Track Of The Week: The Upbeats – The Furies

I seldom get an opportunity to write about drum and bass at length, perhaps because DJ culture can be so fickle when it comes to tastes, flavours and preferences, and more likely down to how these articles are written, that focus draws upon producers and a stand out track of theirs, leaving the door open to do further investigation if you so wish. I tend to focus a lot more on the underground side of affairs too, but there’s always artists at the very top of their game who produce something so monumental that words have to be said about them.

The unstoppable New Zealand duo of The Upbeats will always hold a special place in my heart, not just for the fabrication of jaw-dropping bass sounds and gritty, authentic percussion, but without them, a major event in my life may not have unfolded. Although I’m not in a possession of a physical copy, two years ago I received my degree in Media Studies after a month’s worth of sleepless nights writing my dissertation. As motivation, there were primarily two groups I listened to get me through that hard period of my life: my second favourite band of all time Placebo, and the mighty Upbeats. Should Jeremy and Dylan get to read this, then I hope it’ll bring a smile to their faces that they sit in the acknowledgements as ‘an energising soundtrack for sanity’s sake.’ Cheers gents.

lastfm_the_upbeats

The connection ties in a little further however, as this track, formerly untitled at least to me until a few days ago, The Furies almost dates back two years also from the first time I encountered it. What staggers me about The Upbeats and why their work ranks upon the highest echelons of drum and bass is because of how creative, unique and fearsome their production capabilities are. Big Skeleton, Undertaker, Beyond Reality all rank amongst my favourite DnB tunes because of how unforgettable they are and how unbelievable that electronic instruments and sound frequency manipulation can create such inconceivable, inhuman noise. The Furies sits as another in the sterling discography of two of the best in the game today.

From the get-go, the track screams urgency and intensity, ominous winds rapidly formulating around the bouncing synth gradually phasing inwards, volume building so as it does. But within 30 seconds, walls of bass blare, closing in your position while what can only be described as jittery, electric cackles alternate between them. The brevity of each gear switch in this build-up elevates the tension and sheer excitement to an exponential level and one such reason why this shines as another tremendous Upbeats floor destroyer. Drums begin to whip the mood into a frenzy, retaining the energy and bounce of the initial synth at the inset and distilling it into a volatile warhead at perilously unsteady velocity. And right at its apex, bass and synths pitching to breaking point and drums programmed to maximise impact, the projectile collides with the planet and the electrifying, pure kinetic detonation is phenomenal.Visceral in execution, the bass is akin to an interdimensional beast ripping the fabric of time and space a new asshole, pulverising any of a nervous disposition and elating those at fever pitch, all while the pounding of snares and kick pedals propels the resulting shockwave as far as it can reach. The mood shortly simmers after, revealing a second side to the bass as the synth changes to a simulation of the beast laughing at the devastation, and the drums gaining in intricacy but without losing any of its punch. Though layers are stripped away here, it serves as a perfect opportunity just to drink in the unparalleled production values of the most critical elements in The Furies. There’s room for a second warhead to come if survivors are ready for it, but it is no less incredible than the first encounter. At least you’ll be better prepared.

Time and time and time again, the duo from New Zealand continue to push beyond the realms of what is even conceivably possible in terms of constructing truly monstrous bass sounds and what ranks among the most realistic of drum production in their music. Though this release has been nearly two years in the making, it has been one of their most anticipated releases since decimating an unsuspecting audience at Let It Roll Festival and with the expertise, craftmanship and pure love and passion for the music, the results remain as spectacular and no doubt will continue to. An adrenalin rush at its very, very best.

 

The Furies is officially out today (Friday 11th March) on Drum and Bass Arena’s 2016 Compilation, which can be found here. The Upbeats are rumoured to be working on a new album, judging by the amount of unreleased material they are accruing, but have no current ETA nor a label it is being released by, but don’t be surprised if it falls into a late 2016 release window.

In the meantime, go give these guys a giant high five:

https://www.facebook.com/theupbeats/
https://twitter.com/theupbeats

And if you feel like doing the same to me at all, you can do so with a like, a follow or a subscription to the blog:

https://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark/
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Track Of The Week: Sophie’s Earthquake – Zero Distance

Human nature is an unusual and difficult thing to predict at the best of times. It sees the worst in humanity, being driven to inflict pain, misery and suffering upon one another or even to be as cruel as to end another’s life, for whatever goal or reason that consumes you. But it can also bring out the best in our species, to love, cherish and show compassion to another, to share an experience or a memory that leaves an everlasting impact on the recipients, that can last for the rest of your days.

