Mampi Swift: Soldiers / Back To '92
Thrashpilot: Firewalker / Calisthenics
VA: The Return
Founded in 2006, the German drum'n'bass imprint Bios returns from a hiatus with—surprise!—The Return, a thirteen-cut collection curated by label boss Amaning that's designed for those with a taste for drum'n'bass of a more fiery vintage. There's certainly more than enough lightspeed beats, dubsteppy snarl, and wobbly low-end to keep the genre fan satisfied, and high-rollers like Savage Rehab & Physics' “Nomad,” Locksmith's “Love,” Stereo:Type's “Blue Velvet,” and Random Movement's “All Wrong” are all polished ambassadors for the form.
“Sirocco” is an apt name for Raw q & Amaning's muscular opener, given the way its myriad elements, among them exotic flute and percussion touches, roar with as much force as the Mediterranean wind referenced by the title. As intimated by its title, Submatic, Dan-e & S.Finesse's “Bangra Nights” similarly works an Indian flavour into its material, specifically in the inclusion of a softly ululating voice. Some tracks naturally stand out for one reason or another. Bright piano playing (and electric guitar textures, too) help make Najeem S's “Moonlight Piano” memorable, and the genre's soulful side gets a strong showing on Simplification, Sunny Crimea & Scott Allen's “Heaven Sent” when a soul vocalist emotes powerfully (“Heaven must have sent you…”) alongside a steamy, jazz-inflected attack.
There's ample ground covered in the seventy-nine-minute release, especially when it mixes newcomers with veterans, and drum'n'bass fans won't be disappointed by the collection's tone and quality (the lone misfire is Bassface Sascha's overly populist and over-the-top “All Because of Me”), though listeners of a more adventurous disposition might wish the material had ventured into experimental territory a little more often.
Of course there's no shortage of drum'n'bass singles flooding the market, with new ones by Mampi Swift and Thrashpilot typical of the lot. Swift, who's been part of the drum'n'bass scene since the early ‘90s, inaugurates his new label Mampi Swift Recordings with a two-tracker that offers a foretaste of his upcoming History album, while Thrashpilot does much the same by presenting a new single on a new label ominously dubbed Killscreen.
Swift definitely brings the heat to his latest material. As per its title, “Soldiers” begins with the explosive sounds of battle before Swift unleashes a piledriving groove and an equally decimating melodic attack. Add in some wailing choral voices and you've got something that ain't subtle but is nevertheless powerful. Epic's the tone Swift is aiming for, and by and large he achieves it in the cut's furious six-minute run. If “Soldiers” is defined by heaviness, “Back to ‘92” is defined by its frenzied pace. Powered by an incessantly repeating theme, cartwheeling melodies, and an amped-up BPM, the tune moves so fast it's dizzying.
Compared to Swift, Thrashpilot plays a less frenetic hand in his single, with the A-side “Firewalker” an artful collage of heady wobble that riffs on dubstep and funk as well as drum'n'bass. Alternating between rhythm-heavy episodes and foreboding ambient scenes, Thrashpilot packs a lot of activity into the tune's five-minute slam. “Calisthenics” is the harder-hitting of the two, though it alternates between passages in a manner similar to “Firewalker.” Thrashpilot's got a jones for micro-detailed, Aphex-styled sound design, and it gives his tracks a character that helps extend their purview beyond the material's core genre.