Review Summary: A genre-defying hybrid of drum and bass by way of trip-hop, hip-hop, and electronica. Dense, brooding and dark music, that is both aggressive and elegant.
USA based producer Hive's 'Devious Methods' is an exquisite drum and bass album, arriving in 1998 at a time when DnB was already beginning to suffer the effects of saturation after its meteoric rise in popularity during the 90's. Under these circumstances, it's not surprising an album like this probably went relatively unnoticed, despite it's lead single Ultrasonic Sound being featured on the soundtrack compilation for The Matrix, which is exactly how I found out about Hive, and got me determined to hear more.
For an album nearly 20 years old, it remains amazingly fresh sounding. A few tracks here might give away the era, but these really are exceptions. Instead, Hive manages to blend trip-hop inspired drum and bass with undoubtedly strong hip-hop influences, a bombardment of amazing sample-work, and even some slick guitars on the aforementioned Ultrasonic Sound into a stunning and unique array of tracks. The opening Weapons of Destruction kicks things off with an ominous sample that appears to be two alien-beings observing Earth, carrying some unspeakable weapon of destruction upon us. Yet we are told: "I like to play with things a while, before annihilation"
Up next is Ultrasonic Sound, which is undeniably fantastic, sampling a Bad Brains riff from the track Re-ignition, it manages to completely reinvent the effect of the riff into a pretty indescribable, genre defying song. Slick, twisting beats and distorted basslines smashed into funk-rock guitars, samples and other indescribable electronic sounds, it really must be heard, as words will only go so far!
Repeat listens can reveal a satisfying level of depth to the music here, with many of the tracks managing to cement very distinct identities within the context of the album. Nothing sounds particularly out of place, but nothing sounds particularly similar either. There is a strong dark atmosphere coursing through the album, helping to tie things together, on songs like Inside the Hive, Behold a Pale Horse and One Way Path. All fantastic songs, before we arrive at the title track Devious Methods, which is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the album. It carries a distinctly cool, almost 'noir' vibe (as does Behold a Pale Horse, another favourite) presenting a moody piano melody before gradually crafting an elegant bed of beats beneath it and smoothing it all out with masterful bass work, samples and the rest.
The album closes out with a 'suite' of tracks broken up into three 'movements' titled Move Within Time. It's definitely an enjoyable listen when taken in it's full context, providing a particularly trippy and ambitious ending to the album. Devious Methods is an album I am always eager to recommend to people who may have already exhausted themselves on the more well-known DnB releases that came out of the UK. In my humble opinion, Devious Methods is a particularly special gem in the world of drum and bass, that provides a decidedly 'American' take on the genre.
Inside the Hive
Behold a Pale Horse
One Way Path