DB1 - Zwischenwelt

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  • When I visited Felix K's studio last year, I found him accompanied by an Englishman with a compact modular setup. This was DB1, a key member of Hidden Hawaii who's produced some of the label's best 12-inches. Their sessions together yielded last year's Transitions EP and a series of white labels that emerged on Hard Wax under the Elemnt moniker, which were later compiled into a triple LP of inventive drum & bass and techno. Where Elemnts was claustrophobic, Zwischenwelt has you reaching for natural metaphors. The whole thing seems to take place within a billowing cloud. Tails of echo clatter with the metallic splash of spring reverb, suggesting crashing waves and looming storm heads. It often sounds like you're in a cave carved out of a headland, with beads of water dripping from the ceiling into puddles on the stony floor. There's the crackle and hiss of open flames consuming kindling. Sub detonations approach like far off explosions heard submerged in the open sea. Zwischenwelt is transportive, evoking forces and landscapes that dwarf the individual and demand respect without knowledge, like a mysterious obelisk. DB1's music is unassuming and delicate despite its imposing weight. By being too horizontal and empty for drum & bass and too rhythmically advanced for techno, DB1 and Hidden Hawaii alienate themselves from any one scene. Zwischenwelt, the best example of this truly unique sound, serves as a capstone to the label's considerable development since 2014. It obviously has its roots in original dub science and Chain Reaction—indeed, Hidden Hawaii is something of a spiritual successor to the genre-defining dub techno label. (Chain Reaction's cofounder, Mark Ernestus, also owns Hard Wax, the store that has been a standard bearer for Hidden Hawaii for years now.) Zwischenwelt uses Euclidean rhythms—an algorithm that divides ones and zeros into criss-crossing patterns found in both subatomic particles and Sub-Saharan drumming—to show that music doesn't exist in a single tempo or time signature. Rather, a few mathematically related BPMs and rhythmic divisions exist in parallel. Hearing the rhythmic interplay is like observing a triple-deck highway from an adjacent building, watching different levels of traffic zip by at different speeds in opposite directions. This is clearest in "Jona" and to lesser degrees in "Qube Part 2," "Drft Part 1" and "Zukr." Tempo becomes a Rubik's Cube. The key to Zwischenwelt is how these layered rhythms work with DB1's spatial effects to create a sort of Zen-like tension. We're fixed firmly in place but the touch is soft. Most of the time, we're never released. But when it does break, like in the breakdown of "Ktz1" or with the rogue midrange bass knocks in "Zukr," you feel like you've been given your own secret reward. Where much music is desperate for your attention, Zwischenwelt stands back, remote, inward-looking. For those who follow its lead, it's infinitely rewarding.
  • Tracklist
      01. Ktz1 02. Qube Part 1 03. Qube Part 2 04. Zukr 05. Jona 06. Drft Part 1 07. Drft Part 2 08. Kalt