Remember this sort of thing? Chances are you don't. For the brief buzz that drumfunk enjoyed earlier this decade, it rarely had the potential to crossover like the Detroit soul of the Autonomic crew. It simply isn't the type of sound that catches on, being so preoccupied with its own form and function. Macc and dgoHn are fringe artists, specialists, obsessives. It's sensible, if surprising, that Rephlex gave their best work a home.
Like the best drum & bass producers, they are also technicians. Drumfunk is, of course, not exactly a subgenre but a stance. It posits that drum & bass was going somewhere with Source Direct in 1997 and hit a dead end in 1998 with Bad Company. The ten involuted tracks on Some Shit Saaink are concerned with one thing: breakbeats cut up and reconstituted in a strange place with low end. Yet what resounds most clearly isn't drums, bass, the future or the past; it's the image of Macc and dgoHn burrowing into dead samples in search of life.
Life is there, though it feels brittle and clammy. The familiar Amen break that courses unawares through "7c 1020" has lost its former color; the sampled woman who calls this "sunrise music" sounds like a test subject reading a prompt. The metronomic hi-hats and snares of "Bamba" lose all momentum as soon as they hit the speaker. These tracks are an apt representation of drum & bass more than a decade later. Their elements are leeched of urgency and vibe; all that remain are the old materials, sub bass and drummers thrashing about with abandon.
It's just a vivid illusion, of course. The record is great for sounding esoteric to the point of being disinterested in others. There isn't a bit of gratuitous syncopation or warm pad to be heard. Instead there are atonal swells, high-pitched blips and weird snatches of speech. Robert "actual drummer" Macciochi has stated that he wants his playing to be indistinguishable from his programming, while John Cunnane has a knack for making dusty old breaks feel truly alien. Both have had definitive releases on Subtle Audio and Inperspective. Their combined sensibility is uncanny—if not soulful, then organic like a preserved fetus.
In contrast with the dubstep-style restraint of the Autonomic sound, these tracks are dense with information. There are minute edits and textural details, like a cutup on Perlon, but written in drum fills and Morricone soundtracks. They aren't memorable so much as distinguished by incidental features. "Mustard Greens" has the clanging cymbals, "Sun Days" has the funky mule and bass hum, "Long Tall Sally" has the break switch midway through.
Those would be the three best tracks on a very consistent album. Later tracks like "Gever," "Forget Stuff" and "Yut" ditch the odd atmospherics and put the drums in the foreground, and are essentially formalist exercises. How much meaning can you put into a snare hit? That's their modus operandi. It could go on forever.
Tracklist 01. 7C 1020
02. Long Tall Sally
04. Sun Days
05. Mustard Greens
06. Empathy Bottle
08. Forget Stuff
10. Ascorbic 403