Go back over Current Value’s albums and each one captures a chapter in both his own creative mindset and where certain factions of drum & bass are at.
Take his stark steppy debut LP Frequency Hunt. Released in 1998, it captures drum & bass’s peak era of technical innovation and dark soundscapery. Take his 2001 album Beyond Digits that sums up a much grittier, hard-nosed techno influenced sound emerging at the time, best captured by the legendary Therapy Sessions. Or, more recently, his last album Biocellulose. Released early 2016 on Critical it expressed Current Value’s abilities and perception another particular drum & bass framework: neuro, the most dominant sound of the time.
Fast forward almost two years later and we have his 11th album Deadly Toys. His debut album on Noisia’s Invisible, once again it shows a new layer to the cap-wearing artist known informally as Tim. His signatures of brute force funk and dynamic and perplexing sound design are still resonant throughout, but this time he’s telling a much more playful, stripped back and altogether hooky story… A story that’s been pumping away in the background all year throughout most factions of drum & bass: jump-up.
Deconstructing the currently dominant subgenre and rebuilding it in his own way – and interspersing it with other styles such as the electrified space-aged pacer Influx and the dreamy drum funk of All Terrain – once again it showcases where both Tim and drum & bass are at right now. And the whole thing comes down to randomly listening to one particular mix. Capital J – if you’re reading this, biggup. If it wasn’t for your mix, Deadly Toys almost certainly wouldn’t sound anything like the beast it is today. Get to know:
Every Current Value album tells a very different story. Like a snake shedding its skin!
This has to be the case or else I haven’t actually said I wanted to say. It’s not a start-over but it always develops and always keeps moving. As you can probably tell, one of the main influences was jump-up for me on this. I’ve been inspired by it. I happened to listen to a Capital J mix on Mixcloud and it’s furious. Out and out, fast-paced, 186BPM. I listened to it from start to finish and thought it was unreal. It’s ridiculous at points, not even a good ridiculous sometimes. It’s more of a ‘don’t think – just do something stupid’ type of ridiculous.
That’s the release factor of extreme music. The total escapism
Yeah definitely. And the pace is wild. I love it. After listening to the Capital J mix I put on a neurofunk mix and it felt really slow. It left me feeling cold. I’m not that into jump-up but the pace got me going and captivated me.
So all this is down to one mix! Does Capital J know?
Yeah one mix, I happened to find it on Mixcloud. It was a catalyst for the whole project. He probably doesn’t know this, no.
Do you check random mixes regularly?
Not often. I installed Mixcloud on my phone and was searching for some stuff from Bou who’s doing some very nice music and his mix came up randomly. It’s just all very different and inspiring and I’m reflecting that.
Every album is a diary in this sense. Capturing a moment in time for both you and drum & bass, right?
Yes. It reflects what I’m up to in the studio and my different approaches, but it always represents my influences and what else is happening in drum & bass. That said, no album is ever just one style of course. But there is always a theme that holds it together and makes it an album. What’s been really interesting is working with the Noisia guys on the selection and arrangement. I went to them and stayed there for a few days, sorted the tracks and cut things out. I was surprised at the process, I’ve not let the label have so much control before, before but they’re the most respectable act in drum & bass so their opinion and perspective is worth paying attention to! It was also a compliment that the main feedback was about editing and arrangement and which tracks we’d use. There was no feedback on the production. The sound didn’t have to change at all and that was very important for all of us.
How many tracks did you take to them?
Oh around 39!
Yes there were quite a lot. And of course I didn’t stop writing for the album after that first session. We came down to 13 that were definite takes but there were many more favourites so we and had the idea of doing EPs after the album and plans on how to develop it. That’s been a real experience; working with a label like Invisible and how they’re organised and how they treat the music. They work on the same level they work at in the studio. Seamless and detailed and really invested. From the formats to the artwork. They actually care and not all labels do care as much.
You’re like-minded with Noisia with this approach. You’ve probably known them for years, right?
No not really. We’d never had much interaction before all of this. I wanted to do another album and thought I’d send Noisia my stuff because they’ve supported things on their radio show. It took a turn towards the jump up theme because Thijs was so much into the Deadly Toys tune. He played it at Glastonbury and it seemed to be the main tune of his performance.
The famous Arcadia spider set!
Yes it was quite popular wasn’t it? And Deadly Toys was a big moment in that. So we focused on that sound and kept things going in that direction and the guys seemed to love it. It was very positive.
Jump-up became a dirty word but its essence is basically big hooks which is what a lot of drum & bass was lacking for a while. This whole shift we’ve seen this year is drum & bass retreating from the pursuit of science for a moment and getting back into hooks and vibes again, right?
That’s very true! Another experience I had during all of this was meeting Hedex who’s out and out jump-up. We were on the same bill and I was blown away at the jump up crowds singing along to the melodies. They seem to know every song. I’ve never seen that before. It all felt we’ve been too serious about these production issues and too chin scratchy. I watched those crowds and thought ‘this is on another level’ If you do that with good production – because you can do really good sounding jump-up – then it really is very special. People moan about the production of jump-up and, yeah, that might be true for some artists but these guys are learning and they’ve already got their hooks laid down. They can learn the technical stuff as they develop. And the perception of the crowd is that the vibe is too strong to worry about the sound of a snare or kick or mixdown.
I like how the opening tune Dead Communication and the finale tune All Terrain aren’t jump-up. They’re prominent start and end points.
Yeah that’s important. I’ve never been about one style. I’m always working in the here and now but it’s always contemporary and always evolving. It’s always been more than ‘now Current Value is doing jump-up’. It’s got to have breadth and contrast.
At the heart of everything is sound design, of course. Heli Agression and influx have some particularly mad noises. You’ve done some pretty far-out designs in in your time. Are those ‘wow’ moments harder to achieve, the more you’ve already accomplished?
Surprisingly there’s no problem. I never struggle to think I have something new to do, it comes very naturally. You mention Influx, that one I about the rhythm for me. It’s a jump up rhythm with a left out kick and the pace is strong. The snare cuts through really well and is inspired by the snares guys like T>I and Bou use. Influx is probably my favourite one on the album actually. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s not neruo, it’s not jump-up, it’s certainly not a roller. It’s a future pacer! I’ve enjoyed playing it a lot. It resonates with me and it’s showing signs of having a long shelf life!
I was going to ask you about the whole toys theme… It’s about the playfulness of the music isn’t it?
Yes, the playful element is very important. If there’s too much chin-scratching going on and too much science we need that contrast. We’re constantly pushing things and have strict limits and harsh clips. I welcomed the idea that we should be silly as well and play around a bit. It’s like ‘what happens if I push this button? Oh fuck I took out the whole street!’ It has that cheekiness I love about drum & bass. Especially English drum & bass. The cheekiness of it, smiling in the background. Never knowing if people were serious when they made it or not.
Having fun, basically!
That’s the vibe. If things get too serious you forget why you’re doing this. There’s humour to be had here! And if you think of the people who go to the raves, they’re young, they want to play and have fun. I’m twice their age now. If I turn up like a science professor saying ‘I am going to make you dance to this!’ that’s really fucking sad. You can never get away from the pure functionality of the music – to make people dance. And if you can do that with humour, silliness and the ability to laugh at yourself then all the better!