Review Summary: Crisp, elegant, and always focused, Shelflife 3 is business as usual for Calibre.
Few drum & bass artists have a catalogue as rich as Dominick Martin's, AKA Calibre. In fact, he is now a master of his craft and something of a groove alchemist. Since his very first album, the defining Musique Concrète
, released in the wake of the century, his personal signature has evolved and been refined again and again, so much that it is difficult to hear a track of his and not guess by whom it was made. He's often had one foot in the lounge and another on the dancefloor, making tracks either for the thinking or the dancing man, gentle liquid affairs or "rollers" and "steppers", as one would say. He sometimes mixes his DnB with experiments in dubstep and downtempo, and occasionally provides his own vocals to his rhythms. Liquid, oh so liquid, clean-cut, generous, luminous and soulful, his drum & bass work finds itself in a perpetual quest of improvement. You will not see Calibre revolutionize his sound anytime soon, but one thing is for sure, he is insatiable in searching for the Holy Grail of grooves, drums and melodies. If you are looking for some of those sacred and life-changing Calibre tracks, here are just a few examples: the extremely funky 'Right Stuff', the delirious 'Inflicted', the uplifting 'Second Sun', the high clear speed of 'Out Of The Box', the contemplative 'Mirage', the crazed 'Foreign Bodies', and the fabulously majestic anthem 'Even If', which you need
to hear at least once in your life. The list goes on and on, so let's leave it at that.
This is the third volume of the Shelflife
series. This time it offers thirteen tracks. It is not exactly a studio album per se, because it is actually a compilation of older and unreleased tracks. As described on surus.co.uk, "Calibre has gone through his hard drives, DAT tapes and even mini discs to find more gems for ‘Shelflife 3’. Thirteen of his most requested unreleased productions from 1997 to 2013 are now released on Vinyl, CD and Digital formats.
" Like a gold digger, Calibre flips through the pages of his catalogue and makes an exhibition of some rare and unknown nuggets. This makes for a golden hot pot which is surprisingly coherent from beginning to end. In fact, the tracks have been remastered so well that Shelflife 3
(and the two others before) doesn't sound like a compilation. It's business as usual for Calibre indeed.
is a little less exuberant and perhaps more atmospheric than its predecessor, the thick and double-CD Shelflife 2
, which contained many feverish rollers ('All The Days', 'Mindprint', 'Lazy Rock', 'Half Full') and very dubby pieces ('The Cage', 'Overeaction Dub'). If I were to compare it, I would say Shelflife 3
is generally in the same vein as the more relaxing and softer tracks found on Condition
, his LPs of 2011 & 2013 respectively. Still, don't worry if you are looking for some proper "Calibrerian" bangers: as always, there are several in here. Either way, you will find on Shelflife 3
the key characteristics of Dominick Martin's drum & bass: melodious, precise, emotional, pensive, liquidliquidliquid, classical but sometimes tribal & exotic, and so forth.
'The Wash' starts off Shelflife 3
with a beautiful wave of atmosphere. Drums are rich and crisp; bass is enveloping; colours flourish. All good in the hood. Quality will not falter. 'Honey Dew' comforts the soul with gentle drums, piano notes and a flute-like melody. 'Makes Me Feel Alright', one of the best tracks off this, mixes an expressive vocal sample with melodious and crystalline bursts, the kind of uplifting combination Calibre ridiculously excels at. The bass on 'Instant' takes a little stab at neurofunk, whilst sharing the room with wonderful pauses of atmosphere. 'Sagan', a serious banger, surely the most danceable track, rolls in spectacular fashion. An addictive synth riff accompanies metallic drums and twisting sounds. It keeps the Calibre signature well on the dancefloor. Further, the bass-laden amen breaks of 'To And Fro' whirl around, supported by light snippets of melody. 'Erode' wraps up the album in a very emotional way, filled with the sound of departure and farewell, though inspiring the listener with a swift look to the horizon.
Needless to say, Shelflife 3
is a welcome addition to Calibre's work, as is the custom. If I am not mistaken, Dominick Martin is still the most or one of the most prolific drum & bass artists out there, with now 11 LPs (!) under his belt. The man is still young as well. Who knows what will come next? Where will his sonic quest lead us? How many grooves still hide in his spirit? Here's hoping for maybe two or three more Shelflife
, and a fruitful streak of future albums to satisfy my DnB thirst.