Available on: Exit 12″

I’ve been hearing good things about next-level d’n’b types Instra:mental for a while now, but whenever I’m checked out samples of their stuff online, I’ve found myself mildly impressed rather than blown away. Still, when the sage types at Bristol’s Rooted Records suggested I check out the latest ‘mental 12″ on Exit Records, I obliged, and can now say with some confidence that A-side ‘Watching You’ is the very definition of fresh.

To clarify, Instra:mental (rubbish name, I know) is a duo, two thirtysomething-lookin’ chaps named Alex Green and Damon Kirkham. They’ve been making tunes since 2000, but it’s really in the last couple of years, with a string of productions on [NakedLunch], Darkestral, Exit and Nonplus, that they’ve begun to stand out from the pack. Now, it’s something of a truism that drum ‘n bass hasn’t been genuinely interesting since the late 90s, but Instra:mental are part of a small huddle of like minds – along with D-Bridge, Spectrasoul and, prior to his dodgy Roots Manuva collaboration, Breakage – who’ve taken inspiration from dubstep and techno to develop a crisp, minimalist and pitched-down d’n’b variation that sounds something like, well, the future.

Not that Instra:mental don’t owe a debt to history – the influence of Photek, Alex Reece et al is undeniable – but to be honest the collision of broken, air-tight beats and sickly autotuned soul vocal (courtesy of Darren White) on ‘Watching You’ reminds me more of the recent abstract funk of Mount Kimbie and James Blake. But whereas those guys are perhaps victims of their own need to keep things itchy and glitchy, Instra:mental bring a real rollers’ instinct to bear on ‘Watching You’; off-kilter it might be, but it definitely ain’t wonky. Oh, and some moody blue Detroit synth pads bring an exquisite melancholy to the thing.

Flipside cut ‘Tramma’ is a real surprise: deep, skippy dub-techno with the faintest junglist flex, not a million miles away from the sounds of A Made Up Sound, Shed and the Modern Love stable, but with an refreshingly straightforward melodicism that you’d never get from these guys. It’s a classy affair, all in all.

It’s easy to see why Instra:mental count people like Appleblim and Peverelist among their fans. I don’t want to gush, but…this is an excellent, highly original 12″ that deserves to break out of the jungle ghetto and find a home in the collections of everyone who rates Martyn, Burial and all the post-dubstep stars I’ve mentioned above. I’m confident it will (eventually), so get your copy before they’re all done gone.

Tony Essler



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