The OHOD 2016 Awards
Words by Matthew Scott
It’s that time of year again, where we pick our favourite things from the world of DnB in 2016. Read on to see what we liked.
Most Wickedest Producer – dBridge
Straight in with possibly the most esteemed award of them all: OHOD’s most wickedest producer prize. Last year it was Paradox, this year it goes to Exit Records curator and all round star dBridge. It has seemed in the last couple of years that Darren White’s output has been a bit restrained: possibly because of his role in nurturing music from the likes of Chimpo and Fixate, and of course keeping Exit ticking over. But he’s found the time this year not only to issue three ‘VS’ white labels with friends and collaborators, but also to produce three remarkable solo releases in his own right. His single on Loxy’s Cylon Recordings was great, but it’s his experimental EPs on Exit and Pleasure District that demonstrate just how much he is ahead of everyone else. Plus, this is without even mentioning his genius idea to allow people to curate their own CD from Exit’s back catalogue. Always at the forefront, and will be for some time to come. Thanks for being brilliant dBridge.
Breakthrough producer – Pessimist
Breakthrough is here defined as a producer who has been around for a while, but who in the past twelve months has taken things to a completely new level. Step forward Pessimist. I first got wind of him through his early releases on Ingredients, and his collaborations on Ingredients and Alignment as Ruffhouse a couple of years ago. However, his admittedly few releases this year have been staggering. They have pushed the gravity well of minimal drum and bass (if you can still call it drum and bass) to an even heavier singularity. His remix of Sciahri’s ‘Atonement’ is skincrawlingly brilliant, his ‘Paian’ EP on UVB-76 like a gamma ray emission from a distant supernova, and his 12” on Blackest Ever Black’s sublabel A14 – especially ‘Balaklava’ – is so good it makes me shake my head in disbelief. More in 2017 please!
Best newcomers – Satl, Malaky, and Silence Groove
I’ve decided that these three sterling producers should share this prize this year: partly because they’ve all collaborated together, but also because they have all pushed themselves towards producing soulful DnB of the beauty not seen for a long time over the past year. The trio have all been around a while – Malaky and Silence Groove have both been releasing on Fokuz since 2013 – but I’ve found myself in absolute awe of their individual and collective productions this year: of which there have been many. Their tune ‘Skyfall’ is among the best, as are Silence Groove’s ‘Spin With Me’ EP and Malaky and Satl’s ‘Moments’ EP on Celsius. On the whole, I’m really excited and looking forward to what these three talented chaps will come out with over the next year.
Best Tune – Concealed Identity – Levanter
Bet you’d all forgotten about this? No shame in that, to be honest, as it was released so long ago it feels like it surely can’t have come out this year. But January 2016 was when Blocks and Escher welcomed this relatively new face to their impeccable Narratives stable. As a friend of mine remarked when I showed him this release, it’s a bold move seemingly naming yourself after one of Source Direct’s best tunes, but in this case it’s so fitting. ‘Levanter’ is a tune with all the haunting, wistful beauty and inhibited, measured rage that made Source Direct’s music so good. An absolutely stunning tune on an absolutely stunning 12” from an absolutely stunning producer on an absolutely stunning label. Bravo.
Best Album – Frederic Robinson – Flea Waltz
This caused me a lot of problems. There are SCAR and Dom and Roland’s incredible LPs on Metalheadz, DLR’s ‘Dreamland’, and judging by the clips Blu Mar Ten’s ‘Empire State’ will unquestionably be up there too. But I’ve simply gone for the album that makes me sit in my chair at home smiling lazily for the best part of an hour. Frederic Robinson’s music, like most of the stuff Med School release, is defined by a kind of controlled eclecticism; a playful enrolling of sparse yet sharp percussion and elemental, sometimes retro sounds and textures. I’ve not played it as much as I have other albums, but whenever I do I genuinely can’t help but cracking into a subconscious smile and feeling enchanted by how gorgeous it is. And that is what music is all about, really. Props to FR, and props once again to Med School, who remain the unearthers of rare and precious gemstones of sound.
Best Remix – Rufige Kru – Dark Rider (SCAR remix)
Speaking of SCAR, Survival and Script take the award for best remix this year with this unrelentingly powerful remix of Goldie’s classic ‘Dark Rider’. As we documented earlier in the year, this tune captures the essence of the original while bumping it up to levels of complete dance floor carnage. There are fewer hype moments than hearing the intro to this brought in at the moment when the rave stabs take centre stage, followed by the scuttering drums on the drop and that Viper-from-Battlestar-Galactica-breaking-at-high-speed sounding drone that sweeps overhead. The subsequent switch into a simpler two-step beat is even cleverer, producing yet another drop that somehow goes off harder than the first. It was a tall order updating this tune, but SCAR have done it perfectly.
