- Samurai Music has established itself as one of the more reliable drum & bass outposts of recent years. Just look at Way Of The Samurai 2 to see how the label not only picks great artists, but manages to wring the best out of them, too. But Horo, the vinyl-only subsidiary launched in 2011 as an outlet for more experimental work, has almost outdone its parent in just nine releases. Not only have they unearthed new talent like Fis, but they've coaxed gorgeous material from regulars like ASC and Indigo. In typically showy fashion, boss man Presha has decided to mark the label's tenth release with a sprawling five-LP compilation, doubling its impressive roster in the process.
There's been some chatter about how music at 170 BPM shouldn't be considered drum & bass by default. Scope makes a good case for this argument—the compilation couldn't be easily pigeonholed to any one genre. There's something compelling about listening to each artist attack (roughly) the same tempo from a completely different perspective. With barely a nod to the dance floor, the 170 form is twisted, imploded and re-molded into unrecognizable shapes, most of which are strikingly beautiful. What would normally be a tight grid is replaced by wide-open emptiness, filled with sumptuous synth work and unconventional drum patterns. Es.tereo & Marlyn's "Cutting You Loose" is one of the most percussive efforts here, but the drums feel like they're contorting and stretching rather than merely keeping time. Loxy's collaboration with Resound and Consequence, "Project No Name," balances a skeletal framework of breaks on top of techstep beats that sound like the surviving remnants of an old drum & bass tape pack.
Scope isn't necessarily a new frontier for all the artists involved. ASC, Sam KDC and Indigo all turn in lovely tracks that fit with their respective catalogues—Indigo's "Snowfall" is especially majestic—but it's the surprises that make the most impact. New Zealander Fis bathes his dystopian electronics in sunlight on "Arrivals," while Klute contributes a shifting mass of filmic ambient with "Solar Flare," one of the compilation's most arresting moments.
Even when it does sound familiar, Scope is rarely less than exceptional—in fact, there's not a bum track on the compilation. It reveals an endless world of possibility at drum & bass tempo just waiting to be discovered, carrying the spirit of the genre at its adventurous mid-'90s heights—which is to say that it sounds nothing like drum & bass usually does these days. It also comes at a time when uptempo music is starting to garner a lot of attention. Where artists like Mark Pritchard and Dawn Day Night are building on aggression and pure speed, however, Scope taps into something deeper and more relaxed. It's every bit as accessible as it is experimental, which is really the key here.
01. Hysee - Past Participle
02. Kiyoko - Something To Think About
03. Es.tereo & Marlyn - Cutting You Loose
04. Fis - Celiac Tingle
05. Elemental - Awakening
06. Klute - Solar Heat
07. Reza & Gremlinz - Bloom
08. Sam KDC - Erosion
09. ASC - Dragnet
10. Clarity - Sombre
11. Consequence, Loxy, Resound - Project No Name
12. Elsewhere - 0996
13. Stray - Wired
14. Ena - Bend
15. Stickman - Tunnelled
16. Es.tereo - Ether
17. RQ - Sorrow Of The Hunter