Since his rise to prominence in 2010, Eugene Hector's Dro Carey alias has been a repository for menacing hybrids of grime, garage, UK funky, footwork and rap. Hector takes these styles and recasts them as something both playful and sinister, sluggish but with a jittery intensity. In the past year, attention has turned towards his work as Tuff Sherm, which pulls a similar trick, perhaps slightly less convincingly, at house and techno tempos. But Hector has insisted that the perceived migration is more down to the vagaries of release schedules than any shift in focus. The Vital Trails EP, self-released through his Bandcamp, finds Dro Carey on as fine form as ever.
If there's a criticism to be made of Hector's music, it's that it can feel too easily reducible to distinct loop-patterns, laid out one after the other, rather than sculpted into an overarching structure. This EP is proof that that quality, in the right context, can be a boon. "Nightworld" and "Second Missive" both sound like a medicated El-B, their whipcrack garage flex and snarling basslines taking on a grim intensity through quickfire structuring. The equally frenetic "Sanatorium" is part bombastic grime, part thunderous warehouse electro. Elsewhere Hector notches down the tempos to explore techno forms. "Libera Me" is a little staid; better is "Grill Mage," whose clattery breakbeats and Reese bassline verge on '90s throwback—that is until Hector switches things up after a couple of minutes, segueing brilliantly into brash, lumbering rap.
03. Second Missive
04. Libera Me
05. Grill Mage