Returning to more familiar drum & bass territory and with an older demographic in mind, the third part of the extended ‘Liner Notes on 2022’ series features a selection of previously unreleased material, re-issues of classics, as well as brand-new music that directly relates to that kind of 90s aesthetic, bridging the gap between generations. A gap that emerged when physical music products were gradually moved to or even replaced by streaming services and the sacred act of perusing older relatives’ collections, reading liner notes or flipping through magazines suddenly became relics of the past. However, what until this point has seemed to be inter-generational irritations and antagonisms, has now evolved into warm appreciation of individuality and idiosyncrasy, on both sides – and brilliant music, too.
I’d argue that “old-school” artists (I don’t particularly like the term, but for lack of a better one I will leave it) have been neglected in the streaming era, mostly because they don’t have a significant social media presence and there haven’t been easily accessible avenues to learn about them. Slowly but surely, this seems to have changed.
Also, this part signifies a deviation from the traditional format; instead of focusing on particular releases, the spotlight is now on certain labels, whose output this year called for a more exclusive narrative. Needless to say that this list is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive, as there is a myriad of record labels carrying the torch and many of them will feature in a future post. The next part (IV) of the series will follow the same pattern for non-d&b material, before reverting to the standard template for the conclusion (V), which will cover again more drum & bass records from 2022 I have found worthy of your attention.
Following the collaborative album series between ASC and Inhmost (Aural Imbalance) released by Auxiliary last year, exploring the deepest reaches of space in the realm of cosmic ambient, James Clements hinted about extending the scope of the partnership. Sharing a common musical sensibility, ASC and Aural Imbalance have revisited their roots in an effort to recapture the spirit and essence of the halcyon days of the 90s and that revered atmospheric drum & bass sound.
The vessel for this endeavor is Spatial, one of the most compelling new d&b label entries in recent years. As the label name implies, it’s all about the perception and visualization of the blueprint elements within the drum & bass musical space. Keeping the BPM sensible, with long intros, string sections and emotional breakdowns, Clements and Huxtable stretch towards an art form with an elevated degree of musicality, rather than produce formulaic dj tools to facilitate the transition from one track to another; beautiful music inviting the listener to a long idyllic journey, beyond the walls of a mundane reality.
To the time of writing Spatial has released 6 EPs. The first bundle (SPTL001-003) was released in April, the second (SPTL004-006) in October and the third one (SPTL007-009) is due on February, 2023. For the time being, Spatial presents only productions by ASC and Aural Imbalance (their first ever collaborative recording will be ‘SPTL007 – Interstellar Transmissions’).
Favourite Track: Aural Imbalance – Cassiopeia’s Dream (Utopian Society Vol. 2, SPTL005)
For extensive reviews, radio shows and everything Spatial visit the label’s website here.
In late 2020, a teaser about a new project was posted almost simultaneously by several former Moving Shadow artists on social media, creating fervent anticipation and media frenzy. Already two years later, Over/Shadow, created by Si and Sean of 2 Bad Mice, has lived up to (if not exceeded) all expectations, becoming one of the most in-demand drum & bass labels at the moment and a vibrant community of artists and fans. Tracing the links from the halcyon days of the 90s to contemporary drum & bass, Over/Shadow echoes the ethos and vision of their former venture Partisan Recordings: distinguished production with high quality standards, roster variety, where no major artist exercises taste control, operating in an ethical manner. Read the labels’ manifesto here.
This year has been fairly prolific for Over/Shadow. Featuring a unique blend of seasoned veterans, as well as an array of exciting new producers, covering a broad range of styles, Over/Shadow has published 10 singles/EPs in 2022. Nookie, Detboi, Harmony, Loxy & Resound, Etch, Paradox and Foul Play have made their first appearances for the label, whereas ASC, DJ Trax and Dom & Roland have returned with their 2nd Over/Shadow offerings. You might have noticed that catalog numbers ‘OSH/13’ & ‘OSH/14′ are missing. Number 13 will be skipped (unlucky for Si, pun intended) and number 14 has been reserved for 2 Bad Mice; release date still to be confirmed.
Over/Shadow’s repertoire caters for almost any taste and preference, but inevitably my vote goes to one of the blog’s favourites. John Morrow wears again his Foul Play hat to lovingly recreate an idea from the 90s, which had remained unfinished due to Steve Bradshaw’s (John’s friend, musical partner and founding member of Foul Play) untimely passing. Re-interpretations by Law and Holsten highlight the continuity from the golden past to a bright present and a re-assuring future.
