VA: Nightstalker EP
Two solid drum'n'bass collections of markedly different character, the first a commemorative set designed to honour top-flight MC Stevie Hyper D (Stephen Austin), who died at the age of thirty on the 5th of July, 1998 from a blood clot, and the second a seven-track EP from Killscreen, the first release by the label featuring artists other than Thrash Pilot.
For those unfamiliar with Stevie Hyper D, a bit of history's in order. Born in London, England to a Spanish mother and Barbadian father, Austin saw his MCing career take off within the early-‘90s jungle scene when he acquired a residency at Brett and Sting's weekly Telepathy parties at the Wax Club and began MCing with Nicky Blackmarket at the Thunder and Joy parties at the Raw Club. Growing into something of an MC ambassador, Austin became increasingly versatile in his flow and was able to switch from styles such as hip-hop to ragga with ease. On the recording front, Austin partnered with DJ Lynx to form Dfrnt Lvls, whose album The Next Step was released on Island Records in 1999, and five years later Dance Concept Recordings released The Legend, with profits of the latter going to his mother Aida.
But long-time Dance Concept associate Benny V and Austin's nephew Darryl decided that another collection was needed to honour Stevie Hyper D's memory sufficiently and so set about curating Generation Hyper, a blistering collection boasting twenty-four tracks and 129 minutes of music. What makes it unique is that Austin's own lyrics are joined by new ones on a compilation featuring productions by the likes of Congo Natty, Ray Keith, Kenny Ken, Slipmatt, Nicky Blackmarket, Serial Killaz, Modified Motion, and Heist. With all profits from the release going towards a Stevie Hyper D foundation established by Austin's nephew, it's a project that's easy to get behind, especially when the tracks are banging.
Highlights are many, but certain moments stand out: “One of a Kind” roars like some embryonic demo version of “Brown Paper Bag,” a trippy flute motif helps “Bubblin Wild” lodge itself in memory, and Serial Killaz contributes a bleepy drum'n'bass-reggae remix of “Junglist Soldier” that's on fire. The collection includes no shortage of seething cranium-crushers (e.g., “New Generation”), and tracks like “No Surrender” and “Feelin' This” dish out a lethal jungle attack that hits as hard as anything from Special Request or Tessela.
Not surprisingly given the period involved, a bit of an old-school vibe infuses some of the material, but that's in no way objectionable—the proper word is classic, not dated. Though traces of grime and dubstep surface and a couple of cuts deviate from the overall tone (the collection comes to an uncharacteristic close with the electro-house of “Right About Now”), it's generally a high-energy collection of rampaging belters packed with light-speed jungle and drum'n'bass beats and powered by Austin's rapid-fire wordsmithing. In simplest terms, Generation Hyper provides a great way in for those new to Stevie Hyper D's work as well as a refresher for long-time supporters.
Featuring two tracks each by Jamac Guidance SS and Fractals and three by Thrash Pilot (one a DJ Sappo remix), Killscreen's forebodingly titled Nightstalker EP packs forty-two minutes of fresh new material into its digital release. It's the first time the label—managed, incidentally, by Thrash Pilot—has featured outside artists, and also new is the EP's overall sound, which is a tad more dancefloor-friendly this time around.
Manchester producer Jamac Guidance SS gets things started in the right way with “What's Next?,” a right punishing roller powered by a classic beat gallop and punchy bass drops. An angry voice is buried within the mix wailing about something or other, but you'll probably be too hypnotized by the beat thrust to care much about whatever's got the individual all worked up. Punchy too is the grinding head-chopper “High Crimes,” which lays out a buzz-sawing groove that's as mesmerizing as the opener. The advent of Fractals' “Midnight” finds the drum'n'bass storm raging on and if anything gaining in strength and fury, but it's the eight-minute head-spinner “Illusion” that proves the more catching thanks to the ear-catching vocal samples and funky bass undertow Fractals threads into its arrangement.
Thrash Pilot definitely holds up his end of the bargain with “Binary 101,” a cryptic, bass-heavy roller one could conceivably see filling a dancefloor (if a dark and dirty one), and “Defender II,” a stutter-funk stonker oozing a spaced-out ragga-jungle vibe. For the last word on this fine EP outing, Thrash Pilot gets a hand from Sappo whose remix of Killscreen's first release “Firewalker” recasts the original as a pummeling, take-no-prisoners barn-burner.