To do anything consistently for ten years requires vision, determination and an unwavering belief in what you do. These three elements — combined with a discerning ear and eye for new talent — are part of what’s helped Kasra’s Critical Music forge a distinctive sound in the world of drum ‘n’ bass and help push the genre forward. Launched in the living room of his north London flat in 2002, Critical Music has fostered a who’s who of production including Enei, Break, Rockwell, Sabre, Stray, Cyantific, Marcus Intalex, S.P.Y, Calibre and Total Science. Having released of a steady stream of amazing records and established a global reputation for throwing great events, we asked Kasra (pictured above) to share ten of Critical’s standout moments.
I was asked to write ten key moments from the label’s history. This morphed into a piece about important things I feel have made the label what it is rather than a glamorous list of highs. Some of the things that have got us where we are don’t make for a fancy Facebook post but are vital all the same. Thanks for all the support, keep it Critical. — Kasra
1. ST Holdings
This may not be the most exciting way to start off a piece but when you first think about starting a label that’s going to sell physical product (records/CDs) you need distribution. Never underestimate the importance of this. We had a few false starts due to bad distro, when STHoldings approached us it gave the label the creative freedom and infrastructure we really needed to get going.
2. Signing a Calibre single
I’m really proud of the label’s early catalogue but when we signed a Calibre single for our ninth release it definitely helped put us on the map. For such a respected artist to sign to a fledgling imprint made people really take notice. Dom, we thank you!
3. Less is more
At first I wanted to release as much music as possible, as time went on I realized the importance of not filling the schedule for the sake of it. Only release the music you really believe in, there’s so much out there why add to it with singles/EPs that you aren’t moving you how they should. This still remains my ethos today, if I don’t have something good enough to release I’ll wait.
4. Fabric residency
I’d always dreamed of having an amazing residency in my own city, and I tried for a couple of years to get Fabric to return my calls – luckily enough one day they did. Its been incredible for the label and all the artists – for us to be able to regularly showcase what we do on one of the best sound systems in the world is a real treat.
5. FabricLive 62
I was with George Dub Phizix when I got the call that Fabric wanted me to do a mix for the FabricLive series. He can vouch for me when I literally jumped up and down [laughs]. A real moment for me and real testament to the team at Fabric who push the music they believe in.
After a while you want to build a team around you establish a unit. The first artist to be signed exclusively to the label was Enei. His music just struck a chord with me — rugged, to the point drum ‘n’ bass yet with character and atmosphere unlike other producers around. I was very proud when we released his album last year and the reaction it received.
7. Critical Sound events
The events side of what we do has become key to the label and being able to showcase the artists alongside guests all over the world. I’m really pleased that the name and what we do has become synonymous with quality underground d’n’b. In 2013 we plan to step up our game. There is a lot more to come!
8. Sabre, Stray And Halogenix feat Frank Carter III- “Oblique”
Sometimes big tunes aren’t the obvious ones; sometimes you hear a track and think. I don’t care if no one buys this — it’s incredible and I want to put it out. “Oblique” was one of those. In a scene full of “bangers” this made its mark by just being a fantastic piece of music. Was so happy to have signed this and what a way to kick off our tenth year.
9. Outlook – Boat Party
I had heard the rumors but hadn’t experienced it myself, until last year when we were invited to Outlook for the first time. We had traveled for about 12 hours to get to Pula, and I was hanging onto hope that the party would be as good as everyone says. It surpassed all my expectations, 300 people on a warm summers evening loving life. It’s cliche but it was incredible!
10. The future
There’s so much to be excited about: new music from the artists, events, festivals, studio time. It’s such an incredible adventure. Bring it on!
Critical X featuring tracks by Mathematics, Calibre, Breakage, Lomax and others is out now on Critical Music.