Ivy Lab released without a doubt some of our favourite tunes to grace the d&b scene in 2013, showcasing their combined production expertise with a fifty-fifty mix of ethereal liquid beauty’s and glitching neuro-funk steppers, so new of their return in 2014, armed with a brand new four track EP no less, came as sublime music to our ears before we’d even heard the beats. Three producers that have long been mainstays in our record bags, Sabre, Stray and Halogenix first teamed up to devastating effect when Oblique/St Clair first dropped to massive critical acclaim late in 2012 (check our interview with them from soon after that here) and have been going from strength to strength since, often accompanied by the haunting tones of their mail vocalist Frank Carter III.
Once again putting the final touches on the production outfit’s masterclass in rolling soul, Carter himself stamps his mark on the EPs introductory and title track Missing Persons, opening the release in familiar style with his silky tones over subtle atmospherics and stunning pads. I’ve heard a few critics of this match recently, opinions that they’re sticking too rigidly to a style and need to spread their wings in terms of vocalists or even do without entirely, but personally I’m really enjoying the way they’ve included him as part of the Ivy Lab moniker, creating a nice take on the traditional sporadic collaborations of the d&b genre where vocalists are often kept at arms length. Here, he proves just why he’s their go too guy with suspense tinged lyrics, stretched out with a relaxed approach over the course of the beat’s shuffling drums, understated twinkles and rising atmosphere for a track that sums up the more relaxed side of Ivy Lab’s style perfectly. It’s classy, deep and effortlessly mesmerizing.
By contrast, the rest of the release travels slowly further and further down the path of their more funk fueled, occasionally darker approach, with the next track Live on Your Smile continuing the relaxed, melodic, sensual approach but juxtaposing it with a tense intro synth before it smoothly crescendos into the warm bass lines and mechanical background ambience of my personal favourite offering. It’s progression through an array of synth edits and melancholic pads perfectly matches the sultry female vocals for a track that balances gracefully on the lines of the dark and the light. Fully diving into the realm of tech, Emperor joins the trio for Pepper as an angry synth lead is added to by lazer atmospherics and a forboding vocal before it launches into a tirade of warped basslines and in your face melodies, putting their slant on sinister, stepping neuro-funk as pads furious rises punctuate each phrase.
Lastly, having already proved that they can do a variety of somewhat blueprint d&b tees to perfection with an element of style that leaves many struggling in their wake, they demonstrate how rules successfully rules can be bent when you have as good a knowledge of them as they do with the final track; Sunday Crunk. A piece of film vocal pushes aside the rattling snare and funky highs of the tune’s intro break before it leaps into one of the most infectiously head nodding tracks to permeate my ears in a while. Warped, warmly contorted synths and vocal stabs work alongside an unbelievable drum groove in a track that just doesn’t stop moving as they toy it’s elements and push them to their limits in a sea of distortion and rapid delay reminiscent of Marcus Intalex at his finest. A great end to add variety that’s otherwise fairly safe in it’s sound, it shows that the trio are still having fun with the distinct style they’ve created and will no doubt keep pushing the limits of their second to none sound design prowess. Released just yesterday (24th Feb), you can get it in all your favourite outlets or direct from Critical over at our personal number one; Surus.
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