Various Artists - 116 & Rising

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  • Hessle Audio's first compilation begins with "Body (Music Mix)" by Elgato, which subsumes uneven 2-step into his usual swirl of slow decay and sustain. It's not the kind of thing you begin a compilation with, but then a label compilation is always an odd little thing anyway. There's been no shortage of them lately from some of electronic music's most revered and forward-thinking imprints, and one from the label run by Pearson Sound, Pangaea and Ben UFO—a triumvirate of scene-altering influence right there—seems like a surefire bet for strong returns. Like the recent Hotflush compilation, 116 & Rising features a disc of brand new tracks as well as a look at the label's short but storied past. The retrospective does a decent job of highlighting the most exciting moments from a label that manages to be on point almost 100% of the time. Putting exuberant outbursts like Ramadanman's junglist epic "Don't Change for Me" and Blawan's "Fram" next to more reserved offerings from Joe and Pangaea confirms the label's idiosyncratic sense of rhythm. However, for a label often held up for its vast range of styles, comparing the disc of new tracks to the retrospective disc seems to show a more collective tendency begin to emerge. While the label remains all over the place, there's something surprisingly coherent about 116 & Rising. There's a conscious move towards what feels like subtlety. Even when the LP hits the corners of its most experimental moments, it still sounds tight and bristly. Untold and Blawan, two producers known for heavy lash-out bangers, both rein things in for more refined variants on their usual sounds. On the other hand, Cosmin TRG's new(ish) housed-up techno direction perfectly fits the label's slightly morphing aesthetic, a little polite but a little banging. 116 & Rising also has its share of weird moments from newcomers and staples alike. Addison Groove's "Fuk Tha 101" reconciles his interest in footwork with the label's currency in complex and dynamic percussion, and Randomer out-Blawans Blawan on the fantastic "Brunk," where the frantic drums sound bigger than anything else on the entire disc. Joe's "Twice" takes the cake, though, grinding raw and harshly cut jazz samples together and fashioning a slow (116 BPM, in fact) groove with memorable snippets of conversation about having "enough bass." Perhaps the album's strongest run consists of the contributions from James Blake, Peverelist and D1. That a track from the legendary dubstep producer all the way back from 2005 fits despite its telltale trad-dubstep structure says something about the range of 116 & Rising and the curatorial vision of Pearson, Pangaea and UFO. Apparently they care as little about chronology as they do genre. Despite knowing that about Hessle Audio already, it's always nice to be reminded.
  • Tracklist
      CD1 01. Elgato - Music (Bodymix) 02. Untold - Cool Story Bro 03. Blawan - Potchla Vee 04. Pearson Sound - Stifle 05. Joe - Twice 06. Randomer - Brunk 07. Pangaea - Run Out 08. Cosmin TRG - Bijoux 09. D1 - Subzero 10. Addison Groove - Fuk Tha 101 11. James Blake - Give A Man A Rod (Second Version) 12. Peverelist - Sun Dance CD2 01. Pangaea - You & I 02. Untold - Test Signal 03. Blawan - Fram 04. James Blake - Buzzard & Kestrel 05. Untold - I Can't Stop This Feeling 06. Joe - Rut 07. Ramadanman - Blimey 08. TRG - Put You Down 09. Joe - Level Crossing 10. Pangaea - Why 11. TRG - Broken Heart (Martyn's DCM Remix) 12. Ramadanman - Don't Change For Me