I had already made the joke at Sophie’s Earthquake’ expense regarding a girl creating an earthquake that ultimately costs the lives of our fellow man. Only to have that theory shot down not long after, once the band contacted me themselves saying the name was actually derived from having the rehearsal space underneath the drummer’s house, whom wife is called Sophie. Least I seem to recall that’s where the name came from. The story’s all here anyway. But this goes hand in hand with what’s already been said about human kindness. After the original article focusing on their EP, they were incredibly generous enough to offer me an exclusive listen to an unmastered demo, taken from their forthcoming album, the demo now known as Fatima and Flood respectively. I had never been given such a moment of privilege in my entire life, and was truly humbled by this experience and will continue to be forever grateful for.

Four to five months later, Sophie’s Earthquake’s debut album was released on Christmas Eve just gone. Titled The Flood, it carries on their psychedelic- meets-grunge approach, but in the gap between their EP and the album, the band have truly blossomed and evolved their sound into some musically jaw-dropping compositions. Although Fatima and Flood were conjoined upon my first listen, they were separated for the album’s release but still retain that sense of awe and excitement I felt upon that twelve minute extravaganza of smoky ambience and blazing guitar work in full instrumental glory. Despite being released very late last year, for fans of music with a chasm-like depth of atmosphere and scale, you need to listen to this album.

My pick from The Flood, personally has to be Zero Distance. The Alice In Chains-style tone has morphed into a more ominous, urgent sounding presence, lying in the shadows. It certainly sounds far more abrasive and threatening than any moment of their previous work, likely down to the distortion on the guitar.  The beat of the war drum drum hasn’t changed however, but it didn’t need to. It was already a gratifying percussive force and complimented the swirling atmosphere beautifully. Here, against the tone of an oncoming storm, each thump of the skins is another footstep closer to something landscape-changing. Upon the beat becoming regular and that snare serving as warning shots, you can feel something electric building up further and further into time. Throughout you also get the warm rumblings of bass, providing an additional layer of groove or thickening the overall atmosphere, just when chaos seems around the corner. Echoes of a voice wailing in the distance lead in the blues-soaked vocal chords, that do undeniably have a resemblance to the late Layne Staley. While we given the impression the band were unsure at first whether to include vocals in the bulk of their songs, the decision and startling confidence behind the delivery speaks volumes.

Switching from sinister whispers, to a soulful, whiskey-coated croon, to a melancholic but empowered bellow to make you tremble where you stand, the vocal projection has been elevated to another level from past material. And transferring such passion into a darker, brooding progressive journey, only enhances the experience. The moving cries of lead guitar harmonise with groove of the bassline, giving one last moment of calm and stability in the sonic landscape, before the inevitable gear switch, triggered by the sudden emphasis on bass driving the tempo. It becomes a manner of waiting. Power chords are left to wail and ring into the night, while drums intensify and diminish just as quickly, teasing that pay-off. It is left down to an almighty yell, for all the instruments to unite in one hurricane-force gust and unleash the unstoppable psychedelic force they possess. In tone, the atmosphere sits more in a dark and stormy night than a haze-infused trip, so the moment doesn’t explode as such, but it doesn’t make the guitar soloing any more stellar and spectacular. Bass plays a crucial part in making this a real special moment, the prominent deep grinding away, adding more than a substantial yin to the guitar’s yang, while drums keep pounding hard and inject some subtle rhythmic nuances to the pace. Towards the final furlong, this truly is a moment of pure rapture and a moment to lose yourself within. One tremendous drum performance, the continual bass siege and one last blues-touched anti-war slogan, we come to a close.

Aside from being some of the absolute nicest gentlemen I’ve ever had the opportunity to reach out to, Sophie’s Earthquake are killer musicians and deserving of a higher pedestal to put their music on. The Flood is a fantastic debut album, taking what made them a fascinating prospect and fleshing it out above and beyond what was thought they were capable of. Far darker in mood and tone than could be anticipated, but full of intoxicatingly good musicianship and songs, that are enjoyably progressive but can keep you guessing too.

 

The Flood and their debut EP are only available to purchase on their Bandcamp page, for very reasonable prices might I add, while physical copies are currently in the planning stages. Their website is also under maintenance. as of the time of writing. Sophie’s Earthquake will no doubt also be touring shortly, so keep an eye on their social media.

