Review Summary: halftime, defined.
Prior to Ivy Lab’s 2015 statement, 20/20 Vol. 1
, the word “halftime” certainly didn’t mean what it does now. Their brand of artisan hip hop infused, teetering drum and bass threw the electronic music world into a whirlwind and a lot of established artists have since begun to align themselves with this ankle-breaking 85bpm sound. As its popularity grows in spades year in and year out, one must give due credit to artists like Signs who are bringing a new and organic sounding artistic viability back onto the heavier side of the dancefloor. Hailing from France, the trio is an emerging tour de force of deep bass work, boasting some of the most depthful soundcraft and keenly attentive rhythms happening in the current spheres of sound system culture. Not only do they wield a strong ear for what makes a crowd sway, but they know what it takes to give those instantly palatable jams a lasting aftertaste that reveals nuanced flavors as rich as those ambrosial first bites offered.
Halftime - at its core - is the heavyset walking man’s drum and bass, and to that extent, its’ versatility has allowed it to dig into every imaginable offshoot of the classic genre with a distinctively utilitarian strut that readily spans realms from jungle to neuro and everything in between with a bodacious presence that is hard to ignore. With this in mind, Skin Out
undresses a plethora of sub-genres in earnest as each of the eight tracks trailblazes a unique and cutting-edge path to familiar destinations without succumbing to a restless desire to dwell on encompassing motifs or monochrome mannerisms. Indeed, what Signs have offered us here could easily be considered an anthology of halftime in many ways, but despite its broad ambition, the trio’s distinctive techniques keep everything neat and tidy from start to finish. Tracks like the emotive opener “Polymorph” – rich with its hues of eastern strings and jingling high hats – should
clash with the towering robotic inflections of tracks like “Lawless”, but instead offer up a tantalizing and addictive contrast in the best of ways. Every single sound on this album is crafted with a virtuosic touch, and perhaps this is where Skin Out
’s biggest success truly lies. “Paper Bag” may be a rather simple diddy comprised of a staunch minimalism generally reserved for deep dubstep escapades, but the way the organic percussion rides aloft the coursing shockwaves of bass gives way to a vibe that puts it right at home among the finest rollers of the DnB world. Even the proletariat abrasiveness of “Stranger” with its off-kilter pounding that teases total collapse just works
with the soul-tinged vocal samples and broken lasers in a way that contradicts the recipe for disaster its ingredients list foreshadows.
Now, every musical revolution has its staple classics of course, and for this fledgling offshoot of D&B, Signs’ Skin Out
will undoubtedly go down as one of them. Bubbling with suave braggadocio, janky beat work and absolutely mammoth bass lines, there’s enough diversity here to round this 31 minute release into a complete package as each track holds its identity as a prime archetype of halftime’s various shapes and forms. From the metallic boogaloo that is “Monkey Shoulder” to the frighteningly tripped-out and climactic closer “Roots”, Signs have established themselves as a marquee trio of halftime producers that will surely continue to set the bar for the rest of the scene.