Favourite Track: Foul Play – Find The Way (Original Mix) (OSH/019)
Next in the OSH series: an all star collaboration between two masters of the craft. Fans of each other, DJ Crystl has got back in the studio for the first time in 20 years after an invite from Dom. The result is as explosive as you’d imagine. More details here.
Without a doubt, this has been the busiest and most celebrated year for the label, since they re-launched in 2017 and that DAT treasure trove seems endless. In 2022, Deep Jungle released 2 artist albums by Harmony and Orca (both reviewed in Part I of the series), 17 singles/EPs as well as a joint release with Tim Reaper’s Future Retro imprint.
The graceful and transparent way Deep Jungle operates has secured them deals with several of the most elusive artists. This year, certified legends DJ Crystl, DJ Trace and Orca have been added to the label’s eclectic roster with selected re-issues from the Dee Jay/Lucky Spin back catalogue, including a personal all-time favourite (DJ Crystl (MI5) – Experience), which I have already covered in the blog’s ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series. Featuring also new music by label regulars Pascal, Subjects, Ruffkut, Harmony, Dwarde & Tim Reaper, the label’s output this year abounds with options. After a bit of contemplation, I selected ‘Luna’; a track named after Lee Harmony’s dog, pictured on the record label.
“I found a recording I had done, where Luna barked in the background. She kind of messed up the recording, but there was a moment in it where someone said ‘Luna’, so I thought I might as well write a tune around that bit and dedicate it to her” – Harmony
Favourite Track: Harmony – Luna (DAT058)
It’s been ten years since one of the most-popular London drum & bass club nights, Rupture turned also into a record label. Cultivating an inclusive and meticulous approach to the genre, Rupture LDN has garnered praise and unconditional support from fans and peers alike and stands at the forefront of experimental, cutting edge drum & bass.
The year started with Quartz’s long-awaited Rupture debut with the ‘Hydra EP’. Across 4 tracks, Garvey showcases his accomplished synthesis and engineering skills using the mythical creature as a metaphor for the multiple angles and perspectives the genre has splintered off; bold and futuristic.
Three years after ‘Stolen Keys’ (RUPLDN016) for Rupture, Mancunian brothers Response & Pliskin return to the label with their postmodern, uncompromising take on the drum & bass blueprint, dismissing the grand narrative as naïve realism. ‘Metal Coffin’ in a 12-min long epic journey featuring pensive spoken word samples (from the films ‘Ghost Dog’ and ‘Point Break’). ‘Rave Victim’ pays homage to the Manchester rave scene. As always the devil is in the details of the run-out groove etchings: ‘Manchester Is Not The City It Once Was’. The beautiful artwork is designed by Amsterdam-based multi-faceted artist Yorobi.
2022 also marked the comeback of the ‘Planets’ series; an appreciation of the ‘Rupture Jungle Universe’. Pressed on marbled vinyl and released in pairs, the 5th and 6th installments (‘Jupiter’ and ‘Saturn’) move further away from the sun towards the gas giants of our solar system, both with a rather violent history of getting hit by various celestial visitors. Featuring a blend of Rupture ménage names (Seba, Theory, Djinn, Response & Pliskin) and new-comers to the fold (Sub, Voytek, Type), the latest edition of the series will instantly teleport you to the intimate and intense atmosphere of the Corsica Studios dancefloor.
Favourite Track: Response & Pliskin – Rave Victim (RUPLDN022)
Another great year for J Majik’s Infrared Records, with brand new music, as well as re-issues of highly sought after records from the early 90s – fans of Lemon D and Ruffkut rejoice! The year kicked off with J Majik’s ‘Burning Light EP’, which introduces an elusive second part of his Metalheadz classic ‘Jim Kutta’. Ruffkut returned to the label with the re-issues of the first two volumes of the ‘Heavyweight’ series, originally released on his eponymous label as 10” presses in 1994. ‘Vol. 2A’ has been perhaps the most popular, appearing in some of the finest LTJ Bukem mixes like ‘Dreamscape 11’ (July, 1st 1994). Although un-credited, the general consensus seems to be that the original ‘Heavyweight’ records have been engineered by Dillinja.