Which you can do so by clicking this link here and giving them a great big thumbs up:

https://www.facebook.com/Sophies-Earthquake-833196446731760/?fref=ts

And if you feel like giving me a thumbs up at all for this post, you can give me a like, a follow of subscribe to the blog, if you want to of course:

https://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark/
https://twitter.com/The_Soundshark

 

Track Of The Week: Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Eyes All Over Me

Let me take you back a few years, to the turbulent time of 2009-2010. I was at sixth-form, but arguably the most critically influential time in my life for music. My listening habits in these years I can safely say have contributed enormously to not just my tastes, but my personality and identity as a twenty-something male living in the United Kingdom.  I have always been a bit of an oddball, and in time, I have come to accept my quirks, my eccentricity and flaws and have learned to love myself as the person I have become. And I am proud of that person I have become, 90% of the time at least. I can safely say that there was a lot of albums, probably far too many to recall right now, that had an effect and an influence on what I grew to like musically, but without a shadow of a doubt, on what has become one of my all-time favourite albums, You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into remains as important as it ever has to me. Sure, I was a little late to this party at first, but there’s something about their blend of electro-punk ferocity and rhythmic indie deliveries that still stays inspiring, ever since its inception in 2008. A true hybrid style if one could be deciphered into.

2011’s Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You was a mellower affair granted, a more mature evolution if you will if being mentored by The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett has anything to do with it, but still contained some thumping anthems nestled within. I cannot thank them enough for making Wrestler, one of my eternal DJ set staples and dancefloor annihilators. But, after two years or so touring the album and travelling around the world in incredibly high profile support slots, they turned the project off at the switch to focus on other endeavours. DJ sets under the band alias happened during that hiatus but fans had always hungered for a full return one day. Fast forward to 27th July 2015, and prayers to various deities were answered. Sort of. A one-off show was announced for December and excitement clamoured around all corners of the globe for a ticket release. Myself and friends of mine, along with around 1,000 other lucky recipients are fortunate enough to be able to be in attendance for their Electric Ballroom show. But while they hype their show, something of an added bonus, is that unreleased tracks are making their way to the light of day also.

Bringing us here, to All Eyes Over Me, technically the second song after I See Lights On The Horizon, informally referred to as With A Heavy Heart Part 2. The reward for whomever was able to correctly identify the exact clips and order of the montage in I See Lights Over The Horizon. Whatever you may be expecting from the band if you know of their previous material, disregard that completely. The only vague comparison point is their hip-hop short Wondering featuring their collaboration with Trip, and even so is a complete far cry from anything they’ve ever released or produced. You can tell just from the very instance of quiet hi-hat against complete silence, this will be an entirely different experience far from the bombast we’ve grown akin to. Bursts of bass lead in a very ambient, chilled and minimal pseudo-trip-hop beat, shaken percussion coolly sitting behind it as if waiting for a story to be recited. But that spoken word never really materialises. Instead we get a high-pitched refrain of ‘Eyes all over me,’ altered and manipulated through the course of the track to provide an additional melody to the bare bones exhibit. Something has to be said of the synth ambience too. The brightness and breeze that flows through it, kinda makes feel it as powerful and emotionally investing as watching ascension or a resurrection. Sonically though, the tone seems darker, far more cloaked in shadow than the fire, intensity and occasional introspective we know of their entire back catalogue before it. This doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from some of their trademark quirks and sound effect interjections, as some do squeeze their way in there. I’d be very interested to know when this track was actually written, as it would answer a lot of questions I feel the track raises. Not everything should have to have context, but certainly intriguing.

Understandably, as people are finding out about this track, a lot of fans are disappointed by it, dare I say, offended by it. But they’re disappointed by it, because it’s not another We Are Rockstars or The Monkeys Are Coming. Unfortunately for those, we’re never getting another You Have No Idea… and could never get any more material at all if they make good on their word of disbanding in December. You could tell that from buying Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You. We never could’ve had this track whatsoever if it wasn’t for the kind gesture of the competition winner, so big props to Drew Rogers for letting this track surface in the first place. What I appreciate about this track is how understated its beauty is, it does such a stellar job of invoking a reaction with minimal elements. For me, despite being a relaxing listen, there’s a sense of melancholy or soul-searching done in this track, and one that hasn’t been anywhere near as effective in any song they’ve written previously. Honestly, if I’d have written this, I’d be proud to have written it. Art. Art is the only thing more I can say. Judge for yourselves.

