- The so-called "minimal" strain of drum & bass has played a large part in the ongoing re-evaluation and reinvigoration of the genre, but pinning it down (if necessary) is difficult. Perhaps best known as filtered through the Autonomic group of producers and their growing stable of labels (Exit, NonPlus+, Autonomic, Auxiliary), it shines with a clarity and separation lost in the jet engine roar of modern drum & bass. Justin Richardson, AKA Genotype, takes this a step further, fashioning his debut album out of a Spartan toolbox of tinny percussion and paranoid strings.
Despite its release on said label, Genotype's album feels completely excluded from the Autonomic trend. Ritual Dance comes from another place entirely—a bomb shelter, it sounds like—taking cues from dark German techno and classic dub music. They're unrelentingly repetitive and fragile tracks made of very few elements: "Red Energy" doesn't even have a bassline outside of a near-inaudible thud, content with linear percussion over moaning synths. Yet the results prove entrancing, as the sharp foil percussion cuts through the giant swathes of reverb that coat everything. Genotype throws tiny sounds into the mix and they reverberate instantly, inflating exponentially beyond their size. It's a techno-referencing tendency epitomized in the stunning "Above Politics," where scorched earth drums occasionally collect into one spectacular clap that shatters in all directions.
The most fascinating dimension of Ritual Dance is the tension between drum & bass's obsession with science fiction sterility and the earthy rootsiness that seeps in. "Sun Time" works in fragments of horns, a rare example of colour on the album, while "Version" and "Dubwiser" tease melody with lithe and winding sub-basslines, taunting listeners by burying infectious melodies in inaudible frequencies.
Above all, though, Ritual Dance is a visceral and physical album. It's bare and empty, but not weak: it forces listeners into the middle to take up that empty space themselves. The general lack of midrange begs for the album to be played at dangerously high levels until it consumes the entire room, at which point those tinny drums become deadly blades, those echoed hits deafening explosions. Its unwavering focus on simple percussion is brave and sometimes alienating, but dedicated listeners will be rewarded with an absorbing hypnosis. It's but the latest chapter in a riveting retelling of a genre, and works just as well as a piece of particularly transportive, imaginative sound design.
01. Ritual Dance
03. Red Energy
04. The Ital lion feat. Loxy
05. Sun Time
06. Champion Dubkiller
08. Above politics
09. Justice Over Law
10. Stoned Zone