2019 has been an exceptional year for bass-related albums.
Whether they’ve been delivered in three-part EP series or guerrilla-dropped without a moment’s hype or fanfare, whether they’re debut albums or long-awaited follow-ups (like the 22 year gap between J Majik’s LPs) there’s been a wealth of serious bodies of work out there across both drum & bass and dubstep.
This list of 19 personal favourites from our writer team is just a snapshot of how varied and vital albums have been in 2019, massive respect to all artists who blessed the world with an album this year…
20 Years of Technique Remix LP (Technique)
Twenty years in the game is a phenomenal achievement that deserves recognition, so what better way to celebrate it than to release a 27 track remix LP?
Digging right back to the earliest chapters of the catalogue and pairing classics up with well considered remixing artists, Drumsound & Bassline Smith ensure both the past and present spirit of the label is celebrated. In fact I’d go as far as saying this is one of the heaviest, filthiest V/A collections of the year. Track after track it seems to get more energetic, reeling off dancefloor smashers that make you feel like you need to get on the next bus to the nearest rave… Every remix brings something unique to the album, but they all share adrenaline-pumping attributes. Tantrum Desire, The Prototypes, DJ Marky, A.M.C, Bladerunner, and the label bossman themselves… The list of talent remixing this album is quite honestly ridiculous. This is more than worthy of an end of year shout out. (Jake Hirst)
Bensley – Muskoka (Ram Records)
One of the strongest concept albums of the year, Bensley has excelled himself with his sophomore LP. Clever, emotive and unusual, it’s the type of album that begs to be played from start to finish as he weaves in and out of tempos and styles with such a consistency you feel you’re on a sonic journey through the prodigal producer’s mind.
Highlights include Hard Times where Bensley and singer Emer Dineen lays down an opulent, charming, and creative ode to jazz where the producer even whips out his sax, while Do It Again gives us raw, underground vibes with a buoyant twist and hip-hop energy thanks to some spitfire bars from Armani Reign. Elsewhere we have the haunted, disarming Arpeggio Deluxe while the finale bids us adieu with Bensley’s own vocals… Making the album even more of a deeply personal piece of work. With his wide range of influences and talents shining through from start to finish, they say the second album is meant to be difficult. The only difficulty is stopping playing it. (Rhiannon McCarter)
Billain – Nomad’s Revenge (Renraku)
One of the most experimental head-scratcher albums this year was Billain’s Nomad’s Revenge; an LP so out there that he had to come out with a statement shortly after he released it on his burgeoning Renraku imprint, explaining exactly what the hell he was thinking. Shirking almost every conceivable bass music format and pushing his sound to the absolute limit, Billain said he tried to warn us with previous projects, but we still weren’t ready. Nomad’s Revenge was meant to read like dramatic story or an intricate, futuristic video game with a heavy back story.
With cinematic sound design, a completely different approach to beat structure and actual movie-like story pieces, Billain stayed true to his own vision for Nomad’s Revenge and it paid off in spades. After some initial head-scratching, the bass music community has now embraced this album as one of the best and certainly most innovative of 2019. (Layla Marino)
FD – Better Days (The North Quarter)
Landing earlier this year in the summer, and with a pinpoint accurate blending of toughness and lushness, it’s FD’s debut album Better Days. As with all things on The North Quarter, the artistic detail that characterises the label is shining throughout…
Simple in its approach, yet hugely effective in its results, Better Days is a subtle, gentle album that packs impressive heat when it needs to. The focus, as it always is with FD, is on the raw elements of the genre and who each tune is able to roll out in a deeply elegant manner.
The main highlight, however, is FD’s palpable creative process and range; the lounging house funk of Ribs; the gentle garage tones of Knots; the powerful low frequency tendrils of Foundations. My personal highlight is Better Man featuring Fox, one of the most soulful jungle tracks of the year, its sublime exploration captures everything FD’s signature ability to sound simultaneously retrospective, forward looking and content in the present. Not all producers can write like that. (Ben Turner)
Fox Stevenson – Killjoy (Antifragile Music)
Fox Stevenson’s debut full-length album finally got released earlier this year after years in the making. 13 tracks deep, the album crosses boundaries between genres like it carries a European passport – it’s drum & bass, it’s rock, it’s pop, it’s dubstep, it’s Fox Stevenson making a statement: Music is meant to be fun, and Killjoy delivers on that statement. Killjoy is a labour of love and it shows – from the album opener Out My Head to tracks like Dreamland (a flawless fusion of drum & bass and punk) and Headlights, the album is a pure joy to listen to and is guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face when listening through it.
