It's all well and good having a chat with a musically knowledgeable friend about the best underground artists that are so underground the artists themselves don't even know they're making music. It can also be quite productive to go through your favourite band or electronic music artists' albums, but there comes a point where you simply don't want to listen through the whole of Brian Eno's Music for Airports or Aphex Twin's back catalogue, just on the off chance you'll discover a musical gem or two.
That's where compilation albums come in. These kinds of albums go ahead and take much of the leg work out of musical discovery for you. No longer do you have to trawl through a specific artist's back catalogue in order to shake the musical gems to the top: compilation albums can do it for you. I'd equate it to panning for musical gold: the best stuff remains in the pan while the musical substrate dribbles away beneath. The downside to this of course is that you're relying on the opinions of others to determine what the best tracks of a particular artist or genre are. This is the trade-off: relinquishing personal selection of songs in return for a quick list of what may or may not be the best. Still, I'd like to share what I feel are some pretty good electronic music compilation albums of the heavier kind, you know, just for fun.
Those that aren't particularly into drum and bass music can skip past this part. Anyone that is will have instantly recognised the familiar sequence of letters in the title of this album, RAM, which is of course in reference to the famous DnB record label RAM Records. What one can gather from the fact that RAM are involved here is that that this album's going to have some DnB bangers on it; this assumption isn't far wrong.
RAMlife Loadstar quite fairly starts with Loadstar's own track Bomber, a great opener with a far amount of wobble and the usual triplet-oscillation in the low synth-like sounds. Noisia and A-Cray come in with Running Blind and Stomper respectively, the latter being more atonal than the former but both setting the scene with equal amounts of vigour for the first true banger on the CD, Above Earth by Chris SU & State of Mind (I loved Chris SU's First Snow and this track I love only slightly less).
If you're after the highlights of what is already an album of DnB highlights already, then look at DC Breaks' Shaman, Noisia & Prolix's Asteroids, and Cyantific's Ice Cream (Vanilla Remix). Check out Check out Ramlife Loadstar on Amazon on Amazon.
After Dark 2
Ok, so I wouldn't count the wonderful tracks on Italians Do It Better After Dark 2 as heavy per-se, but the atmospheric nature of the tracks are conducive to a darker atmosphere after the clubs close. It's pretty difficult to pick tracks from After Dark 2 out for glorifying because they really speak for themselves, but it should suffice to say that each and every track on this compilation is representative of the way you have felt as some point in your electronic music life.
Glass Candy's Warm in the Winter and Cherry by Chromatics are particular highlights, but the compilation should be taken as a whole to in order to be fully appreciated.
Ministry of Sound: Addicted to Bass 2009
This particular compilation has personal significance for me. The quality of many of the tracks on three is questionable as true song-writing goes, but 2009 was the year I was just getting into electronic music, and Addicted to Bass 2009 certainly usher me into the genre with quite a bit of vigour. I've refined my tastes since then of course, but there's no denying that this album has something to say about the epic nature of electronic music back in 2009 before the popularisation of the “genre” and abhorrent acronym of “EDM”.
Opening with the wonderful screeching melody of Omen by the Prodigy, the compilation goes on to feature tracks from Pendulum, High Contrast, Blame, Shy FX, Brookes Brothers, and Chase & Status. What really stands out for me here however is Benga and Coki's Night, a track from two artists that were at the roots of the dubstep movement before it all went a bit pear-shaped at the hands of what people would now disgustingly call EDM artists. Night is a track that represents what true dubstep was all about: a moderately syncopated beat, an unusual melody oscillating downwards, and most importantly, the meat of the entire thing being in the sub-bass frequency rather than in screechy mid-frequency ranges like all “dubstep” is today.
This compilation is truly entertaining to listen to and wipes the floor with most electronic music released today. Period.
Fabriclive 37 - Caspa and Rusko
Where am I to start with this album. Quite simply, this is an album that epitomises the golden age of dubstep, right before the tipping point when it started to edge into the mainstream where the dirty hands of money-hungry producers were eager to get their hands on the genre and the genre into the top 40.
One can only imagine the atmosphere at Fabric London, the famous club where Caspa and Rusko performed and recorded to make Fabriclive 37, as the tracks were played. 2007 was the year, and this was the time where dubstep was beginning to creep out of the underground and into the minds and ears of many.
You can just hear the power in the simplicity of the beat of Caspa's Born to Do It, the inherent style of the sax melody in L-Wiz's Girl From Codeine City, and simple beauty in Caspa's Cockney Violin. A particular highlight of the album is Rusko's Jahova, an anthemic offering with a memorable tune that often gets belted out by the crowd in front of the DJ booth, or at least it did in the good old days of dubstep. After this, things descend into heavier territory with The Others' Africa VIP, Distance's V, and the Danny Dyer sample-containing Well Ard by Caspa & The Others.
Fabriclive 37 is quite simply the best snapshot of the dubstep scene before it was ruined, so get over to Amazon and buy it immediately.