- A nostalgic and improvised foray into '90s-era drum and bass that explores the genre outside the dance floor.
- Exit Records usually champions drum & bass, but that sound doesn't define the 18 year-old label. From the ambient-centric R&B of Lewis James to Neil Landstrumm's funky electro, the recent releases on the UK institution are as diverse as they are deadly. Tackling drum & bass, jungle and footwork through the lens of trap, dubstep, techno and other styles, these records favour texture over rhythm, mood over impact. As adventurous as the label is, though, it hasn't forgotten its 170 BPM roots.
Humanism, Exit's latest offering, is a straight-up tribute to '90s drum and bass from newcomer Rajeev Maddela, AKA Currency Audio. Channeling the cerebral drum science of Photek, the mysticism of DJ Krush and lean minimalism of Source Direct, Maddela's debut 12-inch is a study in downtempo jungle. Humanism is a bit like the old Autonomic stuff, at least in spirit: it's based on simple yet expansive arrangements, shimmering synths and a sense of poignancy. Played on a crisp set of speakers, this music can fill up a room as fervid kick drums creep into narrow nooks, swelling with each passing minute.
The EP's balance between gossamer electronics and ferocious drumming—a combination that nods to broken beat and old "intelligent" drum & bass—gives the entire record a jazzy feel. It brings to mind "Beep Street," a classic Squarepusher jam from 1997 as well as this memorable clip of drummer Yussef Dayes trying out drum & bass. Maddela has a true mastery of breakbeats, and he can go toe-to-toe with the best: his Photek tribute "Modus Choperandi" takes the nimble drum sampling of that legendary producer and makes it uniquely introspective, not just homage but actual innovation.
These vivid vignettes paint a captivating mood, moving from celestial notes on "Glass" to the harder rhythms of "Riverside." Paying homage to the greats while experimenting on the fly, Humanism is a deeply personal debut. Its distinctive qualities were perhaps best described by fellow Exit artist Joe Seven. As quoted by dBridge, "it's like early '90s Jonny L and early '90s Photek somehow made an 8 armed baby and taught him to play synths and drums at the same time, which then played at a level they pioneered in the future—but in real life."
Humanism becomes all the more impressive when you learn that it's all improvised. "Aside from breakbeat samples and some atmospheric pads, sequencing was performed on the spot in real-time without a click track, so essentially each track represents a live improvised performance," Maddela told Resident Advisor. This stream-of-consciousness style, achieved with Ableton Live and electronic drum triggers, only adds to the EP's jazz vibe, a truly exploratory approach that could take these tracks anywhere, far beyond the confines of what drum & bass usually is. Incorporating the anything goes ethos of the mid-'90s without getting stuck in a retro feedback loop, Humanism takes the most exciting parts of golden era drum & bass and brings them somewhere genuinely, thrillingly new.
03. Modus Choperandi