Review Summary: finally.
Roughly 16 years ago Kasra founded Critical Music – one of drum & bass’ most well respected labels and a driving force of innovation for the genre. He’s undoubtedly been a busy man during that time, and between running a label with a release schedule as perpetually busy as Critical’s and working as a top-shelf DJ, it’s really no wonder we’ve never coaxed anything more than the odd collaborative track out of the man. That is, until now. As if it weren't enough for Kasra to unleash a flawless collaborative EP with Enei earlier this year, the man decided it's as good a time as ever drop an atomic hype-bomb onto the drum & bass world.
Incredibly, Ski Mask
marks Kasra’s first actual solo release, an event in itself that many thought might never happen. When asked about it in a recent interview, he stated that this long wait has mostly boiled down to being too busy and not having the kind of confidence in his production chops that a label boss probably ought to have. However, his public address on the matter (while sensible) is easily considered overwrought with humility as soon as the startlingly gyrated bass line of the titular opening track hits your subwoofer. Its forwardness is immediately disarming, and by such a point you should already know what’s in store: an EP rife with deep, deep, deep rollers bursting with the kind of frequencies that send dancefloors into an absolute frenzy. Coursing through the rock-solid 19 minutes of Ski Mask
’s runtime is a truly anthemic charm that doesn’t rely on overabundant technicality or tooth-grinding intensity to carve its path into your daily rotation. There’s a special decade-and-a-half-of-creative-fermentation kind of finesse on display here, as if Kasra’s subconscious mind has boiled and refined the genetic building blocks of drum & bass’ finest evolutionary success stories into their most unadulterated elements and built them back up into a shining apex of everything the genre represents. It all adds up to a tastemaker’s wet dream – four fully-realized and self-actualized cuts capable of stealing the limelight in any DJ’s set. It might be short, but there’s enough range here to fill out the frame and then some. “Miso” steps as hard as it rolls with metallic leads frothing through a spectrum of distorted lenses, and its jarring funkiness is contrasted brilliantly by “Alburz”, whose sultry sub-sonic frequencies emanate the kind of vibrational intensity that poses a real health concern to anyone with a weak ticker. Smoother still, the gorgeous closer “From The Outside In” is a bird’s-eye view of what masterclass liquid drum & bass is all about, with breezy soul-driven vocals quietly peaking through a thick wave of reese-bass and understated synth leads.
All this jibber jabber might sound like the hype train’s wheels grinding on the tracks of sensible objectivity, but the truth of the matter is that this really is a landmark release whose combination of outstanding quality and historic significance should cement it as a classic EP in every sense of the word. It might have been an agonizingly long wait for anyone hoping to get a full stack of tracks from Critical’s chief operator, but luckily we can all take a collective deep breath because the wait was worth it, and Ski Mask
has lived up to every lofty expectation that preceded its highly anticipated release.