Since its inception in 2002 Kasra’s Critical label imprint has become an oasis for forward-facing breaks and bass music, a label that continues to push things forward within D&B with its mere presence under the watchful eye of its founder. Over its 15 year lifespan (and counting) the label family has continued to grow and evolve, opening its doors to welcome the likes of Mefjus, Russia’s Enei, the D&B supergroup Ivy Lab and Foreign Concept to the good name Critical. Not bad for a label that was born in the front room of a north London flat all those years ago…
Of course, Kasra’s name within the world of D&B doesn’t begin in 2002. He was turning things up to 170BPM long before Critical came into this world, and from the late-90s was crafting an identity for himself as ‘a gatekeeper to what is under the surface of drum & bass,’ as Metalheadz icon Goldie would describe him. With that, few come better prepared to chart the history of DnB in just 10 records, old and new, than Kasra. Before he heads to In:Motion alongside TQD, Foreign Beggars, Dub Phizix & Strategy, Elijah & Skilliam and many more on Friday 6th October, that’s exactly what he’s done.
5 Records From The Past
Doc Scott – Unofficial Ghost, (Metalheadz)
This is an undisputed heavyweight classic. This track encapsulates the time and the feeling of the early years for me. The excitement of the music, the edge, the combination of the known and the unknown. It was definitely one of the first DnB tunes I heard that got my attention, and it really peaked my interest in music. There’s an atmosphere about those old tunes, and there’s a degree of nostalgia in that but it had a very distinct sound to it.
MTS – Hard Disc (Zinc Remix), (Juice Recordings)
I don’t really hear people reference this record too much, but it’s quite a personal one to me. I had a tape recording of Zinc playing at the End from a Kiss FM Radio show, Rage on hosting duties. This tune, when it dropped, you could feel the energy from the crowd. There are elements of lost romanticism about the process of hearing someone play a record, and then having to desperately find out what it was when you leave the club. Then there was that joy of putting the needle on the record, and realising you’d found it. At the time, you knew that the only way you’d hear this record was if you went to see DJ Zinc. An overlooked rowdy classic IMO.
Outfit – New York, (Metro)
Dom & Roland, Optical and Fierce came together to create this raw piece of dystopian funk. It’s got such a weird energy to it, and it shouldn’t make sense. There are elements of funk to it, and there’s a bassline in there that’s very weird but it works. I’ve never heard anyone play that track in the club, and I like the idea of playing things in a club that shouldn’t work. That’s what I try to do with my DJing, play something that people don’t expect. Keep them on their toes, and this does just that.
Ed Rush & Optical – Life Crisis (Origin Unknown Remix), (Virus)
I’d never heard a remixer take two tracks and meld them together in this way before. The originals, Lifespan and Crisis were already huge in their own right. This remix just took it to another level, and at this point in time the Virus imprint was simply untouchable. I managed to get a test press of this record once and that made me feel like I was a ‘proper’ DJ, even from my bedroom. It doesn’t sound dated, but it doesn’t sound like a big tune either and it came from a very revered time period for music…and for good reason.
Blue Sonix – Got Me (In Its Spell), (Aquasonic)
I don’t really know if this track is under appreciated, but it feels like it to me. Loretta Holloway sampling, deeply groovy and infections. A track that takes you to another place. Around the time ‘Got Me (In Its Spell)’ was released there were a lot of records which sampled old soul vocals, and at the time that was when the term, as much as I hate it, liquid DnB was really popular. You had this world of quite dystopian, bleak, sci-fi influenced DnB, but you also had this other side to the genre which was really deep and soulful. It was something we hadn’t really heard much of before, and this record really encapsulates that.
Five Records From The Future
Ivy Lab – 20 Questions, (Critical)
I know I released this record through my label Critical, but I feel this is modern 170BPM soul at its best. Gove Kidao (Sabre), J Fogel (Strays) and Laurence Reading (Halogenix) [who form Ivy Lab] I’ve known for years, and we’ve always had a very close working relationship. We just started working together on music quite naturally really, aiming to make an EP a year and ‘20 Questions’ was one of the records that came from that process. It sounds like it’s a take on liquid DnB but twenty years later. It’s got a nod to the past, but it’s definitely modern. Impeccable.
Skeptical – Imperial, (Exit)
I can’t say enough about Skeptical’s ‘Imperial’. I play it every set without fail, and I will do until the day I stop DJing. Its beautifully executed, and works on the floor every time. It’s a really well played and supported tune, and it was floating around in clubs before it was even released which was rare to see. It’s one of those tunes that goes with anything. It can take you in a different directions, and it’s just a great DJ tool. It reminds me of a techno record. Hypnotic, simple but complex, and it’s just a great sound-system tune. I just love it, it’s a tune I wish I signed actually…amazing.
Mefjus & Emperor – Disrupted, (Critical)
The modern harder sound can be rinsed quite a lot and sometimes it can become a little identikit, but there’s a lot of music with a harder edge that doesn’t get the love it deserves. But Mefjus & Emporor have always made really interesting stuff that’s a little bit harder. ‘Disrupted’ isn’t a straight-forward, two-step banger, but it’s also interesting in its complexity and it’s a really clever record. It’s a really good example of how you can make high-impact, modern DnB but it doesn’t need to follow a formula.
Noisia & Joe Seven – Hand Gestures, (Vision)
All their music is incredibly well-produced, but there’s something about ‘Hand Gestures’ which sounds very simple but you know there’s a lot of stuff going on under the hood that’s probably beyond most people’s understanding. I really like the attention to detail and the striving to perfect your craft, and that’s really inspiring. It’s not a record that people expect from them. It’s subdued, but when you play it in the club it bangs. Everything serves a purpose, it’s a great piece of music…
Inside Info – 2 Minds, (Viper)
When i first heard this it was a run over to the decks rewind it then ask what it is tune. This is a really new one. I think it’s a modern version of the Virus records sound to me. It’s quite bleak in its palette but at the same time it has a lot of energy in it, and it’s clever how it’s done with its quirks. I always used to love the way that you’d find little sounds in old Virus records that you’d just hear once and never again, and that’s something that comes from a different time. The analogue age, where things would happen and never be able to be recreated, and ‘2 Minds’ has that same feeling for me. It’s another record I wish I released myself actually…