Some years drum & bass is characterised by one prominent sound. Other years it’s a melting pot. This year has definitely been the latter…. While neuro’s dominance has remained a key theme, there’s been all types of hype in between: properly deep soulful stuff, the re-emergence of jungle breakbeats, the stern return of the minimal sound and jump up have all had stellar years with key releases in each niche crossing over and bringing us together.
The very same can be said for halftime. The glue that brings a lot of the seemingly disparate subgenres together, whether it’s the abyssal deep sub-soaked stuff or straight-up tear-your-face-off hurtery, 2016 has been another great year for a sound that’s been part of drum & bass’s make up since Amit’s Eraser and Digital’s Deadline dented the turn of the century.
Here are 10 of many halftime highlights we’ve enjoyed this year….
Richie Brains – Likkle Som (Exit)
A few tracks from the Who is Richie Brains? album could be on here. The gathering Alix Perez, Chimpo, Fixate, Fracture, Om Unit, Sam Binga and Stray through Dbridge’s vision created one of the albums of 2016, with each artist penning their signature sounds on each track. After spending months of wondering and eventually finding out who this boggle-eyed punk was, it turns out, he’s pretty damn sick. (Reuben Hunt)
Ivy Lab – Spooky Dub (20/20 LDN)
It was only a matter of time before the Ivy Lab trio surfaced in this list. These guys are at the forefront of the sound they call ‘future beats’ and in theory they could have their own list of tracks this year. Spooky Dub, taken off their Fortuna EP on 20/20, is a haunting apparition of a song that’s, just, so wonderfully messed up and really defines what these guys are about. (Reuben Hunt)
Amit – Fatty Batty (Danny Scrilla Remix)
This one’s a bit special. The OG Fatty Batty was one thing on its own – a sheer system-rattler. So when you got Danny Scrilla on the remix, where do we go from here? Typically of Scrilla, he smashes it, and with his own added flare. The switched up tempo and beat pattern to make it that wee bit more exciting. Still most definitely a Fatty Batty…maybe even slightly fatter and just a bit battier. (Reuben Hunt)
Fracture – Makin’ Hype Tracks (Exit)
Less of the ‘future beats’ that Ivy Lab and Shades associate with and more on the jungle/footwork fault line. Either way, Fracture’s certified hyped track was a highlight of 2016 and one that sounds just as tight each and every time you check it, so don’t go anywhere before giving it one last spin. (Reuben Hunt)
Shades – The Bees (1985 Music)
Alix Perez and EPROM’s collaborative powers, better known as Shades, went fully ham on this EP, with this one especially, on Perez’s new 1985 label. Typically, Shades’s music pushes boundaries away from standardised beat patterns and structures and this is no different. Wicked production value, but you try and dance to it, I dare you! (Reuben Hunt)
Diemantle – Sex Machine (Dub)
Had to put this in purely for entertainment purposes. If you’ve heard DJ Die and Distmantle’s homage out either at a festival or in a venue, you know it goes off, differently. What it may lack in intricacy it gains in pure party energy. You can even imagine James Brown himself throwing shapes to it at the front of the dance, God rest his soul… (Reuben Hunt)
Evol Intent – Revolt (Free)
Yet more proof – not that it was needed – that halftime can increase energy and vibe in the dance when made by the right bass bully boys. Evol Intent’s Revolt is the perfect example: Absolutely disgusting… And – madly for such a stand out track – free! (Dave Jenkins)
Digital, Spirit & Om Unit – Skull (Functional)
It was a close call between this and Digital’s unnerving post-post-truth warning Shame Of Mankind. This one wins, though. For loads of reasons. Firstly it’s another reminder that Digital & Spirit are one of the most consistent, uncompromising and innovative duos in jungle. Secondly it reminds us how heavy Synthesis was as an album with so many collaborations and system-primed sounds. Thirdly, the rolling groove and yearning chords are fully floor-focussed. Fourthly, it features another key player in the beatsy sound Om Unit. Fifthly, yes fifthly, it’s Digital who first established this sound well over 15 years ago with Amit. Skull? Skill more like. (Dave Jenkins)
OneMind – Expliciticity ft Om Unit (Metalheadz)
There’s no coincidence that in one of the politically divisive and backward years we’ve had this century, Metalheadz have flourished with some of their darkest, starkest statements in a long, long time. To be honest, we did hope that OneMind would release more this year but considering Mako runs Utopia and DLR has released a remarkable (and heavily politicised) album, we were lucky to wrap our ears around their recent EP1. Expliciticity (say it out loud, it rolls off the tongue) is a key highlight. Molten machine funk made of pure futurist titanium with added soul from Om Unit – this absolutely crushes it on a big system. (Dave Jenkins)
Monuman – Rise (Division)
Emperor in his experimental guise, Monuman has open the doors on a whole new slew of far-out sounds. Wonky, loose and just the right amount of unnerving – the real prize here are the dreamy chords and textures mid way. An oasis of melting soul in an unforgiving desert of gully – it’s one of the many halftime delights Division have given us this year.