Wednesday, 5 January 2011
RECOMMENDED: Instra:mental – Zones [Semantica]
2010 was one hell of a year for London duo Instra:mental. Alongside spearheading the Autonomic sound’s drastic, frequently stunning reinvention of drum ‘n’ bass, alongside labelmate/collaborator dBridge and the likes of ASC and Consequence, their output away from 170bpm continued to broaden into slo-mo house, synth-driven electro and minimalist dubstep forms. To be fair, on initial inspection that might seem par for the course in the current bass landscape: if there’s been one overarching trend during the last couple of years, it’s been the distinct absence of the strict limitations dubstep once imposed on its producers. But very few have managed the transition between styles with such flair.
I suspect it’s in part due to the shapeshifting nature of the Autonomic sound they developed. Much like the process that transformed UK garage into early dubstep, it’s predominantly characterised by peeling away extraneous layers, leaving progressively fewer elements to work alongside one another: literally stripping dance music down to it’s barest essentials. Fused with the hefty Detroit techno influence at play in ‘Watching You’ and the Drexciyan depth charge of ‘Futurist’, in 2010 that spacious template spawned house so deep it was practically subaquatic (‘Let’s Talk’), acidic electro (‘Voyeur’ and Boddika’s ‘Boddika’s House’) and an expansive Fabriclive drum ‘n bass mix. In sheer breadth of vision, it’s pretty safe to say that Instra:mental embody a certain mongrel state of health in UK bass – one that finds kindred deconstructionist spirits all the way from Swamp81’s juke-tinged 808 workouts to Peverelist’s rolling, junglist grooves, via widescreen innovations from the likes of Kowton, Hessle Audio, Ostgut Ton and Kassem Mosse.
The duo’s latest release Zones (strictly their final 12” of last year) is a seriously limited preview of two tracks from this spring’s full-length album. And if this pair are anything to go by it’s a pretty unique proposition; advance reports have already confirmed a move away from drum ‘n’ bass tempo to a varied region between 100 and 140 bpm, and Boddika’s upcoming Swamp81 release is pure synthetic electro. Both ‘Love Arp’ and ‘Sun Rec’ slot neatly alongside, and offer a tantalising taste of what’s to come in April. ‘Sun Rec’s fusion of shattered percussion and pure eighties synthesis seems tailor made to attract adjectives like ‘lush’ and ‘sumptuous’. It’s a slow and considered trip through arpeggios that drift and cascade like the spray around a waterfall, discovering a groove that’s perhaps a little too unstable for easy dancing but which through a good system transforms into a beast both hulking and deceptively sensitive.
‘Love Arp’ is even better. Occupying a similar retrofuturistic space as much of Instra:mental’s recent output, it’s reminiscent of nothing so much as a vision of 2011 as imagined by the population of the late seventies: gaudy and polished to a high sheen, but with the tiniest hint of grit running beneath the surface. It’s neither entirely fatalistic (like the terrifying police-run London of ‘No Future’) nor wholly utopian (‘Watching You’s paean to finally requited digital love), but sits somewhere comfortably in between. In the end, it’s not so far off what the real 2011 might sound like, were it that easy to simply package a year into four minutes of music.
Words: Rory Gibb
Out: Now (limited to 300 vinyl copies. No digital)