Eyes All Over Me, courtesy of the generous Drew Rogers and of course Does It Offend You, Yeah? can be downloaded for free from his Soundcloud. Does It Offend You, Yeah? supported by the superb Hounds and Them & Us play their final show at the Electric Ballroom on 12th December. There are still tickets available the last time I checked, so go get because it’s going to be incredible.

Go show them some love:

https://www.facebook.com/doesitoffendyou?fref=ts
https://twitter.com/dioyy
https://instagram.com/doesitoffendyouyeah/

And if you think I’ve done any justice to this band or this track, you can also show me some love too if you so wish, entirely your call:

https://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark?fref=ts
https://twitter.com/The_Soundshark

Track of the Week: Autopsy Boys – Song For Deberra

Following my original article on Leeds electropunk outfit Autopsy Boys and my over excitement to share my words with them, they got in contact and they were impressed with my musings and tipped me off about the first preview of their forthcoming new album Return Of The Acid Casualty Auto Humans. So as you might expect, I was poised waiting, and a little over 24 hours later, here I am writing about that new song. Titled Song for Debbera, in tribute to B-movie legend and now music video curator, Debbie Rochon, is the beginning of a five-part narrative depicting a day of urban anarchy, in the style of the 80’s horror flicks they so cherish. The scene and the stage are set strongly, both the Queen of Scream introducing her illustrious career and the tale about to unfold, and the band start at pace with a subtly catchy guitar hook, whilst synth throbs like the Blob below. It’s really from this point onwards, you can really marvel at the lyricism at work, billowing with 80’s references that flow off the tongue like water bursting from a dam. There’s also not so much of a chorus of sorts,  but one particular moment that a well-informed crowd could harmonise with beautifully. Moments that recall a certain Mr. Gary Numan in his prime, then again, Tubeway Army were a punk band, just not in the strictest sense of the definition. As you expect, amplitude starts to ramp up and vocals cease to focus on instruments building tension, coinciding nicely with the on-screen imagery of a party dispersing from some sort of humanoid attack, as well as insane scientist back story in the process. Furious chords play out as synths turn haywire and drums keep that panic and hysteria constantly moving, culminating in the first person camera being thrown into the boot of a car. As an introduction to the work of Autopsy Boys, this could be no more perfect. As a fan, I can no doubt imagine that they already hunger for the next instalment, as well as more new music in tandem. On the basis of this first track alone, this Leeds four piece look set to continue and build upon the already stellar synthpunk slasher sound, and with visuals in tow, only confirm their status as one of the country’s most exciting under-the-radar bands around.

Song For Debbera is out now via all good music retailers, taken from their forthcoming new album expected sometime this year.

https://www.facebook.com/autopsyboys?fref=ts

Rockwell – Detroit

In the world of drum ‘n’ bass, more often than not, I am late to the party of the best of the best. Rockwell’s Detroit was lauded by many enthusiasts as one of the best tunes released last year, and for reasons I now understand six months later, I can see why. The tune is incomprehensibly addictive, bouncing along instead of jetting or speeding, with a synth line that bubbles or speaks in an alien language through out as possibly one of the most unique tunes I’ve ever heard. How something can be described as dirty but minimalistic is beyond me, but this seems to have been constructed for clubs clearly in mind, anthemic but without so many of the words to make it so. Many things wobble and bounce, much like something I would assume this track heavily implies and Detroit has it in spades here, pounding the dancefloor into submission as opposed to tearing it to shreds.

The Clamps – Serenissima

(Track of last week, to avoid confusion)

The Clamps are without doubt in the upper echelon of up-and-coming producers of the electronic dance game right now. Whilst their efforts span from electro house, techno and dubstep, their ventures into the constantly evolving drum ‘n’ bass scene are what I spend most of my time engrossed in. Released from their own production unit Kosen Productions, Serenissima builds up as a film score, an orchestral ensemble leading the charge into a battle fought between Earth and its intergalactic invaders. War drums absolutely thunder across the soundscape, even before the main beat is brought in, giving a true sense of how epic a scale this track wants to be. It succeeds beautifully. The tension rises rapidly with the orchestra and with it the bass, which sounds somewhat like an interdimensional chainsaw shredding through the very fabric of time and space, breaks its chains into a slightly syncopated flurry of punches you’d call drums. One brutally heavy drop later, the fight for the planet starts once more and you have a half-time mauling to await you in the mean time. Once upon a time, I dreamt of making drum ‘n’ bass for a film score, and this is currently the closest definition I have encountered to true cinematic drum ‘n’ bass. Spectacular.