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Massive LKDWN V1 – Mapping the Moves

Massive   V1
Mapping the Moves

My second article for Construct neatly coincides with their Lockdown Vol.1 for good reason. This time I will be debuting a concise and descriptive form of analysis! So let’s jump straight in.

DARKMATTA

‘Do You Know’s drop vocal chop has been spiralling inside my skull the last few nights. The journey of this EP is embarked with emotive entrance, a deep kick drum punching in an instantly familiar rhythm, as the snares sweep out of the filter. An atmosphere of energy is set with a sprinkle of classic dub fx and a DarkMatta call out, hollering those who know the deal with this artist and those that are about to find out.

Appropriate choice as a precursor to hearing the title line of the track, as David Boomah’s soaring voice blossoms into the mix. ‘Where you belong’ is the first suffix to the question, followed by ‘what’s right or wrong’, immediately ponderous over location-latched identity and moral ethics. Typical of his recognisable style it’s simple and catchy, yet could be cavernous in meaning- you can get lost in the personal thought train but the music gives you a beautiful point of meditative focus instead to be present for. That’s a pro of relatable, non specific lyrics. 

For my interpretation, those are the ‘choices made’ prefix of the next line; ‘transparent lies’ is less ambiguous. Yet these terms will be relatable for all sorts of situations you might find yourself in, like ‘decisions made’ that ‘aren’t black or white’. The brass stabs and key chords of accompanying melody are summer-bound and fruitfully up-lifting. 

Before you know, we’ve dropped into a sweetly melodic, tone stepping bass. The vocal snippets that harmonise with this hark to a point I made in the last article about the way they nest in your head. Certainly not my preference, but totally memorable and whimsically joyous. The switch up sees some recorded scratching, no doubt not just a sample from such an act that involves such talented live vinyl work.

I would like to see more releases with recorded drum breaks that are still quite raw in processing with a live-room ambience, and other roughly represented instrumentation; for me this really captures the power of DarkMatta gigs and sets them aside from the norm, reminding people in the industry that it would not be an ordinary DJ booking to back a crowd raising tune like this.

DarkMatta are a unique Live Drum and Bass group originating from Eastbourne, combining diverse performance elements for an interactive experience. They have been able to translate this energy to a professional Bandcamp that parades both acoustic drum kit punch and electronic studio beats, not to mention the trademark turntablism/scratching skills and vocal captivation over classically alluring synth bass, with a variety of instrumental accompaniment and stellar collaborations. A promising path has been tread from humble beginnings to the Glastonbury Glade stage, and onwards. Their media recommendations say it all. ‘[They] are known for creating an amazing atmosphere at any venue they play, be it to a packed room or an open-air festival’- Blu Nation UK, British Beats.

Construct Massive Lockdown Vol.1 Press Release
BTRAX

Next up is a very different kind of Drum and Bass for sure. Less is more with this hypnotic and thrashing rhythm, thus so is my description because of its nature of reduced song structure. As quick to leave as it is to begin, Endurance Neuro riles up the pace of this EP into a fearsome bionic wild cat of unrelenting machine claws that bid no introduction or farewell; B-Trax throws you into dangerous waters with a cut throat mid range synth line, and a rolling sub complimented by up-octave enforcement. 

The beat here is crisp and bouncy due to tight separation into the respective frequency bands of drum types and harsh compression on those. The toms roll across the stereo image and this really throws you feverishly back into every kick and consequent bar, along with the strictly syncopated but timbre-shuffling hi hat. I enjoy the subtle progression in these patterns because it helps the repetitive nature of the piece from becoming tiresome. An A to B switch up in the kit programming at regular intervals involves more smashing snares in B, with a reduced kick swing/removed tom pattern to make way for them.

Haunting keys provide an eery scene that is openly wandering through endless melancholic space, which acts as an emotional counter weight in contrast to the ferocious foreground barrage. I like the other synth patch that works alongside this in mood, that then doubles up at the point of the main melody taking an every so slight twist 3/4 in. Something that stands out in the general mix perhaps a sample that punctuates the kick from about midway that provides impact in the form of a feminine ‘Uh’. I’m not sure how I feel about this but perhaps that’s rooted in association with a lack of contextual development. I’ll leave it to your imagination for what ‘endurance’ is giving her such a reaction…

I would appreciating seeing more progressive and experimental tunes from Btrax, as his extensive discography so far shows an ability to competently push a breadth of flavours. However, it would be interesting to see him put these skills to a different structure or formula for DnB. Modulation in the synth patches would give more ‘funk’ to the ‘neuro’, as is witnessed on a couple of the tracks he’s premiered via his facebook- more of this could be implemented in his future professional releases with some out of the box sound design, peaks and troughs.

Btrax Sean Myers is a self-taught producer and songwriter, born in Yorkshire and based in the East of England. He was interested in music from an early age when he was introduced to instruments at school and quickly picked up the passion for several. He moved onto EDM and found a fond outlet in drum and bass particularly, where he persevered through a spectrum of experimentation, keeping his growing SoundCloud fanbase well-fed with consistent new ideas over 6 years that express his progression. This release marks his record label debut. With developing sides in both slick commercially pleasing and damaging niche flavours, it’s clear that he will eventually feature on multiple imprints, with a variety of DJs playing his tunes out to smash dancefloors in future raves.

