VA: Basswerk Sessions Vol. 3

German imprint Basswerk separates its new triple-CD drum'n'bass compilation into three parts: disc one's session is characterized as a mellow “chill” set, the heavier disc two is “groove,” and three emphasizes futuristic neurofunk under the name “technik.” Much like other genres, such differences will be more audible to aficionados than to outsiders; certainly many of the “chill” cuts, for example, hit hard enough that they could just as easily be moved to the middle disc (Amaning & Stunna's stampeding “Falling” a case in point). That the contrasts between mellow and hard-edged are relatively subtle is partially attributable to the genre itself, given how fundamentally wedded drum'n'bass is to a prototypical beat style and breakneck BPM.

Having said that, it's impossible to miss the dreamy and soulful vibe permeating disc one tracks by Sol Id both solo (“Long Way From Home”) and in partnership with Cybass (“Soul Reaction”) and by Enea (“Star” featuring a memorable vocal turn by Mika) while Danoo (“Different Touch”) opts for moodier fare more in keeping with the genre's dramatic and dark vibe. The Green Man's “Hong Kong Nights” is an early disc one standout, with Japanese voice samples and exotic melodic touches imbuing the track's catapulting rhythms with distinctive Far Eastern flavour. Living up to the middle disc's “groove” title, Gabb's “Soft Maker” burns with quintessential drum'n'bass fury, as do Subz & Matik's “Lighthouse Blues,” Q-Bik's “Nag Champa,” and Young Ax's “Sometime.” Not surprisingly, the “technik” disc three rages even more ferociously, with Dementia & Nme Click's snarling “Always On My Mind” setting the bar high at the outset. Tracks such as The Green Man's “Leave Me Alone,” Cytech's “Fear,” and N.Phect & Dizplay's “White Russian” seethe with venomous bite while Giana Brotherz' “Wüstensturm” pushes the style to its seeming zenith.

Some contributors seem intent on extending the genre's boundaries, including Big Bud, who gives the form a refreshing twist with his dancehall-inflected “Give A Little (Edit),” and Taxidriver, whose “Listen Up” opts for scenic languour. Camo & Krooked give “Play It” a jazzier feel by incorporating tinkling piano flourishes and Casablanca dialogue samples into its otherwise heavy mix. On disc two, Spanish acoustic guitar shadings help distinguish Ste. Luce's “Let Go,” as does Miriam Crespo's soulful vocal. Even so, in the minds of many electronic-minded listeners, drum'n'bass is a played-out genre, a relic of a bygone era, but if that's so it's clearly news to Basswerks head Heiner Kruse (aka The Green Man) and the other practitioners responsible for the collection's forty tracks (all exclusive to the release). Following upon the inaugural volume in 1998 and the two-disc sequel in 2003, volume three is obviously the label's most comprehensive overview to date. But do we really need four hours of it? Of course not: one eighty-minute disc would be more than enough for the average listener but for your resident drum'n'bass fanatic the endless parade of elastic bass lines, charging beats, and high-gloss, trippy atmospherics will feel like something close to nirvana.

December 2008