Addictive Behaviour Records – Rotation LP Part Two
Words by Matthew Scott
A short while ago, I reviewed a compilation LP from the ever-impressive Addictive Behaviour Recordings, entitled ‘Rotation Part One’. It was excellent. It did leave me wondering, though, when we might get the second part – or whether Addictive Behaviour would do the musical equivalent of the makers of that godawful Golden Compass film and decide not to press ahead with the next installment. I’ll never forgive the producers of that film for casting Lyra so poorly, or for completely erasing Roger’s death from the ending, or for not even calling it ‘Northern Lights’, for that matter. Happily, though, the wait is now over and Addictive Behaviour are back with the second half of the ‘Rotation’ LP, which features fourteen tunes from different artists. Some of these artists have released before on Addictive Behaviour and some haven’t. Among the newcomers are Kyrist, Modu, and Data 3, while the likes of TR Tactics, Fade, and Detail return. Now, if you’re familiar with my reviewing style you’ll know I like to waffle on about Charles Darwin, or vinyl culture, or different kinds of frozen veg for ages before hastily tagging a few sentences about the release in question onto the end to complete the review. Today though, I am refraining from explaining in exhaustive detail my anger towards the producers of the film Golden Compass. This is because these fourteen tunes deserve serious attention, and I’m therefore going to launch straight into discussing them without so much as a murderous glance at Dakota Blue Richards. Ready? Let’s go.
The LP kicks off with a tune by Philth, entitled ‘The Big Question’. Philth is an ambiguous producer, one moment turning out with twisted sci-fi warblers like ‘Cosmos’, the next coming up with anthems like ‘Your Love’ (to say nothing of his back catalogue). Which way would this one fall? I’m delighted to report it’s mostly the latter: in fact this is one of the best kind of, deep, dark liquid rollers I’ve heard in a while. It’s kind of like old Mutt, or old Spectrasoul, with floaty, mesmerising atmospherics, sunset synths and a brief but well executed vocal that peppers itself over the track. I can’t work out exactly what it says but given that it definitely begins with the words ‘how long’, I can only assume it’s the ‘Big Question’ of the title. What sets it apart from old Mutt or old Spectrasoul is the crispness and punchiness of the percussion, which effortlessly rolls without ever feeling too sharply mixed down or mechanical. It’s one of the best tunes on the release for me, and now I think about it if you’ve liked the softer stuff Ed:it has been making recently (particularly the Congi remixes that just went up on his Soundcloud), you’ll adore this. It’s great.
From this point, we get Addictive Behaviour’s now usual compendium of tunes that sit in that fuzzy space between ‘techy’ and ‘neuro’ drum and bass. Some are more towards one end of the spectrum than others though. The Clamps and TR Tactics team up for ‘Conscious’, which nods more explicitly towards the Noisias and Jades of this world with some crackling (and I mean like electricity, not pork..) sounds across the midrange and a no nonsense, thickly stomping two-step beat which shifts to a kind of half-time dummy drop after the second breakdown before revving up again. It’s a good tune, and that Viki from I, Robot style sample that speaks ominously in the breakdown and elsewhere is a nice addition. L 33 features with a tune called ‘Analogue’, which continues his now well established flamethrower rampage through the post-Virus landscape (if that makes sense). As with the last couple of tunes of his I’ve listened to, it’s a little bit too…epileptic? for me, but that is down to nothing more than my own personal taste. It’s precisely produced and, with its aggressive and vituperative stabs and shudders, will without question flamethrower whatever dancefloor it happens to be splayed across. Fans of Audio, Agressor Bunx, Jade’s Eatbrain label, and so forth will lap it up without a second thought. Meanwhile, relative newcomers Kyrist and Babarix impress with ‘Maikuro Funk’. Funk is the word all right: this one captures that swanking, almost arrogantly bobbing funk that the likes of Survival & Silent Witness have made their own in recent years. Those three stabs that repeat and distort throughout the entire tune (hopefully you’ll know what ones I’m referring to) give simple and inexplicable movement to the whole thing. Remember on Sonic and Knuckles, in the Mushroom Hill Zone, the sound that happened whenever Sonic or Knuckles bounced on one of the mushrooms? It’s like they’ve taken that sound, fed it into the software, and then set about mangling it. Extra blue cheese with mine please. The change of drums at the second drop is nice too. In essence, all these three tunes are fairly essential if you’re wanting to send a crowd that doesn’t like jump up wacky.
