High Contrast

High Society

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High Contrast's 2002 debut was entirely unpretentious. Its giddy rookie drum'n'bass skitters went ballistic into vintage vocal sample atmospheres with nary a pander to the electronic music community's savagely permutational itch. In '04, after a year of stellar remix work, Contrast (aka Welshman Lincoln Barrett) returns with High Society, a remarkable statement-maker that drops its share of can't-miss dancefloor moments, but also revels in posing hyperkinetic percussion against gently swelling, almost melancholic basslines. This dynamic in the emotions and music makes Society as much an album as Contrast's first recording was, but also highlights where he's grown. Grime-hopeful Nolay spits hollow-point bullets over the snare reports, snyth cues, and bass pulses of "Angels and Fly" -- it sounds like Future Sound of London backing the boastful, malevolent transmissions of a pirate radio MC. But "Angels"' post-millennial tension is at sharp angles to "Just Say," a collaboration crossing Contrast's usual percussion slap with sunny guitar drop-ins, dubby horn samples, and the soulful patois of garage/dancehall vocalist Spoonface. As catchy as these tracks are, extended drum 'n' bass workouts like "Lovesick" and "Racing Green" keep the rhythms interesting by periodically suspending them in favor of chopped-up and filtered disco and soul samples. High Contrast then builds back up from these breaks, dropping in once again his insistent chattering snares. "Natural High" nods to both electronic music's formative years as well as the artful chill of Air, while "Brief Encounter" and "Twilights Last Gleaming" offer a salve of bittersweet and blissful melodies floating underneath their furious drum tracks. Newbies like the Streets and Dizzee Rascal have been responsible for broadcasting the sound of the U.K. underground into clubs and headphones world-wide. With High Society, it might be High Contrast's turn to push things forward.

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