"I wasn't even making music then," Kirk Thompson, AKA Krust, told UKFin 2018. "I was making films." The drum & bass artist was talking about some of his most celebrated productions, the ten-minute journeys that started with 1997's "Soul In Motion" and continued on classic records like Genetic Manipulation. With these extended tracks, Thompson reimagined drum & bass not as dance music but as a vehicle for sonic epics. Crucially, this music retained the snarl and lunge of the genre at its mid-'90s peak, avoiding the pitfalls of making the music too "progressive" or "intelligent." Krust had his cake and ate it too. He was even part of one of the genre's most lauded outfits, Reprazent, before his interest in dance music gradually petered out. In 2018 he returned with an excellent 12-inch that picked up right where the '90s left off: a nine-minute epic of carefully sculpted dread.
That 12-inch came out on 31 Records and its follow-up on Tempo—two excellent record labels that are among the best in the genre, but not likely to attract attention from outsiders. Then came "Constructive Ambiguity," a 12-minute masterpiece of nimble percussion and almost atonal melodies. It's up there with the best Krust tracks, a perfect mix of tension building, ripping drums and subtle production tricks. Even more notable was where it landed: Crosstown Rebels, the tech house empire built by Damian Lazarus. The label has dipped its toes in this realm before—remember when dBridge remixed Mathew Jonson?—but a house label putting out new material from one of drum & bass's most important producers is unusual. That it was career-high material made it even improbable.
The Edge Of Everything, Thompson's first LP in 14 years, is the fulfillment of that single's promise. It easily lives up to Krust's classic work, with none of the missteps you might expect from a comeback record. There might be a bit of influence from modern labels like Samurai in its monochrome feel, but The Edge Of Everything is unmistakably Krust, showing him in pursuit of drum & bass anthems that steer away from the genre's more obvious tropes and clichés. (In other words, his love for ultra-extended intros and long silences is firmly intact.)
The album skirts between classic Krust and careful overtures into new ideas. A track like "Negative Returns" is pure mastery, with the unexpected halts, cinematic strings and rhythmic switches of his most beloved '90s tracks. "Keter The Heavenly" is late '90s techstep perfection, with the kind of uppercut snares and halting grunts that made the best Photek tracks. On "Space Oddity," he tries the twitchy, fleet-footed rhythms of today's forward-thinking drum & bass producers, armed with sound design worthy of a film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Edge Of Everything is clearly Thompson's love letter to film, which he spent over a decade studying. In his RA Exchange, he spoke about his attempts to analyze films: what makes them work, and which films make which kind of impact. He idolizes directors like Stanley Kubrick and Christopher Nolan, and tries to infuse his music with the same layered sense of world-building, layered plot and implied meaning, and also accessibility. If Thompson is trying to make a film, it's not a brooding art house flick but a sweeping epic, dealt out in pounding drums and foreboding strings.
Some of the LP's denser tracks, like "Deep Fields Of Liars" and "Constructive Ambiguity," are so complex that you could return to them again and again and find new elements. A monologue at the end of "Negative Returns" attests to this very quality as the hallmark of a good film. At times, though, the film-centric ambition can get the best of Thompson. "Antigravity Love," a collaboration with director Michael Williams, has an overwrought and confusing soliloquy that distracts from the album's grace. (With its skewed, squished drums, "Antigravity Love" also features one of the album's best bits of sound design.)
Most of The Edge Of Everything is top-tier drum & bass with an experimental bent. It could be the kind of album you imagine one day being held up to classics like Timeless and New Forms, records that took the genre to new places while keeping its core tenets firmly in sight. Where Thompson's effort differs is that he's not really speaking to the rest of the genre. In that RA Exchange, he explicitly says he's not trying to drive the scene in any direction. The Edge Of Everything, to put it in terms most similar to the kind of films that Krust adores, is like a long-lost master unexpectedly returning to his craft after years spent in seclusion, studying and learning.
Tracklist01. Hegel Dialectic
02. Constructive Ambiguitiy
03. Negative Returns
04. Antigravity Love
05. The Dust Fell Off
06. Known Truths
07. Deep Fields Of Liars
08. Keter The Heavenly
09. It's A Lot
10. Space Oddity
11. Only God Can Tell