It’s difficult for me to introduce anything 2020 related with any sort of positivity, but just for a moment, lets forget about all the struggle and strive of the past year, and take some time to reflect on some of the finest drum and bass music the past 12 months has had to offer. Speaking on behalf of the entire In-Reach crew, we are delighted to share with you our round up of the wonderful tracks released in 2020, that we feel have stuck the middle finger up to this insufferable year.
Mystic State – My Own Private Island LP [The Chiara Project]
This project, released on Mystic State’s own label: The Chikara Project, is an absolute masterpiece of deep drum abd bass, ranging from the blissfully liquid to the ominously dark. Every track is full of desirability, with some stand outs including the bassy roller ‘Phased Out’ and the dark wobbler that is ‘Vessel’. This one also comes with some beautiful artwork, which is always a plus.
It’s no surprise to see the legendary D-bridge making this list; his position as one of the all time dnb greats is firmly cemented, and he’s continuing to prove why. This energetic selection of tracks definitely has something futuristic about it, which as a testament to the forward thinking nature of Darren’s music. ‘Tear in Vain’ takes my top spot here; the intro has elements of Kamanchi about it, which is a huge energy that keeps going throughout the track, and I can’t get enough of the genius use of the vocal sample from The Miracles – Baby Baby Don’t Cry.
dgoHn – Undesignated Proximate [Love Love Records]
Not only has dgoHn taken the award for best track names with this LP (personal highlights being ‘Invisible Sandwich’ and ‘Turnips are Ok’), but the tunes are absolute fire as well. The smooth ambient breaks on ‘Daisy Takes Two’ and the old school jazzy vibes of ‘Lucky Gonk’ are reminiscent of the mid-90’s exploits of artists like Peshay, whereas experimental numbers such as ‘Electryon’ take us right back to the future. I would recommend setting aside an hour of your time to kick back and listen to the album in it’s entirety on the best sound system available to you: It’s a journey you won’t soon forget.
Another huge name up next, with a typically beautiful collection of music released on his own imprint: 1985 Music. Wondering at loss is bursting with soul, best portrayed by the pained vocal cries over the deep liquid bass line. Much of the same follows throughout the album, with track after track of gorgeous liquid soul in that signature Perez style. This one feels like a bit of a back to your roots project for for a musician with range, versatility and talent by the bucketload.
This album has an incredibly uplifting vibe at it’s core, with a real summertime feel to it. All I can picture when listening to these tunes is a summer bbq, with a soundtrack courtesy of Redeyes and absolutely no social distancing. This is another one that’s worth listening to as a whole project, and believe it or not, Redeyes has even provided us with an entire movie (filmed on his iPhone 7) to go along with his beautiful music. You can watch this wonderful artistic project over on the Northern Quarter YouTube page.
It’s over to the Metalheadz crew now and one of their most prolific musical assassins: Mako. Over the years, we’ve learnt to expect nothing less from Stephen Redmore than intelligent, meaningful drum and bass, and that’s exactly what is on display here. From the juxtaposition of the soothing yet aggressive ‘The Window’, to the dark twisting bass of ‘Light Cycle’ (featuring the late Andy Skopes), this album represents the highest level of sonic creativity.
This one is a big contender for my overall favourite release of the year. Released on Lobster Theremin back in June, this EP is a junglistic gold mine. The titular track brilliantly samples Diana Ross’ stone cold classic ‘Baby Love’, with her vocals arranged perfectly around thumping sub bass and a killer break beat. The quality does’t drop for a second, from the hardcore beats of ‘Get Schwifty’ to the acidy sounds of ‘Smoke Screen’, this EP simply must be in your collection.
Breakage – India November Delta Echo X-Ray EP [Index]
Now we move onto one of the heaviest hitters to ever grace the dnb scene in Breakage, and he’s certainly living up to that reputation here. The hissing bass line on Valhalla hits like a tonne of bricks, and the scenario is not much different with the jittering drums and extremely weighty sub bass of ‘Jah’. If for some reason Breakage’s style just isn’t quite aggressive enough for you, then Break’s got you covered with his dangerous remix of ‘As We Enter’. This one is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Workforce – Late Night Soundtrack Vol.3 [Must Make Music]
One half of the incredible duo that is Spectrasoul: Workforce is really showing off his solo talents in this third instalment of his Late Night Soundtrack series. Excellent vocals and moody vibes are the theme of this one, which is epitomised by the funky roller ‘Cheap Love’, where DRS shows off his talents over a backdrop of smooth flowing bass and growling mids.
No yearly dnb round up can ever be complete without an appearance from Digital and the mighty Function Records. This time, it’s Stephen’s self descriptive EP ‘Junglist Soldier’ that makes our list. With no less than four collaborators on the title track, Digital has teamed up brilliantly with: The Green Man, Freeze, Ras Abraham and Sabrination, for a track which is brought to life by the amazing ragga vocals that run throughout. The Green Man actually features on all three tracks on this EP including the halftime number ‘Highjacked’, and the immense fast paced roller ‘Who’s Weird’.
No surprises here. The combination of Calibre and DRS is tried and tested and only ever produces results of the highest order of magnificence. The liquid king and the Mancunian poet are doing what they do best, and long may it continue.
An absolute belter of a remix here from Cauzer of FYM’s ‘Proton’. The flexing bass line rolls on throughout the tune, perfectly complimented by the understated drums. I can’t wait to hear this one in a club some day.
Workforce – Your Loss (Halogenix Remix) [Must Make Music]
The original of this track is already featured in our EP’s section, but this huge rework from Halogenix has to get a mention too. A more erratic arrangement and faster pace gives this track an injection of life that no one knew it needed.
Another big flex from the Metalheadz crew here. Quick stuttering drums on the intro clear the path for the monstrously heavy bass line, and there’s very little let-up from there on. The scratching samples in this one are also an awesome touch.
Chimpo, DRS and Slay – Hurt Someone [Box N Lock]
Vibes central here from the Box N Lock crew. Silky smooth bars from DRS, Chimpo and Slay, backed by funky junglistic production from Chimpo himself made this irresistible number an easy selection for our list.
Misdemeanour is the pick of the bunch from Zero T & Beta 2’s Exiles EP last year. That Brown Paper Bag esc double bass is to die for, and it’s not the only instrument with a typically classical nature that has been expertly incorporated into this 170 banger.
It certainly is a wonderful thing that in the year 2020, we’re still able to listen to brand new music from DJ Trace. This time, the dance music legend teams up with the extremely accomplished Kid Drama, to create a unique blend of aggression, funk and apprehension.
This one comes from only the third release on Stereocilia who are building a big reputation already. Believe it or not this track was not originally meant for a full release, but for obvious reasons, it’s dubplate status did not last long. Shouts to Grappa on this absolute steamroller of a tune.
Blocks & Escher have become household names of drum and bass over the last few years, and you don’t need to delve far into their back catalogue to see why. Mr Parker’s Voice is a perfect example of their exquisite production. Nothing too fancy, not overdone, just good drums and good bass.
Killaklan 001 – The Assassinator [Prototype Recordings]
One of the great drum & bass labels of all time: Prototype Recordings, has had it’s most active year since 1999 and with tracks like this one, they are well on their way to returning to their tech step era peak. The Assassinator is a smooth but moody track that belongs on a big system in a dark room.