Review Summary: All of the drums all of the basses

For anyone hardwired to the forty-five minute window as the optimum runtime for an album of 'songs' with verses/choruses/riffs/jingles, etc., getting into drum and bass makes for a gruelling logistical challenge: either you commit to sniffing out a mixtape's worth of killer singles from obscure pockets of the '90s (viable and advisable!), or you slob out like you always have, deferring curation duties to artists and labels… only to find yourself inundated with albums/comps/DJ mixes each well beyond the hour mark and, odds are, prone to doing a lot 'less' than you're used to re. structure and development. How does one vibe that hard for that many minutes?! Unlike its climax-friendly, estranged second cousin trance, or the vocal-friendly grooves of its dancefloor rival house, your classic DnB record is a fiercely cyclical affair that stretches frenetic beatwork and razor-edged basslines over punishing bpms and spartan arrangements, leaving your poor, gratification-plump attention span with precious little to do if you're not really feeling it. Uhm,

chill. Atmospheric drum and bass is here to save you, with its nerve-friendly pacing, ultra-slick beats, and (shock horror) atmospheres so smooth that all concerns of beats, minutes and beats-per-[_] melt away like a roomful of hearts in front of a realtime smile from Kyle MacLachlan, or the bulk of your most cherished childhood aspirations. Ssh. It is okay — you require neither the stamina not the thrill-addled headspace of a true raver to get down to this. It is immersive. The flow of time is distorted. Chill! And then — well, anyone looking for a case-in-point for atmo DnB goodness could do far worse than Big Bud's widely-heralded first full-length, Infinity + Infinity, and, regardless of how much genre exposure they've had (though I've personally found it a little too textbook to build strong feelings around). Any questions or curiosities you're still harbouring about genre fundamentals can be covered in short(ish) order by a daytrip round that album: its lush tones, seamless continuity, jazzy inflections, and featherweight cascade of breakbeat goodness are all you need for an hour-plus DnB 101.

However, Big Bud's comparatively overlooked follow-up Late Night Blues doubles Infinity + Infinity's scope in all respects (length, stylistic range, ambition), eschewing its predecessor's role as a genre blueprint, and offering a deeper exploration of its wider appeal — namely, its situational overlap with downtempo, its hybrid propensity for active or background listening, the potential for uncoupling it from a dancefloor setting entirely, and the degree to which a 'true' DnB experience is wholly contingent on hyperspeed breakbeats to begin with. The answers it draws prove a good deal more palatable than its unwieldy dimensions may have you believe.

The first of the record's two discs makes a leisurely show of laying out a mood over lounge-happy blues soundscapes, lethargic spoken word interspersions, and enjoyably seedy jazz samples. The full percussive flurry of the typical drum and bass experience is kept deliberately out of reach: opener "Return of Spiritman" scales its breakbeat all the way back to spliff tempo, while the early highlight "Baby" truncates its beat at the end of each phrase, producing an elliptical stroll more akin to 2-step. Throughout this first hour, Big Bud seems to delight in fleshing out the noirish chill-marathon at hand with everything but drum and bass, finding alternatives as far removed as klezmer jazz (on "Persian Blues"), or nods to New Age and ambient trance astride a deliciously robust deep house rhythm (on my personal favourite, "Sacha's Song"). Even when the album's first DnB-tempo breakbeat arrives about forty minutes in on "Soulfood", it's played against a funk bassline that caters not one bit to the dubby groove one would usually expect here (though stick around for side two's "Spacedub" to hear this nailed to perfection).

The upshot of disc one is a convincing, perhaps even enlightening tribute to all the styles drum and bass is best paired with, replete with an outgoing imagination, versatile beatwork, and a miraculously cohesive palette. Big Bud caters to the needs of his returning demographic of zen-minded DnBheads without ever giving them exactly what he spent so long conditioning them to want on Infinity + Infinity — genius! Come out of this disc telling me that drum and bass' appeal is strictly singular, and I will likely, uh, be cruel and blame this on you projecting your relationship status! ***off.

By contrast, disc two drops the cross-genre beat juggle and plays straight DnB rhythms over a more focused extension of side one's slick-n-seedy after hours vibe, as if to indicate that anything that can be accomplished by any of the album's affiliate genres can be achieved to equal effect with a mean breakbeat. Can it? Perhaps not as a single distinctive highlight — but this side rarely indulges in these (outside of "My Spirit", which says that a killer bassline is also mandatory). These songs bleed in and out of one another with feverish continuity, as silky-smooth as the Infinity + Infinity experience, though with more heft behind them and extra haze on the periphery; any misgivings over the drum and bass odyssey disc one goes to such pains to tease and withhold find themselves handily addressed. The second disc is much less responsive to blow-by-blow dissection than the first: one can pigeonhole highlights ("Hypnotic", "Spacedub" and "My Spirit", please and thank you), but even the effort of doing so threatens to disrupt the momentum the tracklist works so hard to cultivate.

Stakes, intrigue and suspense take a backseat as such: contrary to the first disc's healthy spread of attractions for a thirsty attention span, you either like these beats and atmospheres enough to stick to them like a Brooklynite to a bad trend, or you ain't. The need for a momentous resolution more or less dissipates in the scheme of this, but it's no great loss: like most worthwhile double albums, Late Night Blues accommodates a dippy listener and loses minimal impact if you pass on hearing it the whole way through in a single sitting (something I'd advise against anyway, given the irritation hazard of an alarm sample that closes "Mr Nice"). Space to it until you doze, lap the whole thing up, or shamelessly violate that precious second-half continuity and use the whole thing as playlist fodder — all approaches are valid here, so get the girth of that runtime out of your bitching sob mouth and chow down for as long as you can make it last. No need to view it as an endurance test: we're all happy eaters here.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2024


61273 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

WHAT DO WE WANT moar drumnbass reviews withmyheadman

WHEN DO WE WANT IT hyyyuuuuugnh

gabba
April 30th 2024


1311 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just heard that MC Conrad died, big RIP.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2024


61273 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

jfc truly cursed timing — hard RIP :[

Ryus
April 30th 2024


37474 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice

Ryus
April 30th 2024


37474 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

havent spent nearly as much time with this one as infinity + infinity which is a stone cold classic imo

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2024


61273 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Inf+Inf slaps and I slightly prefer it to disc 2 here, but disc 1 is defs my fav between the two. Both winners ofc

gabba
May 3rd 2024


1311 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Very cool album, runtime is completely justified. I was only familiar with Big Bud from Progression Session releases, but this no inferior, it’s just more chill without an MC.

Hawks
May 3rd 2024


90598 Comments


Gotta hear this.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 27th 2024


61273 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Mmmph disc 2 is still a long run-on for me, but My Spirit absolutely kicks it



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