Every few years, an artist will emerge onto the scene and really shake things up. These artists somehow manage to stay true to their dark DnB roots whilst at the same time command respect and admiration from their peers in different areas of the scene. These artists also attract a much wider demographic of fans and listeners, which in turn increases sales and raises awareness, which is always a good thing.
In the last few years artists such as Audio, Limewax, Phace, SPL, Noisia, Gridlok, Calyx, Teebee and many more have all walked this sacred path, the path that bridges the gap between the dark side and the mainstream.
Recently, rumour has it that a mythical beast has been seen around these parts, a giant, colossal figure lurking in the shadows. He’s not here for admiration or respect, he doesn’t care about demographics or sales and he certainly has no interest in walking any path or bridging any gaps, but rest assured, he is most definitely here to shake things up.
Now, this all sounds a bit far fetched, doesn’t it ?
Well it does until you’re actually face to face with the beast himself, I’m referring to none other than up and coming DJ/producer Smyla.
When you first meet Smyla, the first thing that you will notice is the sheer size of the man, measuring a staggering 6ft 8″ in height and weighing in at well over 20 stone, its easy to see why he has gained the nickname “beast”. Standing in his presence can be a daunting affair, you literally can’t see over, around or past him, at all. But it isn’t just the physical aspect of his character that has earned him the “beast” moniker, its also the musical aspect.
With a slew of savage releases on his own label Mute:8 Recordings, alongside several appearances on other respected labels, Smyla has established himself as a force to be reckoned with. His musical output and ever expanding back catalogue is very impressive for an artist who has only been releasing for 3 years and he is consistently improving with each offering.
And its his latest/forthcoming release that we’re here to talk about, his first LP, “ASYLM”.
Upon listening to the album, the first thing that instantly grabs me is the attention to detail and Smyla’s intimate grasp on the importance of the “whole picture”. This isn’t just a collection of similar tracks, packaged as an album, this is an actual album. A long player, a journey through sound, a labour of love that has taken 14 months to complete and when you listen to it from start to finish, ASYLM truly is the complete package.
The album begins with the haunting pads and distant vocals of “Unhinged” although I urge the listener not to be lulled into a false sense of security, the opening track lives up to its name in every way. Home made and authentic sampled breaks provide the structure for torso mangling bass and razor sharp synthesis. Edits and filters are pushed to the limit with an almost clinical attention to detail, this gives the track an altogether futuristic feel, while maintaining certain old skool values.
Moving on, we find ourselves rolling through the atmospheric, bass laced tones of “Before The Science”. Along the way we witness classic amen breaks arranged with military precision, wailing vocals and a deep, warm sub bass that will rattle any system on the planet.
Next up is “Radiance”. Again the backdrop is breathtaking atmospherics, classic breaks and synth stabs build an eerie suspense which is completely shattered by the high pitched “does it feel good” vocal. Does it feel good ?, Fuck yeah it does! This is full on militant tear out at its very best, a balls to the wall, 300mph burst of relentless, savage, snarling DnB. Nothing short of a full on anthem in my opinion.
Maintaining the pressure and broadening the horizon, we are treated to the next slice of genius “Last Of The Kings”. A perfect example of how real jungle should be produced. The pads and chimes working in perfect harmony with the lumpy 808 sub, more amens than a Louisiana Sunday baptist service, alongside some fantastic editing. There is also talk of a Bkey remix of this track in the works too. So keep them peepers well and truly peeled.
When listening to ASYLM, you’ll find some re-occurring themes, wailing vocals being one of them, the beauty of this album is Smyla does this shit so well, even in the instances of repetition, it never actually sounds repetitive. The next track “Iridium” is no exception, gorgeous pads lay the groundwork for solid breaks and some utterly amazing filter work. The break down is superb and the track really does give us a feel of what Smyla is capable of when he’s in charge of a sequencer.
After floating down from our Iridium cloud, we drop straight into the distant, low down swelling of “Cannibal Consumer”. This track seems morph in and out of the listeners subconcious, making your entire body throb. Its almost as if this track beats in time with the human heart.
As we look further into the abyss we are confronted with “Nuetron”. A halftime, mechanical head nodder of the highest calibre. A solid hip-hop esq break gives way to fluttering percussion and a constant growling bass that just will not quit. Warm pads and background ambience compliments and completes the effort nicely.
Next up things really start to get really deep. “Moons Of Neptune” starts off quite sedated in a way, we roll through authentic layered breaks and chunky bottom end, alongside twisting mid range synths that set the scene for a dramatic breakdown. If you’re listening to ASYLM as a whole piece, the breakdown in this track is one of the defining moments of the album, the wailing vocal comes in and suddenly you get another piece of the “whole picture” I referred to earlier. Stunning.
Just as things seem to settle down, we hear a voice from some distant radio transmission, “Let us begin”. Breaks and filters dance around the speakers and flutter like birds in springtime, big slabs of sub help build the suspense, alongside waves of low down synths, then out of nowhere we’re off. With “Voices From The Sky” Smyla has excelled himself . Its so raw yet so polished, chaotic, yet superbly controlled and then we arrive at another breakdown, 4mins into the track and I almost shit and cried at the same time, the vocal and the atmospherics blend perfectly to create something absolutely magical, so vicious, yet so gentle at the same time. Another great highlight.
Still reeling from the previous onslaught, we’re led straight into another one “Lucid Visions”. It feels as if the lights have dimmed as we’re dropped into dark, low down pads, the drums are big and solid and the drop is immense. We’re well and truly back into tear out territory on this one, switching between crunking, metalic shards of bass and lumpy 808’s. Another dance floor banger with plenty of twists and turns along the way.
Just when you think we’ve had our fill of aggression, we get more, this time in the shape of a “Straight Jacket”. The demented “the human psyche” sample gives way to an epic build up, drum roll please squire and we’re off again. Bruising, kick laden bass, amens-a-plenty, trademark edits and clever automation are everywhere and at times it actually feels like the track itself is trying to lobotomize the listener, in the best way possible, naturally.
As we roll into the final track, while we’re still checking for broken bones and how much blood we’ve lost, we are granted a chance to reflect on what the fuck just happened over the last hour or so. “Solar Wind” is the final piece of the puzzle. Simplicity is the key here, atmospherics and vocals are layered around a basic, perfectly eq-d break, bass and synths work together in unison to create a track that I’m certain will be played across the board and revisited time and time again.
Overal rating from me is 9/10.
During my time with Smyla, over a few cold beers, he agreed to go “on the record” for an in depth interview, I will be posting the interview in the next few days as a follow up feature to this review.
I have been informed that the aim is to release the ASYLM LP during the spring of 2014 although there is no concrete release date as of yet, but I can confirm that the album will be released on Mute:8 Recordings and Smyla has assured me that audio clips will be available on the Mute:8 Recordings Soundcloud over the next couple of months.
I would like to thank Smyla for taking the time to chat to me and I’m certain you’ll be hearing a lot more from him in the near future.
Until next time … Peace.