- Since starting in New Zealand in 2007, Samurai Music has been exploring what drum & bass can be. At first, Samurai was a constellation of labels, each one dedicated to a specific strain of the style. Since then, Samurai introduced us to artists like the Calibre-worshipping Tokyo Prose and the blow-it-all-up experimentalist FIS. But in recent years, Samurai, now based in Berlin, has released drum & bass records as a single entity. Decade, the first compilation since that reshuffle, consolidates Samurai's position as one of the genre's most adventurous voices.
Decade swerves between innovation and functionality. At its best, as with Torn's scorched-earth epic, "It Should Be Seen As A Disease," the compilation embodies both. He's one of several new-ish names here, though it's the Samurai old guard who bring many of the compilation's highlights. Tokyo Prose's "Restricted Orbit," his first new track in two years, finds him reinforcing his tender style of drum & bass with rolling Autonomic-style basslines and snappy elastic drums. ASC's "Source Code," an IDM-influenced cut that motors along at 127 BPM, shows an open-mindedness about tempo and style that has only become more pronounced with the years.
Decade is exceptionally sequenced—a rarity for label compilations. It begins with a series of bright and spirited tunes, including a powerful opener from the late Marcus Intalex and a dubby halftime cut from Nucleus & Paradox. The midsection is deep and dark. Tracks from Last Life and Homemade Weapons highlight the label's precise approach to aggressive drum & bass, particularly Homemade Weapons' "Tylos" and the way the snares and hats twitch and flit above the kicks and basslines. The final third eases into loftier, more ambient material, like Ancestral Voices' haunting "Izula" and Sam KDC's "Canon Law." (The latter recalls the Grey Area series helmed by Samurai and Auxiliary.)
The compilation ends with "Flashback," from AnD, once known for pummelling industrial techno but these days going further and faster. "Flashback" might be an unexpected note on which to end Decade—AnD are not your typical Samurai act, with few discernible roots in the drum & bass scene—but it shows that, even after a decade, Samurai's identity is still in flux. That this continues to be their core trait is what makes them one of drum & bass's most consistently compelling labels.
01. Marcus Intalex - Halflife
02. Tokyo Prose - Restricted Orbit
03. Nucleus & Paradox - Global Decay
04. Artilect - Ashen
05. Homemade Weapons - Tylos
06. Torn - It Should Be Seen As A Disease
07. The Untouchables - Clairvoyance
08. Last Life - Gas Man
09. ASC - Source Code
10. Ancestral Voices - Izula
11. Sam KDC - Canon Law
12. AnD - Flashback