Having been around since 2005, Washington DC based Translation Recordings have just released their most ambitious project to date, a 14 track LP entitled Universal Grooves. Living up to their aim of being open to all sounds of 170 and operating without borders, it’s an incredibly varied release showcasing a variety of d&b from across the spectrum, both sonically and in terms of experience and stature within the scene.
At one end, there’s the smooth sounds of Nuage, who provides mesmerizing bells over bassy rolling drums and an incredible spoken word sample on Hazy Streets while also transfering his sound perfectly to the only dubstep tempo track on the release, Before I Breathe. Here, a relaxed strings intro’s juxtaposed by futuristic bleeps for a beautifully slow starter that slowly moves through an intense female vocal and a long bassline, later enhanced by skipping hats and layered melodies for one of my favourite tracks. Then there’s the likes of DBR (UK) who’s sinister, rattle snake like, clicks and mean atmospherics create the dark, dirty and dubby sounds of Stress Levels and Theory who takes you through full on amen warfare in the scatty, tech fueled Final Confrontation. There’s beautiful tracks reminiscent of Med School through dubby rollers and all the way to Renegade style tear out.
Although it may sound slightly too varied in sound to tie together as a release, the string that keeps it all tight is simply an element of the deep, a chronically overused word in d&b but one intensely fitting to particularly the more relaxed tracks on this album. Smooth melodies and vocal snatches are often overlayed with much darker drums and grizzly basslines, such as in Mortem’s Praxis, to provide a really thoughtful balance of the sonic spectrum that gives you layer upon layer of sound to fall into, encouraging a hypnotized mindset that helps you through the ebs and flows of pace and sound throughout.
I’m particularly loving Anile’s Lay Alone where incredibly subtle, yet detailed, layers of atmospherics and melodies lead you through the most relaxed track I’ve heard from him. It’s a perfect wind down from the skittering drums and rising bassline of Mindmapper & Flatliners Lemon Haze, the dubby vocal snatch of which leads you nicely onto Loxy & Resound’s Civil War where they utilise their trademark dub-jungle sound to devastating effect with sirens and hard synths juxtaposing bird song and bongos of the bush.
It’s a well thought out album that somehow gets away with it’s intense variety through decent structure and a carefully crafted tracklist. Although there’s a few tracks that let it down slightly in places, it keeps a solid level of quality throughout, particularly for such an ambitious release, and at no point is it uninteresting to listen to. You won’t find many dancefloor bangers and, for me, it’s an album probably better suited to simply listening to rather than mixing, but there’s still plenty of tracks that could provide plenty of depth in a progressive mix.
It’s available in all formats, with a fancy blue vinyl providing the cherry on the cake (although only a 4 track EP unfortunately), and you can pick it up direct from the Translation website or your favourite record store.