Construct Massive Vol.1 Press Release
HUSKI

Following through to mellow out the vibes at this tempo, but certainly not drop the bop, Huski comes through with the old-skool jungle taste. An escapade of nostalgia and hefty sub-focused LFO wobbles, this tune embodies a high-spirited, stripped back form of jungle that doesn’t convolute the tried and tested package. A dub siren alerts the 90s ravers that it’s time to dance, easing us in to an ethereal pad sound that belongs on an original tape pack. The whipping helicopter riser and ragga vocal make it crystal clear- ‘nuff vibes a-gwan in the place’…

A bit of tasteful pitch shift on ‘place’ before the boom with a sub siren again, into the stepping bass-boosted body-shaker. Keeping it really minimal here, all the focus at first is on stepping between the dry kick and snare with warps of sub for killing sound systems. Keeping the atmosphere moving with a sparse and distant cymbals and noise sweeps, here comes the subtle rattle of a breakbeat to start skipping feet. At this point that low frequency wave gives a more regular up and down flow for a jumping effect, before settling into the previous pattern with a change in the snare shake- seamlessly.

We’re released into a quick breakdown that reprises the intro pads, which serves to reset the darkness of the bass with livening energy. If my concern with the first section was in the subtlety of the drum breaks… well, here come the crashing amens! Spitting about over the second drop, Huski also grants the b-line a timbre change with a bit of Reese grit to further the naughtiness.

Lacking a point for my disinterest, I’d perhaps recommend that his next release perhaps feature an original vocal piece. Further drum programming and processing would give the beat a story and modern impact, but that doesn’t seem to be the aim with this OG sound. I can suggest that he works on creating a unique stylistic approach that will set him above the jungle canopy as an outlier soaking up that tropical sun.

A heavyweight jungle/D&B selector and producer from Cambridge, blasting the airwaves at many sessions for the last five years with steep incline. His passion for Djing and producing came around when he was thirteen, taking him to study Level 3 Music Tech and beyond. Resident now for established names Subtle FM, Uprizing and OTC recordings, he has also brought his well chosen vibes (from ragga wobble b-lines to uplifting old skool hardcore) to the local free party scene and packed club nights up and down the country, as well as Rough Tempo/Dose internet radios. Bringing signature bootlegs and originals to London, Birmingham, Norwich and more he has built a repertoire of enough tunes to play from almost entirely his own tailored sound! Recently joining the Lovely Drop crew there is no stopping this force.

Construct Massive Lockdown Vol.1 Press Release
The Gentleman Squatter
and DJ VayKay

Beginning with a completely different kind of siren that is characterised by a long, brooding horn. This alternative symbolises the change in approach to the jungle sound we’re about to experience in Ricochet- a moody, loosely hung and wildly swung trip through an urban environment. Slowly morphing electronic waveforms gurgle in the back drop as the breaks spring to life in scattered rhythms, driven sharp hissy hi hats and a plodding 808 that seems to be talking. It feels like the logical consequent chapter of this EP.

Some resonant notes ping pong between your ears like a steampunk bird call, paired with the unsettling likeness of a car alarm, reaching a tamed spike as the main rhythm kicks in with crunchy snap-back. The breaks become slightly more feverous, raising temperature with agitation and distortion. But it is the Reese synth that takes front and centre stage, growling across the full frequency spectrum like a world eater from a more sinister universe than Huski’s would have you boogie in. The 808s hits stay to release it every so often, as the breaks continue to racket in different acoustics about the place. They return to domination in the breakdown with some short stabs from the pad synths, which have been sauntering along in the expanse with that gloomy horn, maintaining the dystopian atmosphere throughout.

It’s also worth mentioning the welcome change brought by just a few flicks of LFO that feel well tuned to the 808s as they wave through. There’s a sporadic use of a stereotypical jungle sample, the written form of which no one really knows. Is It ‘ahuh’? ‘uhhet’? It’s usually more difficult to tell when it’s drowned in processing… Anyway, I only object to this when it punctuates every loop, which it does not here. The dystopian atmosphere is maintained by the horns and pads

In terms of what to do next for Dj VayKay and The Gentleman Squatter, I’d definitely like to see more from their collaboration. Some guitar work would make his influence more obvious amongst his more experienced partners work. Also, a similar sound with more prominent kick drums would deliver further dance-floor orientation.

DJ VayKay is of secondary school age and would be studying for his GCSEs if not for current social lockdown conditions. He recently started writing music with his brother The Gentleman Squatter, making an influence through collaboration that showed he’s more than worthy to feature in another kind of ‘Lockdown’, a compilation EP for Construct Massive. 


In the last 2 years he has been expanding his knowledge in different musical instruments and genres, enthused by the potential to expand upon his roots in playing guitar. This Vol.1 release marks his debut appearance in the music industry!