As I listened through the tracklist first time though, my eyes and ears were drawn like Scrat to an acorn to the word ‘Xanadu’. I couldn’t resist anymore – I’ve just got to hear this, and if that means skipping a couple of tracks I shall beg forgiveness and do it. Having not released a single tune beforehand, Xanadu tore onto the scene in early 2015 with his ‘Through The Oort Clouds’ LP, a body of work that made it necessary for me to have hypnosis to stop the chilling ‘When the fresh blood drips!’ vocal from waking me up in terror in the middle of the night. No, seriously, it is fucking brilliant and some 18 months on I still return to it regularly. Since its release, however, Xanadu hasn’t put anything else out, which made it all the more exciting when I was informed he was to remix Detail’s ‘Breakout’ for ‘Rotation Part Two’. I expected more savagery. What I got instead was, is this the word? yeah I think it is – beautiful. At least, the intro is. It could be the intro to an unwritten c1998 Bad Company stomper; its dreamlike pads and rolling drums have that sort ‘Planet Dust’ or ‘The Pulse’ feeling to them. You know, those intros that are like the Pied Piper – cheerfully and trustworthily leading you up the hill, promising you good things will happen if you follow, but actually you’re heading towards a demonic cave where Mr. Piper is going to repeatedly fuck you up hard. Such is the case here. The intro quickly gives way to the (subtly altered) stabs from the original ‘Breakout’, an ominous warning horn, and then it’s game over. It’s only after the drop, and I spent a little while trying to really work this out, that there are some additional qualities added to the snare – after a while it starts to cleave into your skull the same way Ed Rush and Optical’s ‘Alien Girl’ does. I don’t know, someone with more production knowledge will have to enlighten me, but whatever it is it contributes to the creepy and sinister crushing that follows. It’s fucking class. Honestly, get this remix in your lug holes. And Xanadu, give Dom or whoever else’s head a wobble to put more of your tunes out. I need them in my life.
I was also really happy to see productions by Modu, Nami, and Mystic State appear on the compilation, although for different reasons. There’s a tune of Modu’s I still play every so often called ‘Stealing A Broken Tear’, which I vaguely remember downloading for free yonks ago. How things have come on since then. His contribution to the LP, entitled ‘Ah Well’, shows a wicked musical maturity. The intro is another luller. It’s colourful and liquid textures make you expectant for a lovely liquid roller, but what emerges is a chunky little number that is surprising difficult to stay still to. There’s a lovely high hit – present in the intro – that strikes between every second and third beat giving a wonky but irrestistable contrast to the rest of the percussion. Very nice indeed. Nami, on the other hand, returns to the label with a solo offering after his collaboration with Eastcolors entitled ‘Times’. It’s a slice of rolling, uncompromising dark funk that doesn’t break much new ground but which is very accurately and adeptly put together. It’s good to see him with a solo tune, and here’s hoping more from both him and his pal Mailky emerge in the coming months. Finally, Mystic State’s ‘Eye Contact’ illustrates why the duo are becoming increasingly recognised in the underbelly of underground drum and bass. Addictive Behaviour’s last release, a single by Handra, featured a solid collaboration with Mystic State, and this offering continues that solidness. A simple but sharper than Oddjob’s hat beat, kinda reminiscent of Mako’s ‘Whatever Whatever’ but a little less hectic, acts as the framework around which a deceptively complicated group of sounds are arranged. The tune reflects the duo’s more minimal leanings, managing to do a lot without seeming to do much at all. One half of Mystic State, a young sprite named Will, actually writes for us, so I was hoping to belittle this tune to show him what happens when review deadlines are missed. Alas, I can’t, for it’s excellent. In my humble opinion, none of these three tunes are up with Xanadu’s, Philth’s, or L 33’s in terms of production standards, but they are extremely solid nonetheless, and are testament to Addictive Behaviour’s insistence on allowing new talent space to strut their stuff in the scene.
