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DBR UK: Rough Edges
Dispatch LTD

In a lot of ways, DBR UK's Rough Edges conforms to the album format of many drum'n'bass full-lengths that have landed on textura's desk in recent months: with respect to the number of tracks included, the release is generously stuffed; the set-list ranges between soulful cuts and full-on bangers; and vocal guests, collaborators, and MCs take part, too. In the final analysis, there's nothing terribly objectionable about hewing to an established format so long as the quality's good enough that it trumps any and all such considerations.

Certainly there's much to recommend about the UK trio's debut album, starting with the fact that there are sixteen originals on offer. The group's skills as sound designers also comes regularly to the fore, often subtly so as in the case of the opening “Hexton.” With Skeptical on board, DBR UK adorns a simple drum'n'bass beat pattern with artful touches—a bass swell and synth wash here, gruff vocal accent and hi-hat flourish there—that turn a rather straight-up production into something considerably more engrossing. In such instances, DBR UK distinguishes itself as an outfit with significant skills, and a similar attention to detail and sound design is evident elsewhere, too.

Sounding at times like a trippy soundtrack excerpt for some future sci-fi detective project, the insistent roller “Man Hunt” extends Rough Edges ' sound into jungle territory, while the belter “Dark Alley,” snake-rattler “Memory Lane,” and stepper “Demolition” undertake their own investigations into beat science a few tracks later. Things take deliciously soulful turns when Amanda Seal wraps her sultry voice around “Time Will Tell” and “Salvation”; MC Fokus, by comparison, ruffs up “Blood Water” with biting verses (“Tryin' to merk me on any given night / That's like saying you're a better cook than Walter White”) that jibe well with the trio's kinetic throb'n'grind. Anyone with an appetite for hard-hitters will see it well-sated by stormers like “Dark Alley,” “Fortress 2015,” and “Open” (the latter featuring Structured)

If there's a downside to Rough Edges, it's that, similar to recent albums by Artificial Intelligence and Zero T, the material doesn't advance the drum'n'bass genre in innovative manner, DBR UK apparently content to pursue variations on existing themes (“Walking Dead,” for example, echoes beat riffs Photek did decades ago). It's also, however, a weakness that's easy to overlook when the quality of the material is as dynamic as it is on the trio's first long-player.

January 2016