Thursday, 26 April 2012

Review: T.Power - The Self Evident Truth Of An Intuitive Mind

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I really love drum 'n bass. I've been listening in some capacity since back in 2005, but until about two or three years back my listening was mainly confined to checking out the looming classics of the scene (Timeless, New Forms, Colours, Logical Progression, etc.) It was, strangely enough, a track on a James Zabiela mix that really sparked the love affair. I can still remember exactly where and when I was - holed up in a rented room in Liverpool on a weekend early in March, 2010. I had moved to the city for a temporary contract (testing videogames, if you can believe that, for a now defunct company called Bizarre Creations) and I didn't know anyone and didn't have any money to go exploring, so my free time was spent in a tiny, horrifically decorated spare bedroom surfing the Internet (this is all starting to sound remarkably like a conventional blog isn't it? Don't worry, we'll get back to obscure genre-wankery soon enough). This particular afternoon I fired up Beatport looking for the track I'd heard on Zab's mix (Altair - Collateral, a gorgeous tune you should run to Youtube to hear) and uncovered a whole world of new music. ASC and Covert Operations, Lm1 and Offworld Recordings, Alaska and Arctic...

I spent five weeks in Liverpool, living out of a suitcase and playing videogames for money, and it was possibly the happiest five week period of my life so far. I can vividly recall the friends I made, the books I read, the football matches I watched and the music I was listening to, all a gloriously nostalgic swirl now. That this period coincided with my initial, giddy courtship of the genre has no doubt influenced the powerful emotional sway drum 'n bass retains over me, but I've explored so much since those five weeks two years ago, and the remarkable thing about drum 'n bass is just how exciting it still is to me, even now.

For most of us, the most exciting time of our entire music life is those first couple of years. Something - usually one seminal, seemingly random record - sparks off the love affair, immediately converts us from casual radio grazers into full blown music junkies. This moment typically happens early in adolescence, and for the next few years all of music is still new to us. These moments when you discover and fall in love with someone genuinely, shockingly new to you come in abundant swathes when you're a teenager, but they become far rarer soon after that. To most of us serious music-heads, almost everything is familiar, just endless recombinations of already-heard influences and precursors. That initial shock of the new is the lost high we keep chasing. It's what drives us to listen to weird shit like drone and field recordings and post-everything omni-wank. Something, anything to jolt the senses again. Drum 'n bass, more than any other genre, keeps that feeling of wide-eyed adolescent wonder alive inside me. Every time I think I've figured out the borders of the sound, I'll discover someone or something hailing out of the "drum 'n bass" scene that forces to me to take stock and re-evaluate my own musical knowledge.

The Self Evident Truth Of An Intuitive Mind (finally!) is a drum 'n bass album from way back in 1995, back from the days when the genre really was in a state of frighteningly rapid mutation. In 1995 the whole idea of a drum 'n bass album was new and strange. In that context, even the most inventive record can't help but sound somewhat primordial in 2012, but you can still feel distant reverberations of the exihiliarating future shock listeners must have been hit by when they first heard the mind-bending breakbeat science of Goldie's Jah. What this album must have sounded like back then I can only imagine, because it still sounds remarkably fresh even now.

The one mark against T.Power's album is it's clearly wrapped in the "intelligent drum 'n bass" pretensions that speak of the naivity of the era. As well as the cloyingly smug title, the tracklist is divided into two halves: Intellect and Emotion, one denoted by geometrical shapes, the other by colours. Ooh, deep man. Intellect separate from emotion? What is this, a 1950s sci-fi movie? No wonder the ruffneck junglists went to war on self-congratulatory records like this one.

The music itself is fantastic though. The binary split down the middle of the record may not stand up to close philosophical scrutiny but it's a damn interesting way to structure a record. The "intellect" tracks are more synthy and influenced by techno and early IDM, with lots beautiful melodic flourishes and clean, pretty synths and arps. Halfway through a brief skit of sampled dialogue from various news reports signals the switch into "emotion", and a more straightforward dancefloor jungle sound - more dub, more chopped up amens, more live instruments processed into the mix and also a few cheeky ambient/prog house samples (listen out for traces of Amorphous Androgynous - Ephidrena in the midst of Turquoise).

Either of these halves would have made for a great album if fleshed out, but combined together in such a fluid manner they create a remarkably eclectic and varied listening experience. It's this variety that's quintessentially drum 'n bass: this is a genre that can incorporate just about any musical influence or ancestry, provided you can time-stretch it across a rapidfire breakbeat. What's more, all the tracks flow seamlessly into each other, resulting in a nigh-on perfect "all the way through" listening experience. You know, like albums are supposed to be played. Damn MP3 kids.

I'm not quite of the opinion put forward by some that this is the best drum 'n bass album ever. I can't quite think of a better one off the top of my head, but I can think of a few that are similarly excellent, and the whole thrust of this damn overlong review-article-thing is that drum 'n bass is constantly surprising me, so there's sure to be some genius albums out there I haven't even heard of yet. Even so, there are precious few electronic dance albums from 1995 or earlier that stand up as well as this one. If this record came out next week it would probably be one of the albums of the year. As it stands, this is testament to the creative vitality of drum 'n bass. No other dancefloor genre has ever spawned an album half as accomplished as this within three years of its inception. None.

Genre: Drum 'n bass
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 10/10

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