Accompanying the album was the launch of the Fox Stevenson live show – a drummer, a guitarist and the man himself on a stage jumping around with an infectious energy that carries over to the audience, taking the album tracks to the next level and showcasing the song-writing in a way listening to the album at home won’t do. Some of my favourite memories of 2019 involves being surrounded by friends in a Fox Stevenson live crowd, 3,000 miles from home with everybody shouting the words to Dreamland at the top of our lungs. I highly recommend anyone living close enough to a show to go and catch them on the road in 2020. (Sampo Kaskia)
J:Kenzo – Taygeta Code (Artikal)
J:Kenzo’s always been an anomaly for me. Never one to be held back by the confines of supposed genre boundaries, he’s built his career with a clear statement of intent; one that delivers a swift middle finger to anyone who tries to pin him down to a particular sound. Whether he’s darking everyone out with his low dubstep frequencies, flexing jungle tempos on the likes of Doc Scott’s 31 Recordings, or delving into the world of techno with his Hezziane alias, this is a man comfortable expressing himself however he damn well feels like, much to the joy of our undeserving ears.
Taygeta Code – his second album following his self-titled debut LP in 2012 – landed last month on his established Artikal imprint at a time when I was desperately in need of a sonic palette cleanser, and it delivered so much more than that. A perfect mixture of intricate, subtle production, cinematic soundscapes and pure, unadulterated power and grit, it’s a masterclass in how to make the most of the album format. All killer, absolutely no filler, with echoes of acid, grime and techno influences sprinkled throughout, it’s Kenzo at his most inspired. 11-tracks deep, one of the most remarkable achievements of the LP for me is how space is utilised. From the ethereal Broken Dreams (with Lelijveld) to menacing creeper Desired State, brooding growler Guilty and the straight up rowdy Narky – Kenzo knows exactly how to utilise deep atmospherics to create soundscapes you can truly lose yourself in, and I’ve been lost in these frequencies for well over a month now. A true journey album, you’ll find it difficult not to completely immerse yourself in it. I usually tell myself “just a couple of tracks…” and before I know it I’ve listened all the way through and am itching for another loop. Understated, subtle, powerful – this is the real deal. Infinite respect for man like J:Kenzo. (Maja Cicic)
J Majik – Full Circle (Infrared)
The clue’s in the title. With his first solo album in 22 years, J Majik really did complete the loop and take us back Full Circle to both his own roots and some of the strongest roots of this music full stop.
All the essential early jungle drum & bass ingredients are in place; rushing cosmic pads, crisp yet savage breaks, bulbous bouncy subs, female vocal elements, space, pace and warm machine soul. These flavours are evident the moment those cosmic pads of opener Serenity usher us into the mix and they still taste just as strong when the jazzy chords bid us farewell on the closer Eclipse.
It’s got the glacial essence of Metalheadz, the star-gazing allure of Goodlooking and the ability to turn you inside out like No U-Turn. It’s everything you’d want a classic jungle drum & bass homage to have… Yet it never feels nostalgic or like a throwback. Similar to the work of Special Request or Dead Man’s Chest, Tim Reaper or the output on Repertoire, Majik shows that there’s still much to explore within the sound, rather than covering old ground. And he does so with authenticity and timelessness.
There have been various albums that explore the foundations this year but Full Circle touches different buttons. It doesn’t so much as tap into a whole other chapter, but it smashes right through it and writes a whole new set of footnotes. Listen to the score-like narrative twists of the title track or the pulverising drumwork of The Crow Knows (to name but two highlights) and tell us otherwise. Let’s hope he doesn’t leave it another 22 years until his next album. (Dave)
Kimyan Law – Yonda (BMTM)
Kimyan Law doesn’t write albums, he creates universes. Vast, imagination-arresting spaces that whisk you away to places you didn’t know existed and reveal something different on every excursion.
Yonda is his third universe. His most immersive and intricately sculpted body of work to date, in a recent interview with us he describes it as his most honest work to date, he also describes it as a plantal embrace due to some of the messages it has and places of inspiration it took root in. Other ways to describe it would be beguiling, unique and, when you understand the little details and stories behind the album, head-scratchingly complex.
