drumandbassarena

Critical: Going Underground

Critical: Going Underground


Was 2013 one of the best years on record – pardon the pun – for compilations? So much scope, so much vision and, let’s face it: so little cover. They simply flew at you from all directions.

No mercy. So, on to 2014, a chance to digest it all and take a breather? Are you insane? Bring forth the massive array of Underground Sonics from the esteemed Critical Music.

Kasra when did Underground Sonics start to take shape?

I started piecing the album together about a year ago.

Did you have a vision for the album?

I had an idea of what form I wanted the album to take but it did evolve as certain acts became involved and others didn’t.

To an outsider, what sort of view of D&B would you present with Underground Sonics? I actually feel it totally screws with the listener and the EXPECTATIONS of the listener.

As a label I feel Critical is quite diverse and I wanted to showcase that diversity. To show that the music is as much about the dancefloor as it is about taking some risks.

Could you talk us through your track ‘DFM’? It’s particularly good.

I really struggle to make music; it’s not something that comes naturally to me. I’m particularly critical – no pun intended – but this track came together nicely, I rarely get a vibe down I like quickly but in this case I did.

And you also appear next to Enei… what methodology did you use for the tune you did together, ‘Breath’? Love that female sample.

I started a drum loop, found an old house vocal, chopped it up reversed it put in some bass… and send it to Alex. He worked his magic then sent it back and I played with it some more. I really like this tune and love working with Alex on music. He has a really simple yet effective approach which is very refreshing.

Regarding Critical’s vibe, there is crossover: the worlds of Estate, Exit, Narratives, Ingredients, Dispatch… so how is Critical different from those labels? I see you as an ‘auteur’ I guess, an artistic director and curator ruling over it.

I like all those labels and have a lot of respect for what they do. I suppose we’re different because we just are! Like any label owner I choose the music I like the most and what I feel represents what we do here.

So do you chat to the people here about the tunes for the comp in terms of what you’d like from them? OR is that strictly up to the artist?

Yeah there’s many different ways: some artists offer what they feel is right and you agree on a track, some write tracks specifically. It’s always a mutual decision though of course, otherwise it wouldn’t work.

As a DJ yourself, do you bear in mind stuff that would be particularly lethal to play live? Emperor is on the compilation and I know the power of his stuff live!

Increasingly I’m finding myself trying to play less out and out bangers and try and use them carefully to run alongside some deeper material. Essentially to have my live sets encapsulate the balance I try to bring with the label’s own output.

There’s some surprises on here, for example the Noisia/Upbeats tune.

I’d been speaking to the Noisia guys for a while about doing something with us and I emailed them on the off chance they had a track we could use. They sent ‘Little Fling’ over and I knew it was perfect, it’s fresh and different and exciting yet still has that amazing Noisia sound. It was also great to have The Upbeats involved as they are great people and incredibly talented.

Two disparate acts, so I have to bring up the ‘underground sonics’ aspect: it amazes me how this music manages to be ‘underground’ yet massive, year on year… how do you see it?

Drum And Bass for the most part isn’t ‘cool’: it’s not the latest fad but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an army of people out there in every city who love it. It does have a very unique nature, the people who love the music REALLY love it.

In a digital age I do miss cover art. Are you doing visual work for this Underground Sonics?

We pride ourselves on how we present the music, we’re doing five pieces of vinyl along with merchandise, videos etc. Not only does it all obviously help with promoting the album but aesthetically it’s great to have a beautiful physical product. It’s something I really believe in

What names – new producers or old producers – are on your radar for 2014 sir?

I’m really excited about what the label acts are going to bring: Ivy Lab and their solo material, Mefjus, Enei, Emperor, Sam Binga and Foreign Concept all have some amazing music on its way. Non-Critical acts would be Dub Phizix, Blocks & Escher and System.

You mention Foreign Concept… is there a story there?

When we’re at events the crowd often mistakes Foreign Concept for me. Matt then either pretends it’s his label or tells the punter I’m his dad. What a champ.

You can follow Damian B on Twitter, @DAMIAN___B
D&B for some time now; studied at institution of Fabio & Grooverider.