Review Summary: Near-unrivaled uptempo brilliance.
Frederic Robinson has made a name for himself in the drum & bass community for his skittering uptempo experimentation, and his debut full-length Mixed Signals
sees the Swiss producer effortlessly continuing to carve out his own niche in the scene. Showing remarkable poise given his young age, Robinson’s symphonic instrumentation and percussive arpeggios fill out the frenetic breakbeats of the songs beautifully, and the result is a wonderfully fresh take on quicksilver DnB. Every thumping tribal bass drum and clicky rimshot is placed so that it complements the liquid brilliance of the string sections and the pitter-patter of the glockenspiels, and the whole experience lends itself to a gleaming, euphoric mood.
Nowhere is Robinson’s mastery more apparent than on standout track “Particles,” on which the producer ditches the genre-standard weighty on-beat snare in favor of a more off-kilter and minimalist drum hit which immediately finds itself surrounded by sweeping, echoing piano chords and dizzying cymbal taps. Indeed, the only thing tethering the song to the realm of drum & bass is the menacing bassline, which fits into the woozy instrumental backdrop like a puzzle piece. Elsewhere, the subdued downtempo gem “Mixed Signals” plays Robinson’s hand straighter, with a spunky, seemingly improvisational lead synth superimposed over watery low-end jazz chords while quasi-garage drums clink blithely along behind.
It’s the wandering, whimsical opener “Theme Park,” though, that best exemplifies exactly what makes Robinson such an alluring composer. The playful half-time beat frolicks along, cheekily throwing in drum fill and cut-out on a whim, while a breathy baritone scats along with a steel drum line before the piece bursts into bloom with Eastern-tinged strings floridly expanding to enormous size. It’s the epitome of the LP, really: a wide-eyed, innocent sound, taking unsteady and life-changing steps into the world of music. Frederic Robinson has accomplished in such a short time what many producers can only dream of: a shockingly articulate album which exudes both weight and levity, and Mixed Signals
is a wonderful way to start a career.