Now, what does that leave me with? Ah yes. Artifact’s ‘Materialist’ is a little bit silly, a little bit clownsteppy, but it’s great fun nonetheless, combining a juddering, bouncing kick-snare pattern with some dirty engine saw mid-range sounds and some tapping stabs that put me in mind of Crash Bandicoot for some odd reason. Bit daft, but no doubt when it comes to crunch time on the dancefloor faces will actually start to look a bit like Uka Uka. Nickbee’s ‘Ghetto Politics’ will come as little surprise if you’ve heard his recent output on Invisible and Citrus – hard hitting neurofunk with a nice (sampled?) vocal rhyming harshly over the top of the rasping mids and incisive percussion. Release, Tephra, and Arkoze’s ‘Forfeit’ steps along nicely as well, while Fade’s ‘Hold Tight’ lives up to its name by assaulting your ear drums with snares located high up in the mix and an ominous array of dystopian stabs and gnarls. If you happen to be talented enough to do so, double dropping this with something after its breakdown will have people pinballing up and down on the dancefloor as if they’re on a bouncy castle. Meanwhile, Detail’s ‘Miko’ is nothing short of brilliant, and probably deserves more unpacking than these couple of brief sentences will allow. He’s got this way of controlling his drums like a ventriloquist and his synths like a puppeteer, all whilst playing a harmonica with his mouth. Masterfully executed, and a must if you’ve enjoyed his previous output like ‘Time Stretching’. Last but not least, Data 3’s ‘Sleepwalking’ is very pleasantly evocative of the presumably now defunct Alignment Records; its got that sort of low, understated funk and simplicity to it. To be honest, the beat feels a little bit static to me; it could be harder hitting and punchier in a way that wouldn’t detract from the minimal steppingness I think Data 3 are trying to achieve. Nonetheless, it’ll do well in warm up sets and beyond, and given the quality of their other tunes like ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Molly’, the Data 3 trio are probably ones to keep in your peripheral vision at the very least over the coming months.
I’ve done it in a kind of roundabout way, but that is that. What of the whole package though, the compilation as a whole as opposed to the individual tracks? When chatting to one of Addictive Behaviour’s esteemed label managers, he told me that they weren’t sure if all the tracks fitted together, but eventually thought “fuck it, can’t be having too many similar styles on one compilation.” Giving a Cartesian eye-in-the-sky style overview of the LP, I actually think it hangs together rather well: it leans more towards the neuro-y end of the spectrum than ‘Part One’ of the ‘Rotation’ LP does but compliments that with the gorgeous subtlety of Philth, the minimality of Data 3 and Mystic State, the seizure inducing L 33, and the carefree funk of Modu. These tunes provide a contrast, but they don’t skew things unnecessarily far away from the mean. Having said that, the LP isn’t ‘all killer no filler’. That’s not to say there is filler (there genuinely isn’t), but that not all the tunes are killer. Or, to put it differently, after I’d listened through a couple of times I found myself gravitating towards the killers – the Xanadu remix, Detail and Philth’s tunes, ‘Maikuro Funk’, and a couple of others, replaying them or parts of them over and over again while neglecting some of the others. This is the inevitable consequence of a compilation LP; certain listeners will latch onto some tunes more than others, resulting in the others fading away a little bit. But they’ll do this to any compilation that isn’t ‘Platinum Breakz’, to be honest. So this doesn’t detract from the fact that, almost without exception, the whole LP is very well produced and represents a valuable and enjoyable addition to Addictive Behaviour’s back catalogue. Also to be applauded is the resolve to use these ‘Rotation’ LPs to help smooth the introduction of new talent like Nami and Mystic State.
By way of conclusion, the final question I pondered throughout was: do I like this LP better than ‘Part One’? No, probably not, is the honest answer. But I actually think that’s the wrong question. It’s like asking my dog Holly whether she would prefer her tennis ball or her chew toy. Her response, without fail, is to spend five exasperating yet hilarious minutes trying to pick up both tennis ball and chew toy at the same time with her mouth, finally achieving the task after much trial and error and then coming over to me expecting the level of praise I’d only actually give her if she’d cleaned up her own shit. You don’t have to choose, in other words, because across both ‘Part One’ and ‘Part Two’ of the ‘Rotation’ LP there’s a wicked selection of tracks that you can have as a whole or pick and choose from depending on how you’re feeling. If you’re a DJ who looks towards Dispatch, Blackout, Eatbrain, Virus, Vision, Metalheadz, or any labels like that for your ammunition, then you need these two LPs, and most of Addictive Behaviour’s back catalogue for that matter, in your collection. If you’re more comfortable with Samurai, or with Fokuz, or Ram, or whatever, you’ll also find more than a couple of things you will like. And finally, if you’re simply a drum and bass fan who enjoys the music both at home and in the club, you’ll probably like the majority of it too.
Put differently, and to bow out on an absolutely atrocious pun, whatever your motives or inclination you’ll no doubt have at least some of these tracks on ‘Rotation’ in the coming months. And rightly so. Because unlike fucking Golden Compass, these two LPs are wicked. And they beg the question. Will we get a third to complete the trilogy? Only time will tell, I guess.
Rotation Part Two is out on the 30th of September on Addictive Behaviour, and you’ll be able to pick it up then from all the usual outlets. They’re also having a party in London to celebrate its release, and you can get tickets by clicking here.