Mentored by the genre’s finest, Spratling made his first foray into production at the tender age of 15 with the breakbeat hardcore classic ‘The Choice’ (Six Million Ways to Die) on Lemon D’s short-lived label Planet Earth under the alias Dexxtrous (a moniker he dropped shortly after and emerged as J Majik). 30 years later, J Majik went full circle by completing the re-issue of the Lemon D trilogy on Planet Earth. After last year’s ‘Pursuit Of A Vision E.P (DJ On Wax Volume II)’, Lemon D’s first ever release ‘DJ On Wax 4 Track EP’ has been repressed, along with the ‘Toxic Rhythms EP’. Lemon D returned the favour remixing ‘Hold You’ for the 2nd part of the ‘Full Circle remix series’ (INFRALTD021).
‘J Majik – So Bliss EP’ (INFRALTD023), which features the much sought after untitled track played by LTJ Bukem on his Kiss FM show in 1998, had been delayed twice due to a damaged stamper, whilst pressing the black vinyl edition. Eventually the EP became available in 2023 in an exclusive turquoise-colored edition limited only to 50 copies.
Favourite Track: Under The Ice (Burning Light EP, INFRALTD018)
Reinforced’s ethos and vision reaches well beyond the musical sphere; a community with strong allusions to their cultural roots and a creative hub with social sensitivities, with a fiercely dedicated fan base. Last year Reinforced re-issued two paradigm-shifting albums: ‘Parallel Universe’ and ‘Jacob’s Optical Stairway’, the latter originally published by R&S. This year, the return of the ‘Enforcers’, marks the 30th anniversary of the label’s most collectable picture disc series. The 21st and 22nd installment (after ‘Enforcers 8’ in 1995, the subsequent editions have been released in pairs) highlight a fascinating selection of producers: Loxy & Resound, Gremlinz & Rumbleton, Optimystic and Beyonders (the new project by Jason Goodings of Hidden Agenda, which has quickly evolved into a multi-genre collective).
Besides ‘Enforcers 21 & 22’, Reinforced released the 17th edition of the highly sought after ‘Tom & Jerry’ series (RIVET218/SHELL017), the 3rd ‘Unknown Soldier EP’ (on their Haters, Inc. offshoot), as well as the ‘Excellence EP’ by Reinforced alumnus Roger Butler (Underground Software) with 4 tracks from the lost tapes selection, all previously unreleased.
Favourite Track: Beyonders – Release (Enforcers 22, RIVET217)
Stereocilia Recordings is the boutique vinyl-only label of Lewis Joyce, partner at one of my favourite London record shops Planet Wax, owner at ‘1-800-Dubplate’ lathe cutting house and better known by his recording guise Sicknote.
Stereocilia started in 2018, with ultra-limited 10’’ lathe cuts exclusive to the ‘Clashmouth’ record fair. With hand-finished artwork and stickers or badges included, every release is a collectible, laced with nuanced references to the genre’s golden era; an approach that seems to be becoming more popular within drum and bass. The watercolor painted inserts (collector’s editions) of the first releases are created by Lewis’ dad M.E. Joyce. In 2021 Stereocilia changed the catalog numbering with the suffix LTD, thus emphasizing on the exclusive and limited edition nature of the project.
This year’s release schedule underscores 4 solo Sicknote productions and a joint-release with friend and frequent recording partner Justice (STEREOCILIAMJAZZ001). Emulating effortlessly the cybernetic fantasies of 90s techstep and the somber and mysterious undertones of jazz noir, ‘STEREOCILIALTD004’ is one of my 2022 highlights. The plain green mint cover with the wax-stamped effect logo is always a nice minimal touch.
Favourite Track: Tones of Soul (STEREOCILIALTD004)
Okbron’s mission to unearth unreleased material, mainly pertaining to the atmospheric drum & bass canon and considered buried in the sands of time, is a subtle reminder that despite the war outcries, art – and music in particular – transcend politics and other tragedies.
In 2022, Okbron published 9 records by several household names including Aural Imbalance, Axis, Sonar’s Ghost, Bungle, Big Bud, DJ Trax and Nothing. The elusive OKBR025, was meant to be by Scarlet Lake, but was pulled back due to copyright issues. OKBR030 by Future Engineers didn’t make the plant or distributor’s 2022 cut-off date and was released in January, 2023.
‘Madison Heights’ (b/w ‘AKA Jazz’) by Big Bud was originally released on Aquasky’s Passenger Records ca 1997, but never made it past the TP stage with only a handful of white labels being pressed, as their distributor became insolvent. In 2018, Brent Aquasky mentioned that he might try and do a repress on his (relatively) new imprint Vinyl Fanatiks, however ‘Madison Heights’ ended up on Okbron with a downtempo remix on the flipside. The sax licks are performed by Les Lyons.
