Raymond Roker

Altered States of Drum & Bass

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Drum'n'bass, like its forerunners reggae and techno, is a music of, shall we say, subtle differentiation. In other words, its detractors say it all sounds the same, while its defenders say you need to listen more closely. Altered States of Drum & Bass could be used to support either side of the argument. DJ Raymond Roker, who compiled and mixed this program, is one of the more authoritative American exponents of drum'n'bass, as founder and publisher of the magazine URB and as resident jungle DJ for Science, a weekly drum'n'bass night at a club called the Pink in Santa Monica. This compilation draws on the output of artists both British (Roni Size, DJ Hype, Source Direct) and American (DJ Abstrakt, Dylan). The program starts off strong with solid tracks from Om Zone, Pish Posh (aka DJ Wally), and Breakbeat Era (aka Roni Size, DJ Die, and Leonie Laws), all of whom layer hard jungle beats, dark synth, and intermittent vocals into kaleidoscopic permutations; when Jonny L comes in with the surpassingly dark "Uneasy" and Source Direct follows up with the even darker "Mind Weaver," the effect is pretty intense. But things bog down after that -- the beats all start sounding even more samey than usual, and the shuddering, descending basslines all start sounding cliche. The only immediate difference you'll notice (when Embee's "Secrets" segues into Psion's "Airships") is a change in the timbre of the drums and a new set of vocal samples. By the end, though, things get interesting again. "Aura 1" by DJ Abstrakt is an exhausting piece of triple-speed hardcore, and Dylan's "Blackout Remix" manages to be jazzy and dangerous at the same time. This album may be a mixed bag, but it's well worth your attention.

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