It’s almost become a cliché to ask what the next development in Drum & Bass will be. With a history firmly rooted in dub-reggae soundsystems and 90’s rave culture, it’s tempting to think of it as inherently nostalgic in nature: a genre of collected memories and referential signposts. But that would be an unfortunate mistake because D&B has always had a persistent fixation on the future. Specifically; afro-futurism, science fiction and state-of-the-art engineering have come to define its aesthetic. It’s therefore no surprise that D&B continues to challenge our preconceptions of style and form, and the latest release from ILL_K and DYL is a shining example.
The EP’s central piece, ‘Neutron’, stitches together elements of dub, field recordings and cinematic sound design. At points, you can hear the trademark acceleration of an inevitable drop. But ILL_K breaks the excitement off without warning, leaving nothing but the swash of water and granular noise in its wake. The remix from Owl pushes this idea into yet more dizzying territory. It’s like a patchwork assortment of the genre’s hallmarks: the Reese bass, the clinically precise percussion, the brooding murmurs — laid out like a pack of tarot cards.
The whole record is also mixed with a spindly, spider-like production. It feels alive, but in a creepy, undead kind of way: like a cold hand on the back of the neck. Indeed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these producers were influenced by horror movies. The breath of forest winds and the metallic clang of blunt instruments echo in the distance, give the tense feeling that something might jump out at you any minute. DYL, who actually hails from Transylvania, even holds a Draculian demeanour in his press shots. But as Billy in 1996’s Scream put it with extraordinary clarity: movies don’t make psychos. Movies make psychos more creative.