Best Record Label – Warm Communications
A big one. There are lots of labels who’ve impressed this year. A lot of them are the usual suspects: Exit, Samurai, Metalheadz, and the newly revitalised 31 Recordings. However, I’m going to go for a less obvious label: Warm Communications. I think I’ve bought all of their records this year, from Alaska & Paradox’s amazing 12”, to Need for Mirrors and Concord Dawn’s spirited, almost clownsteppy ‘Lithograph’. Even though they’re by no means prolific, especially compared to other labels, what I like about Warm Comms is that you always seem to get a surprise from release to release; for example, witness Mako’s sparkling leftfield 12” sandwiched in between some Dev drumfunk and Friske’s menacing ‘Cold Signal’. The result of this is I always get a little shiver of excitement when I see a new release go up on Soundcloud or Redeye. And for that reason, they take the award for best label this year.
Best New Record Label – UVB-76 Music
Ruffhouse and Gremlinz’s label actually put out their first release in December 2015, but their four slices of output since then make them head and shoulders above most of the other new labels I’ve stumbled across this year. Pessimist commented earlier this year that the likes of UKF and the ‘bigger’ music websites have underappreciated this whole undercurrent of inventiveness going on within the darker, more minimal, autonomic catacombs of the scene. It’s this sound that UVB-76 are focusing on. From Skitty’s great ‘Oppression Dub’ to Overlook’s ‘Nights Into Dreams’ to the aforementioned ‘Paian’ EP from Pessimist, this kind of vibe is one of the most exciting things going on in drum and bass at the moment, and I would bet that come this time next year UVB-76 will have joined Samurai at the forefront. Great stuff.
Best Vocalist – Charlotte Haining
Not an obvious choice, but you have to be honest in these lists and Charlotte Haining is the vocalist I’ve most enjoyed listening to this year. Like a lot of others, I first came across her in her work with Rameses B, but it was her release with T:Base – ‘In This Moment’ – which really catapulted her into my vision. Sorrowful and musical, soft yet piercing, her voice has that indescribable something that music writers often waffle on about without knowing really what they mean; the thing that causes a kind of pre-cognitive jolting feeling in your body. She’s had a solid year of releases this year too: I really really like ‘Stay’ with Monrroe and ‘Don’t Let Go’ with Villem and BCee. She’s also provided some nice pipes on top of North Base’s ‘Unexplained’ on Shogun, and is quickly becoming one of the go-to vocalists for sumptuous piano-led liquid drum and bass. A collaboration with Satl, Malaky, and/or Silence Groove in 2017 would make me very happy indeed…
Best website that isn’t OHOD – Ninja Ninja Drum and Bass
OHOD is but one of a small but dedicated number of blogs and websites who write about drum and bass. I’ve always had so much love and respect for the likes of The What, DnB Dojo, In Reach, Breakbeat.co.uk, and the various others for what they and we do, trying to give a platform for the music we like for no other reason than that we like it. In my humble opinion, at the forefront this year have been Ninja Ninja. They showcase mixes from producers young and old, premiere tunes from a wide variety of labels, write concisely and enthusiastically about anything that tickles their eardrums, and in general play a genuine and important role in pushing and promoting drum and bass – however it’s defined. Not bad for a site that, not so long ago, seemed to be ready to fold entirely. Big up Adam, and big up to the rest of you who write about drum and bass. You’re all mint.
Best non-DnB tune – Udmo – Open Water
House music you can swim in. It’s like an aquarium this tune, and you just slowly dip your toes in, follow with your legs and then gently submerge yourself under the surface as it echoes, flanges, and reverbs along. There you stay, spread eagled on your back, the water occasionally lapping over your face and splintering your vision of the sky above into a thousand shimmering kaleidoscopic particles. Yeah, you get the idea. A lush tune, perfect if you need a few moments chilling out or some music to sooth you while you fiddle around with a particularly difficult piece of computer code. And, surprisingly, it packs more of a punch than you’d expect when you play it loudly through some strong speakers. There are three other tunes on this EP that are great as well, but this is the pick of the bunch for me.
And that’s it. Cheers for reading everyone, and see you all next year. Happy holidays!