Brakken – Defiance LP
Words by Mat Taylor
Brakken is the alias of Tech Itch and an as yet unnamed producer. The press release that accompanies the aptly titled “Defiance” LP is brutally scathing of the current state of the industry, most notably the middlemen, agents and bandwagon jumpers who have appeared since drum and bass emerged from its underground hiding place, blinking in the savage glare of the commercial spotlight. Whether you agree with what’s in that ferociously honest message or not, this album can’t be ignored. After giving us a little taste of what was to come a few months back, this shadowy production partnership return to finish what they started.
Over the past few years Technical Itch has been pushing brand new and lesser known talent on his label and the results have been spectacular. Voyage released a planet crushing album and the likes of Centaspike and DJ E have been making the kind of music that forces people to take notice. Now the bossman is back at the controls, alongside a mystery production partner who’s identity has the chattering classes of the drum and bass fraternity utterly perplexed. Could it be Optical? Maybe one of the old Bristol lot like Decoder or Ice Minus? What if Dillinja decided he really fancied making a bit of dark stuff again? I could go on… indefinitely. I won’t, though.
Fans of Tech Itch will be beaming within seconds of the opening track, Taste the Cloud. It’s metallic, percussive synth pattern has the master of darkness written all over it. The arrangement and production have a distinctively warm, oldschool sound that will please a lot of people while probably confusing more than a few. This is drum and bass pre eight second intros and 3 minute tunes. When you could, to paraphrase a friend of mine, “smoke a tab, drink some of your pint and have a chat with your mate for a bit” before the drop had even happened. Some of the tracks here are heading in to epic territory at over nine minutes long and the best thing is, every second is used to develop, change or somehow augment the music. Although they haven’t taken it to the extreme, exprimental levels that some breaks and jungle producers do, the drum work here is beyond exceptional. The whole album has a rich, raw, organic sound that acts as a sharp contrast to the savage machine music beneath the mixdown.
There’s no way that casual drum and bass fans will come anywhere near this record, but judging by the press release, that’s kind of the point. This has been made by people who take this music so seriously, it’s become part of their life, rather than a lifestyle accessory to match their haircut. I don’t even need to tell the people who will buy this album that they should do so, they’ll already have been repeatedly listening to clips and waiting eagerly for the vinyl to get pressed and shipped. This hard, progressive and totally unique sound is so quintessentially “Tech Itch” that it’s impossible to ignore his influence, but there’s also someone else at work here. There’s a reflective, subtle quality to some of the longer tracks that takes them way beyond the realms of formulaic hard dnb with it’s angular banging noises interspersed with some casual swearing and gunshots. This is on a different level.
Just like the last two full length releases on this label, Defiance is an absolute triumph of production that goes directly against every current trend in drum and bass. The whole LP is exceptional but the haunting, dark roller “Blue River”, with it’s long, rising intro and hypnotic, rolling bass has been my earworm since I heard it. I must also give a special mention to Grey Summer, which is the kind of track that makes lovers of rib splintering snare drums have involuntary limb movements. My final pick is Sharper Scratch, which takes us back to the Prototype days of Grey Oddessy by Optical. As the press release says, if you know 90s drum and bass, you will know this producer. My guess is Dom and Roland… Or maybe Ed Rush. Or Trace. Or Nico. Or John B revisiting his Secrets days. What if DJ Hazard just fancied a bit of a change? Your guess is as good as mine, to be honest, but whoever made Defiance, it’s an album that deserves pride of place among your collection.
Defiance is released on Friday 3rd of November 2017 on digital formats and is available to pre order here.
There will also be a limited run of vinyl. Just 300 are being pressed, so be quick if you want one!