If you ask me, Friction’s mighty d&b label Shogun audio fell off slightly for a period a few years ago. After pioneering a come back in dark, deep, hard hitting d&b with a minimalist futuristic twist to boot through seminal albums such as Alix Perez’s 1984, Icicles incredible Under the Ice EP and an unlistable amount of forward thinking singles from the likes of Rockwell and Spectrasoul, things just became a bit, for want of a better word, stale. However, in the last year that’s begun to change, with Spectrasoul’s incredible Delay No More EP marking their return to the front line and more recently Total Science’s excellent See Your Face EP and Spectrasoul’s scintillating Play the Fool/Bugsy receiving shining reviews from me. With that said, I was curious to see how this would translate to their second various artists LP, Way of the Warrior II, a release that drops this Monday (11th November).
Shogun have a long standing tradition of Various Artist EPs, with their excellent Assassins series and later the Evolution EP, using them not only to showcase their staple artists but also bring new names into the fold that over the years have kept their sound fresh, but it wasn’t until late 2011 that they translated that to the LP format, showcasing the true strength of their lineup in one place. Now following that up, this twelve track release (six for the vinyl), sees some of their exclusive signings such as Icicle, Spectrasoul and Rockwell hold the fort alongside label bosses Friction & K-Tee while some of their more occasional collaborators such as Optiv & BTK, DLR and Total Science join in. On top of that, Liquid dons Technimatic and the technical Fourward step up from Shoguns smaller sub label SGN:Ltd, joined by a name completely new to the family; Joe Ford. Despite a surprising lack of a certain Mr. Perez, it’s a really strong lineup that translates into a rock solid release, although a bit too busy and tech heavy in large portions for my particular taste.
Having moved from the sharp, more spaced out drum futurism that used to define the label’s sound, this release largely continues their foray into a harder, more traditionally dance floor, sound defined by it’s slapping snares and mid range synth work. Optiv & BTK’s opening track Picture Perfect, with it’s male vocals adding a touch of soul, is a prime example of this, while Rockwell’s Sick of it All takes things harder still after a more spacey intro drops through an agonizingly long drum roll into tech savagery as he flaunts his synth and drum programming prowess. Meanwhile, Fourward’s western meets dark tech intro of On a Knife Edge must be complimented, and Joe Ford’s Stride displays a true mastery of sound design that leaves little room to wander how he managed to skip the SGN:Ltd stage to accompany the big boys.
DLR’s Sleep Talk is without a doubt one of my highlights, slowing the pace and edging the sound slightly deeper compared to that of it’s predecessors with a smooth drop and a more mellow break that lets the track ease effortlessly through it’s catchy vocal, perfect atmospherics and subtle bassline as it’s elements drop in and out. Lighter still, Technimatic’s Bristol, straddled by Spectrasoul’s Slippin’ and Hearts, forms a more melodic section of the LP that takes things into territory we tend to favour round these parts. Slippin’ is an ingenious little deep, haunting number where male vocals and soft melodies lead into a pulsing bass line, static filled snare and eventual twanging synths for a tune that, by being different from everything around it, is typically Spectrasoul and perhaps takes my number one spot. Meanwhile, Hearts is again brimming with soul but with a much more melodic atmosphere, a more traditional liquid break and rolling bass line providing the backdrop for silky pianos and vibrating pads. Lastly, Technimatic’s Bristol continues their long standing record of doing no wrong, jazzy brass and a warm bass line carrying a liquid tune that simple does exactly what it says on the tin for another vibey addition to their back catalog.
A release primarily for the tech DJs, in that sense Shogun continue something they’ve excelled at in more recent times; providing some of the most useful DJ tools around that, although not particularly original or unique, will without a doubt destroy dance floors. Meanwhile however, there are also a selection of headphone gems thrown into the mix that provide a touch of class and variety to an otherwise fairly single minded LP. Hearts and Bristol both make the vinyl release, something I’m particularly glad of, and Joe Ford’s Stride is definitely a good choice there, something I feel reveals an honorable approach in picking the vinyl tunes purely on their merit rather than simply established names. Another strong release, Shogun seem to be somewhat stuck in a middle ground in terms of sound at times, but that provides a pleasant variety to an LP that’s without a doubt packed full of the highest quality sound design. Head over to the Shogun Website to pre order in any format. Also check out details of the London launch party below.
Konchis & Physiks- The Lying, The Rich and the War Globe (Free) Next Post:
DJ Premier @ The Doctors Orders: 19th October