Voltage – Ruby EP
Words by Ant Christou
Snapping at the heels of Pleasure’s ‘Platinum’ EP comes the most recent output from Logan D’s Low Down Deep; the ‘Ruby’ EP from Voltage. Rouen Wilkins aka Voltage (or Vlotang depending what circle you’re operating in) has certainly been making moves of recent. After his graduation from Cabin Fever he’s ripped up a solo career, taking home Best Breakthrough Producer and Best Breakthrough DJ at the 2016 Drum & Bass Awards while also releasing on a huge variety of labels including C.I.A, Philly Blunt, Shogun, Low Down Deep and more. Since then he’s also replaced the departed DJ Sly as resident DJ of infamous jump up crew Shadow Demon Coalition. I’m a big fan of Voltage – his production has a massive range, equally comfortable with deep tracks, jungle rollers or monstrous jump up. He’s a producer with a ton of creativity, and this latest EP shows us just where his jump up efforts are sitting at the moment.
‘Silent Killer’ is first out of the fold and it doesn’t mess around. The introduction is sparse and delicate, the faintest hint of a female vocal croon the only punctuation to a gently rising bit of percussion, before it explodes into life a speedy 40 seconds in. It’s a two headed beast, one side a screwed up slightly mid range monster that rasps out on the first half of each section, whereas its neighbour has definitely spent some time with Serum and soaked up some of his musical influence resulting in a murky undulating deep bass tone that hammers down in response to the call of the first sound. The drums are heavy and do the job although nothing spectacular; to be fair though they don’t need to be as this one is all about the unique vocalisations crafted for the low and mid ranges. Heavy stuff and one that’s grown on me the more I’ve listened to it.
‘Let Off’ comes bowling up next and it’s got a slight hint of jungle flavouring to it that leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth. Don’t get me wrong you’re still taking a big mouthful of jump up here but the breaks have got a bit of energy to them and the bass tones have got a welcome little wobble to them that give it more depth than the generally flat contemporary offers in the scene. It’s got Voltage’s signature growling twisted efforts ringing out throughout that gives it its coarse edge, and these make it very reminiscent of some of Harvest’s work, giving a bit of weight and attitude to jungle and moving away from the more mid-range focused sound of today’s jump up landscape. Combined with some deep pads and an infectious echoed vocal chop of “Let off” it all fuses together to result in what is probably my favourite track on the EP and a clear indicator of Voltage’s evolution as a producer. It’s one that sees him meshing the many sounds he’s dabbled in into one beautiful package.
Track three comes scuttling in under the alias ‘Goblin’ and it’s here that we find the most experimental track on the release that also subverts most of the expectations we come to have of Voltage. It begins with an apprehensive introduction; an anxiety inducing soundscape that has leaves you balancing on a knife edge of tension as it builds up. It grows and mounts until almost out of the blue it dissipates away leaving us with nothing but a meandering analogue bassline and crisply hitting drums. It’s so stripped back it’s untrue but on top of this murky foundation a variety of sounds take their turn to paint the canvas, from delicate percussive elements to creeping pads to vocal samples and more. The track is hard to place but it’s steppy, shady and more importantly wholly unique. Despite the darkness it channels, there’s still a refreshing warmth that permeates it and it’s one I can’t wait to hear on a system so that I can really feel that bassline come to life.
For the fourth one we get: ‘Barrel Smoke’. Just like Voltage and Serum’s recent banger ‘Break It Down’, it takes classic hip hop samples and incorporates them into a drum and bass workout, but this time it’s the licks of ‘Kitty With The Bent Frame’ (most noticeably used in Mobb Deep’s ‘Shook Ones Pt 2’) that permeate the introduction. Heavy percussion overlays it with the help of some twisted vocal chops, and it’s all the set up to a proper screw face number that rips up the mid-range with some scratchy distorted synths while rolling some booming bassline wobbles and subs out underneath. Not one for early in the evening, this is a late night tearout track for sure, one for when the crowd’s in a frenzy already. It’s unabashedly dancefloor jump up and begs for an MC to ride the rhythm, but also has an almost Hazard-esque sound to it with its use of cutting saw like mids and dark low ends. This however I think falls short of the previous offerings – but not by a lot and not because of the production quality. Its pure jump up aesthetic just makes it a bit of a one trick pony, the others I consider more versatile and a better demonstration of the talent Voltage can bring to bear these days.
To finish off we get ‘Pipe Cleaner’. I don’t really know what to say about this one. It’s definitely got weight to it but it just doesn’t really do it for me. There are certainly elements to like; it’s got a big load of sub pressure to it and the drums give it a hefty marching rhythm but the mids I found to be a bit of a shriek, too distorted and high pitched for me. As well as this, the melody didn’t really hook me like I hoped, of all the stuff on offer here I feel this one you could leave out. Definitely the one that got away.
Not a bad release and a very mixed bag with plenty of variety; ‘Let Off’ and ‘Silent Killer’ definitely do it for me and ‘Goblin’ piqued my curiosity, while ‘Barrel Smoke’ is a filthy number that will definitely see it’s time to shine. Fans of John Travoltage will love the selection on offer, while those unfamiliar with his work will get a taste of the variety he can unleash.
The Ruby EP is out now, and you can pick it up from Low Down Deep by clicking here.