Plus, it’s far better to have a lack of variety in terms of Neonlight’s maximalist style than it would be if they were strictly traditional and minimalist neurofunk - there’s so much more to do.
Unfortunately, the previous paragraph is basically all that can be said about the EP. Byte Bites Bit
seems almost like an case in which the idea of “maximalist neurofunk” is more important than the music itself - it’s not a good thing that it’s easy to give all four tracks the same two-word label and have it be accurate every time. To be honest, though, at the end of the day a release like this is exactly what everyone wanted from Neonlight. There was no pressure on the duo to put out anything more than four tracks worth of balls-to-the-walls neurofunk, so it’s a bit unfair to expect anything more impactful. More importantly, what Neonlight does accomplish on Byte Bites Bit
is an EP’s worth of solid neurofunk - “ultrafunk” or otherwise. In the end, there are more important things than genre definitions. No one will be asking years for now if there’s a difference between “maximalist neurofunk” and “ultrafunk” and whatever terms might be created soon - they’ll be asking if the music was good. And, in this case, the answer is a resounding yes.