Med School – New Blood 016
Words by Mat Taylor
Med School, the sister label of the immensely successful Hospital Records, is a place for experimentation and unusual music. These compilations are always interesting and, at best, absolutely breathtaking. The last few have fallen in to the latter category, giving us some inspired music from the likes of Bop, Silent Dust, Anile, and many other artists who have gone on to make a name for themselves in drum and bass. ‘New Blood 016’ is the latest offering of leftfield, bass driven electronica that skates the thin line between DnB and IDM. If that’s just a weird combination of letters that means nothing to you, please accept my apologies – the naming of genres got way out of hand years ago. Witch House is a thing. Seriously. The whole album is worth listening to and indeed, buying, but in this review I’ve picked out a few of the tracks that really do it for me.
Firstly there’s ‘Roots’ by Sun. IDM style clicks and glitches make this one extremely reminiscent of Bop but with its own unusual style. The little burst of sunshine soaked chords make this a great one for lazy afternoons or late night listening. Like a lot of Med School stuff, this doesn’t really sound like drum and bass and is closer to experimental electronica, but it’s fantastic all the same. Fans of ambient or soundscape driven electronic music will definitely enjoy this. Receptor’s track ‘Magnetism’ sounds similar to some of Machinedrum’s work and is clean, crisp and melodic. The breaks that come in during the second drop suddenly transport us to drum and bass territory with a change that is abrupt but not jarring. The track continues to evolve with the addition of a Spanish sounding guitar line not long after. This is quite a complex track that somehow sounds simple – something that is incredibly hard to do well, yet Receptor has definitely managed it.
Polaris’ ‘Found You’ is a more typical, Hospital style track, complete with warm chords and a deep, lazy bassline. Fans of Keeno and Whiney will love this; it’s a smooth, velvety track with bags of melody and a clean, loud and extremely professional sounding production level. Polaris is definitely an artist to keep your eyes and ears open for if you like your DnB to sound musical and like the end of a poignant film about unrequited love, or rain. ‘Magic Flute’ by Neve is exceptional. This bizarre little banger will do some serious damage in the clubs; it’s full of punchy kicks and subs that are decorated with a chopped up flute melody, the likes of which I’ve never really heard before. Scattered percussion sounds give an energy boost and those flute stabs are just the audio cherry on the cake. This is often the beauty of these compilations, lesser known or up and coming artists deliver incredible, unusual tunes that take DJs, punters and unsuspecting writers by complete surprise.
As with previous Med School compilations, both the harder end of the DnB spectrum and the completely leftfield are well covered. For example, Nami’s ‘Through The Night’ is a tough but melodic little roller with a haunting vocal sample that echoes through the track. Like a lot of the other tracks on this release, this one develops as it goes on, adding extra layers to up the intensity. This is a great tune to build up towards harder cuts as it starts quite mellow but ramps up throughout. ‘Back To Jungle’ by Missing represents that slightly slower tempo and provides you a healthy amount of bongo-driven percussion. There are also classic jungle breaks and an impressive sub that make this track another stand out piece of production on this diverse collection of electronica flavoured drum and bass.
‘Far Away’ by Milkyway twists it differently too. This is a deep, slow track with satisfying, warm bass and stuttering hip-hop style beats that leave plenty of space for the subs to soak in. Hypnotic and ethereal, like the best Med School tracks we know and love, this one fits in with this collection snugger than a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. The final one to pick out is ‘Spells’ by Lynch Kingsley and Ilk, which is another absolutely outstanding track with a dub, jungle and soul combination that works like a charm (pun intended). It’s still minimal and precise but it has such huge bass and jungle friendly breaks that it could escalate a relatively restrained set to chaotic, amen madness in minutes – should you ever find yourself in a position to do such a thing, that is. In terms of listening, the variation of the second drop makes this one you’ll want to hear all the way through. Absolutely brilliant.
Overall, I can’t recommend this album enough, especially if you’re a fan of unusual drum and bass, electronica, IDM, or anything that flies under the banner of experimentation. There are some average moments but there are also some that will leave you speechless and wondering why you have never paid attention to these producers before. ‘Magic Flute’ and ‘Spells’ in particular, are two of my absolute favourite tracks of the year so far. Med School is a label that continues to intrigue and surprise while pushing some of the best producers you have yet to become familiar with. And as a result, it makes 016 the latest in a long (blood)line of New Blood compilations that are essential additions to our collections.
New Blood 016 is out now, and you can grab it from a variety of places by clicking here.