- Loxy is one of drum & bass's greatest DJs, thanks largely to his remarkable taste. This makes him just the kind of guy you'd want running a record label, so it was slightly disappointing when Cylon fizzled out a bit in 2010. This year, though, Loxy's label came back to life, with two sampler Illustrations 12-inches leading the way to this long-promised compilation of the same name. Illustrations is a comeback and an embarrassment of riches, one that puts Cylon at the forefront of functional drum & bass.
Let's be real here: at 22 tracks and over two hours in length, Illustrations isn't the kind of album you just put on and listen to in one sitting. It feels designed for cherry picking by DJs, though it's consistent enough that you can drop in at any one point and end up impressed. There's a powerful mix of big names here (like dBridge, who turns in the unusually cerebral "Fire Fall You") and familiar faces (Gremlinz, Loxy & Resound). There is a solid group of newcomers, including many who overlap with the forward-thinking Samurai roster, but they fit right in. Young guns Clarity and Overlook outline Cylon's appeal particularly well, crafting rollers that take a rigorous approach to tension and pacing.
Loxy himself has always been adept at that kind of drum & bass, and while there's certainly no shortage of perfectly-engineered club tracks here, it's not all aimed at DJs. Beastie Respond and Nether bookend the compilation with two slabs of throbbing dub, Winnie's "Her Words" glides with the silky lustre of Instra:mental at their peak and Notion's "Sawshawk" is DMZ-style dubstep hammered into drum & bass. Best of all is Belgian duo The Untouchables, who turn in two intricate and ultra-percussive tracks without ever sounding overtly technical. The drums on "Curse Of The Mutants" are playful and three-dimensional, as if they were spring-loaded. "Septimus" has an equally giddy sense of momentum.
Those tracks stand out amidst more forgettable moments, though for a compilation of its size, Illustrations' hit rate is remarkably high. It's a lot like a Loxy set: even if it's not going to take your brain apart and put it back together, you'll hear excellent new drum & bass with enough surprises to keep things exciting. For a while Cylon seemed doomed, with a raft of promised releases forever lost to the ether. But now that it's back, it's like it never went away. With Illustrations, you could even say the label is finally hitting its stride, 15 years after it started.
01. Beastie Respond - Continuous
02. Loxy & Resound - Rain Man
03. Erkiu & Maurus - Csa
04. Gremlinz & No Rules - Water
05. Clarity & Overlook - Octal
06. dBridge - Fire Fall You
07. Loxy, Resound & Skeptical - Choices
08. The Untouchables - Curse Of The Mutants
09. Overlook - Narrows
10. Clarity - Wrong Floor
11. Pessimist & Understate - The Mantra
12. Reza - Chemistry
13. Cult Key - Entice
14. Ruffhouse - 13
15. Loxy & Resound - Howl
16. Dan HabarNam - Rendering The Garlic Boy (Loxy & Resound Remix)
17. The Untoucables - Septimus
18. Notion - Sawshawk
19. The Last Hero - Doppler Effect
20. Nativ - Stolen
21. Winnie - Her Words
22. Nether - Sunset Dub