During the process of the album he toyed around with making his own conlang (which you can hear him singing on the finale Kilele) He’s captured the intensity and turmoil of war on Krieg (a deeply personal track which took him three years to write) He’s even sonically annotated the plight of the humble dung beetle on Dor Rhythm.
These are just a small selection of highlights; the entire album is a trip of shades and energies that at points is incredibly dark and forthright (Kin) but at others is touchingly soulful and delicate (Understory) yet at all times it contains this otherworldly mystique, like it’s hiding something or is part of a much wider story the young Congolese Austrian artist wants to tell. He even says as much in our last interview. One of a kind. (Dave)
Lenzman – Bobby (Metalheadz)
The album cover for Bobby hints at what’s to come musically: simplicity done exceptionally well. Released in March, it comprises 16 tracks of drum & bass, aside from the opener, which is fairly uncommon in an age when producers tend to mix things up a bit on their longer releases.
The sketched illustration depicting Lenzman with friends from his neighbourhood growing up isn’t just any old drawing though, it was drawn by his dad, which tells us that this is Lenzman’s most personal work to date.
Having recently become a father himself, the album was inspired by the latest chapter in his life (Bobby is the name his daughter gave to her beloved stuffed toy dog), as well as his own childhood. This gives the album a lovely warmth and rawness; the kind of warmth decent liquid delivers so well.
As was the case on Looking At The Stars the collaborations with astutely picked artists are all superb, namely Rain featuring the vocals of Children Of Zeus, which is arguably one of the standout tracks of the year. Then there’s Pictures of You with the ubiquitous DRS, another heart-wrencher brimming with quality.
I spotted a few comments online from people saying the album was a little too one-dimensional for them soon after its release, but for me and many others, it’s an LP of the highest order which once again proves that the Dutch don is one of the genre’s all time greats. (Robin Murray)
London Elektricity – Building Better Worlds (Hospital Records)
When I sat down to cast my Drum&BassArena Award votes for album of the year, I was pretty torn as there was one album that hadn’t been released yet and I just knew it was going to be my album of the year. London Elektricity, take a bow!
To see the immense amount of work Tony Colman has driven into this album is amazing, and you can really hear it. Every track is a journey and each one takes you in a completely different direction. No song follows one structure, they all continuously evolve to provide a sensational listening experience. And that’s exactly what Tony set out to do – create an album for listening, not for the clubs. But that didn’t stop it rising high on the album dance charts. From the vocal beauty of Lonely Sirens to the inspiration melody of Building Better Worlds, this album is amazing. I’ll never forget hearing Final View From The Rooftops for the first time at Hospitality on The Beach and seeing the way it tranced everyone in the crowd into a state of awe – the same feeling I had after listening to the album all the way through. Hell, he’s even collaborated with his son – the legendary Secretary General – on this one. It doesn’t get any deeper or personal. This is London Elektricity’s best album in years. (Jake Hirst)
LSB & DRS – The Blue Hour (Footnotes)
Oh, the pure joy when this album was announced… The logical next step for LSB & DRS after a handful of stunning collabs along with their beautifully immersive Space Age mixes, The Blue Hour landed at the perfect time. It was a long time coming, though, and you can certainly hear it in the completed body of work. Written over a few years following an introduction by the late Marcus Intalex, this soulful manifesto pushes beyond the standard D&B album format with a powerfully moving musicality throughout. At times almost feeling as though we’re intruding on a deeply personal sonic memoir; I won’t be breaking it down track by track, as each tune tells its own story, and deserves your full attention.
It literally sounds like a coming of age for both LSB & DRS, each hitting a new flow with some of their most accomplished work to date. There’s something special about witnessing a creative connection as deep as theirs. A mutual respect and admiration that spills out into everything they collaborate on, they seem to encourage the best out of each other, trusting one another in every step of their creative vision.
It’s been a turbulent year on many levels: Politically, environmentally and for many of us personally… Art has always been a reflection of, and / or inspired by troubling times, also offering our hearts respite from those heavy moments, and this album does just that. Offering one of those beautiful distractions and reminders that there are pockets of genius and hope when we might be thinking otherwise.
