Friday, 30 July 2010

DJ Fresh - Kryptonite (Breakbeat Kaos)

The last few years have seen drum ‘n’ bass in a strange state, largely neutered of its restlessly experimental, pioneering bent that saw the genre’s early practitioners consistently pushing the boundaries of UK-centric dance music. So many producers seem content to mine the same furrows, the same beats, similar themes, leaving a huge proportion of releases simply treading water, rather than making their predecessors’ efforts to innovate. There are, of course, exceptions – the Autonomic duo of Instra:mental and dBridge, along with several of their close contemporaries, are stripping drum ‘n’ bass back to its barest essentials. The result does for the genre what dubstep did the garage, stripping away its excesses to leave a shell of melody and rhythm upon which to build.

The problem, then, with listening to a great proportion of contemporary drum ‘n’ bass straight after spending some time with the Autonomic crew, is that it’s hard not to desire a little more subtlety. In some ways that might sound like a challenge, but the best music to have come out of the post-jungle axis has always thrived on experimentation and musicality. So listening to DJ Fresh’s latest is a real mixed bag; when he tones down the obvious, by shifting the beat away from your typical steppers’ rhythm, or peels away the acerbic electro synths that pepper the album, Kryptonite reveals more of itself. Then again, Fresh’s vision has always been aimed squarely at an open dancefloor, so it’s hard to criticize something for being as successful in its function as it clearly is. Still, the finest moments come at unexpected points – the title track rides off a lean, bumpy rhythm that makes the most of drum ‘n’ bass’ ability to force strange movement out of dancers, and aquatic tryst towards dubstep tempo ‘Chacruna’ drifts along in a hallucinogenic haze. Reasonable evidence, then, to suggest that cutting loose from what simply ‘works’ often yields far more interesting and exciting results.

Words : Rory Gibb

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