Construct Massive Lockdown Vol.1 Press Release

The Gentleman Squatter learnt how to classically sing and honed his musical talent by composing classical/orchestral music scores at school, where the classy uniform inspired his striking suited and booted look. Later he started squatting in abandoned buildings and helping crews organise raves and electronic music events (usually in the aforementioned ‘venues’), which gave rise to an interest in DJing and producing himself. This led to a journey in twisting breaks and basses with his own vocals and some interesting collaborations contributing to increasing skill without fear to break conventional boundaries in Jungle and DnB structure, showcasing such from Rotterdam to Cambridge.

Construct Massive Lockdown Vol.1 Press Release
B   GLE

4

Did I say more prominent kick drums? It seems that whatever I’m searching for here becomes apparent in the next track, so clearly it plays in the right order.

We’re brought into a totally new dimension with what I believe to be a Cimbalom string sample, characteristic of Balkan culture from which the tune gets its name. The way the timbre tinkles and plucks is fun, but the melody hints at hardship, somewhat like blues chords. Sprays of stuttered riser, skittering beats and a few fuzz bass hits tell, it’s almost time already.

That stutter is replicated in a straight forward arpeggio, layered with a more constant whine harmony. The notes rise then fall into a hard pumping low end thump, that is regularly broken with the aforementioned fuzz bumps and very artfully contained cymbals. Risers return at good intervals and the stutter synths are twisting with phaser to keep the whole thing rocketing wildly through space.

Just when you begin to miss the strings, there’s a short breakdown to enjoy the sample and then mash it back in with the next drop! I like that the arpeggio rears its head again along with the beat rolls only teased at the intro, creating a cacophony fit for the circus. Another breakdown reiterates focus on the Balkan vibe, and only relinquishes hold on the drums for a moment before you’re thrust back into good Tek. Like in B-trax’s tune, the subtle changes here are what keep any sense of monotony at bay, it’s just power from start to finish… in the last drop there’s an added thwack one tone above the bounce bass that I didn’t even know I wanted. He even throws this note up higher during a pause, just once. Can you spot it?

Having checked out his past material, it would be to hear him draw some snares to the surface a little more for fills for separating pounding nature as he is already doing well. The drop sound is nailed and I liked the variation at the end, so more variety in the main bass note could be interesting for the progressing with longer tunes. Perhaps effort to experiment with the scales/chords of the more melodic parts in between hard drops could create an even more emotional adventure for listeners.

Hailing from Horncastle, Lincolnshire, B4GLE has been producing and mixing hard-hitting Tekno for over 5 years.

Starting out as a bass guitarist, his passion for music was shown in his work ethic by finishing his 2 year degree in music performance and production within the first year. You can certainly hear the speed of that skill! His soundcloud illustrates a range of influences drawn into a core style.

He’s been playing live sets of his own tracks and DJing his favourites of the sound all across the nation from clubs in Lincoln to Bristol to Brighton to derby. B4GLE has always been into his dark bass-heavy Tekno, taking inspiration from Narkotek, Amen4tekno and Astrology records he now strives in improving productions spanning all types of Hardtek and also a few other dance types, such as Electro and Progressive.


Construct Massive Vol.1 Press Release
The HardWarist

Last but certainly not least, less description is going to be more for this track, a progressive work of analog hardware with additional studio frills. ‘Take your chance’ goads the ominous voice, which I also implore you to do… 

The acid synth line gallops alongside a similar bass oscillator that’s hyper stepping about with filtered squelch already gasping for your attention. Soon comes another, and another, spiralling out like electronic tendrils from a killer plant. They feel cohesive like a hive mind entity, with the essence of ‘acid’ purely represented through intense yet gradual modulation under a syncopated high hats that click, clack, and ride the ripples this absolute monster is spewing. 

I like the industrial drones, screeches and shouts that coast along the way in auditory peripherals, bearing resemblance to the voices of tormented creatures. Never do the synths sit still, so a track with few describable structural sections/essential elements is actually in constant change and continued evolution.

It really embodies the spirit of hardcore Acid Tekno, so it’s difficult to improve upon a seriously winning formula, conveyed through the convincingly correct technology. You become immersed in the void of this one and forget time… How long have we been in Lockdown? What I can ask for is to experience epics like this from the Hardwarist that continue to experiment and push the envelope. Make a modular synth system that resembles a Terminator tree? A psychedelic finish to a brilliant journey from the Construct Massive crew, a multi sided shape bound to appeal to many at different points; my thanks to the artists and organisers for the isolation entertainment! Ears are surely ripened for Vol.2…

Another Tekno performer that got his first Roland 303 at 15 and gained local fame that same year performing at illegal raves in his hometown, The HardWarist iconically carted his gear around in a converted trash container. From there this amiable, ever positive dude went on to develop his live show skills, extending his range of machines and synths to include vinyl play as well, while stretching his style from Hardtek/Tribecore to Tekno/Techno and everything in between. His SoundCloud illustrates the honing of his kick bass prowess and drum pattern experimentation of late, hidden in the rigid punch of Tek formula. There are plenty of photos that bear testimony to his super-robot focus when he’s lost in the music, yet simultaneously connected with his human audience. [Note also, the ever present roll-up in his mouth!]

Construct Massive Vol.1 Press Release

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Proven Move

Bailey Sparkes
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