Melancholic, uplifting and stunning all in one, it’s music for the soul in every sense. Stand still for a minute and immerse yourself. (Maja Cicic)
Misanthrop – Analog (Neosignal)
Misanthrop came through with his new and jaw-dropping Analog album in November, with very little warning and amidst his Neosignal label’s 10 year anniversary releases. With its largely ‘analog’ production approach (hence the name), a load of experimental elements and mind-boggling synths, Misanthrop’s study in how far drum & bass can be pushed blew apart the foghorn-dominated landscape of 2019. Over a month later, punters and critics alike are still trying to get their heads around the album. Misanthrop has even gone so far as to explain the synth modulators he’s used to create the masterpiece in an article in Data Transmission. Even with said explanation, the experimental, vintage-styled yet highly forward-thinking epic that is Analog will likely be discussed for years to come. (Layla Marino)
PhaseOne – Transcendency (Disciple)
It’s always refreshing when a hard-working musician is provided with an opportunity to showcase their abilities to the fullest. This is precisely what happened to PhaseOne during 2019. The debut album from one of dubstep’s most unique talents effectively turned the EDM world upside down and completely rearranged our concept of what makes up a dubstep album.
For years, dubstep producers have been mocked and chastised if they even so much as mention the term ‘album.’ Unless you happen to be a substantially established name, dubstep guys stick to releasing EP’s and singles, that’s just how the game works. However, every once in a while, somebody is destined to break the game and force us to start anew.
Enter PhaseOne, long known for his heavy metal-infused brand of bass music, it wasn’t until the release of Transcendency that he ascended into his most powerful form. Crammed with collabs from Modestep, Subtronics, and Koven, you almost have to blink twice when the name Bones, Thugs N Harmony pops up in your queue as well. Showcasing a variety of different styles while never sacrificing the overall integrity of the final product, the album itself is a truly remarkable accomplishment. PhaseOne IS the future, we’re all just living in it. (Barrett Nelson)
Random Movement – Lost On Purpose (Flight Pattern)
“I believe there are people who are completely lost in their idea of pursuing what they’re meant to be. They’ll do anything it takes to get there. And I think a lot of that is bullshit. Life is a huge part about enjoying it and making people around you enjoy it. So many people are out there doing fucked-up shit because they think they have this purpose…”
These fine words can be attributed to Florida groovesmith Random Movement when we interviewed him back in October and they effectively sum up exactly why his second album hits the spot so succinctly. The whole creative approach for Lost On Purpose comes from this mindset; bun the rules, the norms, the trends, the expectations (self imposed or external), the numbers, the need for profile, the hype, all the unnecessary shit and just create what you want to write and enjoy it. You can feel this throughout the whole LP; there’s a sense of fun and mischief writhing throughout the narrative like the jaunty barroom piano rolls of Somewhere Back There, the bouncy ball bassline and big dubby washes on Break The Mold, the ever-lapping layers and wily bass twangs on Categorized and many more highlights as we breeze and blaze through this two-years-in-the-making trip.
A timeless vibe excursion – that hits the spot all the more due to Random Movement’s self-professed development in the dark art of the mixdown – like all the best albums, this lives in its own musical world. It’s a world that not only reflects many of the musical nuances that have made Random Movement the respected enigmatic artist he’s become since he emerged 15 years ago… But also confirm that he’s got plenty more exciting music to come. And you know he’ll enjoy getting lost in the pursuit of creating it, too. (Dave)
Scar – High Fives & Devil Eyes (Metalheadz)
The title sounds like a long-lost Hunter S Thompson dispatch. The album sounds like a rampant adventure through the last 25 years of underground drum & bass. The label it came on has arguably one of the most consistent, impressive and forward-thinking album catalogues in drum & bass. It can only be Survival & Script’s second Scar album: High Fives & Devil Eyes.
Hopes were set high for this. In 2016 the Metalheadz duo established their ability to write proper album-with-a-capital-A albums with The Orkyd Project. A disarming experience that took us deep into their shared influences, it was a real musical statement piece that confirmed this wasn’t two mates on a carefree collabo flex, but a duo who with a fully fixed vision. They’ve been part of drum & bass since the earliest chapters. This music is their language and they know what they want to say with it. Hopes weren’t just set high because of their previous album, it was due to their pedigree in the first place.