Favourite Track: Big Bud – Madison Heights (OKBR031)
Formed by Chippie and DJ Flash in 2021 after a daring raid into Blame’s cache of unreleased DATs, in less than two years, Violet Nights Recordings have taken a part of the scene by storm, with a vigorous social media presence and an expanding roster that combines certified masters of the atmospheric sound with a newer breed of artists. VNR released 11 singles this year and clearly have no intention to slow down.
The catalogue number prefix ‘VNRXXX’ denotes the main series with productions by Blame, Chippie and DJ Flash whereas the prefix ‘VNRASXXX’ denotes the guest artist series (Lucida, Future Engineers, Solaris, Kyro, Okee, Missen and MsDos). The distinctive artwork is designed by the legendary graphic designer/illustrator Nick Purser.
Maestros of the ‘atmo-tech-space-funk’ sound Future Engineers debut on VNR with 2 previously unreleased tracks, which I’d guess were written around the time of the ‘Technetium EP’ (if not from the same sessions), their penultimate record on Good Looking. This, in turn, has reminded me of a private story I’d like to share. LTJ Bukem was playing Athens on December 26th, 2001. After his set, I gathered all the courage and audacity of a star-struck youth and asked him if I could buy a record, any record, from his box. Always the gent, he magnanimously opened the box and told me to randomly pick one as a gift. It turned out to be a stickered white label of the ‘Technetium EP’ (sides A/B: ‘Spyglass’ b/w ‘Source Code’).
Favourite Track: Future Engineers – Stasis (VNRAS007)
You can preview some of the forthcoming VNR material here.
Suburban Architecture is a record label and production outfit from London-based DJ/Producers Chris Read and James Curry. A number of high profile residencies including a 2 year spell as mix DJ on BBC 1Xtra launched a DJ career that has seen Chris Read produce mix-tapes for a variety of well known labels, brands and outlets including ‘Adidas Originals’, ‘Mr Bongo’ and ‘WhoSampled’.
The Suburban Architecture project pays homage to the drum & bass pioneers and the UK suburbia in which the genre flourished. ‘Explorations EP’ is the 4th part of the series (after ‘Visions EP’ in 2019, ‘Alternative Futures EP’ in 2020 and ‘Solar Winds EP’ in 2021). All the mandatory elements of the atmospheric drum & bass template are in attendance: the mesmerizing female vocals, the euphoric Rhodes piano riffs, the desolate sax and guitar licks, the subtle pads, the lively jazz drums. But when you think you’ve heard it all before, the twist is just around the corner. The emotions might change shape and intensity, we are no longer those young kids without a care in the world, but Suburban Architecture’s take on 90s nostalgia is a gentle reminder that this has always been a sound that should not only be contemplated but experienced as well.
Suburban Architecture also released a digital compilation with the label’s back catalogue titled ‘Dancefloor Heritage’ along with a bonus companion digital only EP of previously unreleased tracks, the latter released a week after. Furthermore, this year they introduced the ‘Architecture Dub’ series with remixes from Peshay (who remixed ‘Final Call’ from the ‘Alternative Futures EP’) and DJ Trax (who remixed ‘Cubic Nature’ from the ‘Visions EP’)
Favourite Track: Distant Response (Explorations EP, SUBARC004)
Also in the series:
Liner Notes on 2022 – Part I (Borrowed Nostalgia)
Liner Notes on 2022 – Part II (Impressions of Absence)
5 thoughts on “Liner Notes on 2022 – Part III (Extrapolations)”
As a DJ and fan of the deeper side of jungle for over 30yrs I really enjoy your blog posts, love the depth and style of your articles. Respect.
Thank you so much Dan for your kind words.
2022 has been a great year musically. Too many fantastic d&b releases, especially on the deeper, atmospheric side, which apparently we share an affinity for. More will be covered in part 5!
Totally agree, it’s great to see so much good new music still appearing from the foundations that kicked it all off back in the early 90s.
Look forward to part 5 and your other articles on wider genres like ambient, electronica and artists like Wardown and Blu Mar Ten etc.
PS – reading this post, think you might enjoy some of my mixes, mostly deep jungle but some excursions into label themes and an eclectic downtempo one https://soundcloud.com/danielnorman
Thank you Dan, checking them as I type. MDZ @ the Leisure Lounge playing atm 🙂
Nice one, enjoy! 🙂