It’s always nice when are interests come together, as they so often do, the line between d&b and it’s half tempo cousin of Hip Hop being a thin one that’s often been blurred ever since 170 music first came to rise. Alix Perez started a bit of a trend when he enlisted Foreign Beggars on the seminal The Cut Deepens, but the likes of KRS One had already been vocaling d&b long before that (with Goldie and Noisia amongst others), then there was the mellow wordplay that permeated through Bukem’s legendary Earth series. More recently, Atlantic Connections collaboration with Minds One Can’t Destroy Love is a particular percy and the perfect tool for switching genres, while Jehst crossed the gap to show he can polish any beat he touches alongside Broke N English MS DRS for this viber. So, nostalgia aside, I was pleasantly suprised, but hardly shocked, to see Uk Hip Hop long timer Kyza crop up on Shogun Audio’s latest release; an EP by four man Austrian d&b outfit Fourward.
Opening it’s first track, Countdown, with pitched down vocals and snatched breaths alongside Fourward’s piercing atmospherics, Kyza jumps in full throttle among snarling bass and knurled synth edits on what’s by far the releases strongest track, his steady flow casual yet energetic adding something extra to menacing pads and deep basslines that would otherwise lack real punch. Following on from that, Wise Guys‘ jump up synths and rolling drum intro aren’t particularly up our street, but it’s hard to deny that it’s repetitive, blood boiling nature gets underneath your skin. Phase Align, the last original track offers perhaps the production outfit’s strongest effort in terms of sound design, it’s sonic warplay moving through jittering synth swoops and electronic bleeps for a dance floor tear out before the Countdown instrumental finishes things off.
Although an undeniably solid EP, it’s hard not to feel like it rehashes an old sound with mediocre execution, criticism that perhaps wouldn’t have been so forthcoming if it wasn’t released on a label that’s often proved itself to be one of the genre’s most groundbreaking. It seems to lack the depth, texture and punch of dancefloor releases that possess true class and move-ability, although their clever synth play often makes up for that in part. However, it does show the variation in Shogun’s sound, their willingness to cater for the average dance floor while also putting out more experimental music around it, a trait that’s perhaps a big factor in their constant success. Also, I’m a sucker for a d&b/hip hop crossover vocal tune and it’s always good to see Kyza’s name crop up. If you’re feeling it, you can pick up the vinyl single (Countdown/Wise Guys) here. Also, check more from Fourward on their Soundcloud.