From those opening faraway vocal harmonies and that celestial, dawn-like rise of the filmic opener Circle Of Trust you already get the feeling it’s a worthy follow up to their debut. Unlike the first one, this is fully D&B-focused, but that limitation simply gives them more space for variety. Variety-with-a-capital-V: those rising/falling chimes and that surging early 2000s liquid sound of Stolen Memories, those early Virusesque swampy, almost jazzy bass warps on First Sound, the absurd wonkiness and techno tendencies of Pauline… Each track taps into a different quarter of the game Scar have made their name in, but does so with consistency and an arrangement that keeps you listening until the very end… And beyond. Scar are the very first act to sign to Metalheadz with a three album deal. Even higher hopes are set for album three. High five out of five. (Dave)
S.P.Y – Dubplate Style (Hospital Records)
As we reported at the end of last year, Carlos S.P.Y has been on a mission, schooling himself in the sounds, the equipment and the techniques of the original junglists, even going as far as switching up his studio setup with vintage analogue gear in an effort to recreate that raw, rugged sound.
The result is Dubplate Style, an album that pays maximum respect to the original elements – from classic choppy breaks to old-school house keys (See Your Face Again) and ravey stabs (Ruffneck) – and combines them with S.P.Y’s cutting edge production style. Take Billy No Mates, where echoing ragga vocal cuts herald a crucial drop where deep sub bass is dramatically topped with more layers of gritty, jagged basslines. Or the mentasm build of Midsummer Mist where you’ll be reaching for the white gloves and whistles to the tune of a break that’s intricately sliced and diced.
A true homage and detailed investigation into the sound that lured him into this in the first place, S.P.Y has studied jungle craft, reverse-engineered all the right ingredients and reconfigured them in a way that sounds contemporary, timeless, heavy and unmistakably like him. A genuine 2019 album highlight. (Craig Haynes)
Technimatic – Through The Hours (Shogun Audio)
Technimatic’s third album was one of the most highly anticipated drum & bass albums to come from the Shogun camp. Hot on the heels of their last two sumptuously brilliant liquid long players, Desire Paths and Better Perspective, they’d set the bar high. In fact it was because of that they completely rewrote Through The Hours to ensure it hits the mark.
Originally intended for a summer 2018 release, the duo told this site that they “came to the realisation that the album wasn’t ready and we can do better” This decision landed in a months-long process of chopping and changing, but it shows how dedicated they are to the craft. And it paid off; Through The Hours came out just as good as we all expected. From the considered melancholia of The Nightfall, the uplifting, quintessential Technimatic vibes of Goodbye Kiss and the light-studded dark depths of True Believer, Pete and Andy have taken their trademark sound to the next level once more. Bring on album number four. (Ben Hunter)
UKF10 – Ten Years Of UKF (UKF)
While this album was created to celebrate 10 years of this very brand, it also doubles as a perfect desert island disc for any discerning bass music fan; it contains such a broad variety of styles from right across the board, you’ll never get bored.
Its most natural habitat, however, is the dancefloor. All 37 tracks come courtesy of an all-star cast who are all on top of their game. Kanine, Hybrid Minds & Koven, Wilkinson, Mat Zo, Maduk, Friction, Mohican Sun, Matrix, and Upgrade are just some of the top tier artists on board for this boundary-burning collection. As were Camo & Krooked who kick-started the album mission back in January with the absolutely exquisite Atlas.
Elsewhere we had Ownglow’s pensive Back To You, 1991’s catchy Full Send, KillSonik’s gritty Daggers, InsideInfo’s energetic Quicksilver, and Futurebound & Trei’s dancefloor destroyer Stars Will Fall and we’re still only dipping our toes in this vast collection. From both the perspective of a fan who grew up on UKF uploads and as a contributor, it’s been exciting seeing the brand develop over the years, consistently reflecting some of the best bass music being made. UKF10 is testament to this. Roll on UKF20! (Rhiannon McCarter)
Xilent – We Are Dust (Monstercat)
There aren’t enough words in the English language to accurately summarize this sizable release from one of bass music’s most brilliant minds, but I’ll be damned if I don’t at least sit down and give it the old college try.
Far from Xilent’s first trip around the block, We Are Dust might very well rank as this top-tier producer’s most notable frolic to date. Aurally speaking, this album is utterly incomparable. I’m not sure I’ve ever been serenaded by soundwaves so breathtakingly staggering. Track after track, banger after banger, the meandering path of strategically-placed notes guides you down a wormhole chock-full of mystery and exhilaration. Just when you thought you’ve heard everything, Xilent slaps you upside the skull with a musical awakening the likes of which you’ve never experienced.
I won’t go into much depth on the individual tracks themselves, because to truly appreciate this masterpiece of an album, it must be consumed in it’s entirely (interludes and all). Hands down, We Are Dust is the best album I’ve heard during 2019. Xilent is driving in a lane of his own. (Barrett Nelson)