Kasra Looks Back on 10 Years of Critical Music

kasra

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!

calibre critical music

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.

critical sound fabric

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.

fabriclive-62-kasra_

6. Enei
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.

critical sound flyer

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.

oblique

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.

Big Shot Guest Mix: Rene LaVice

Is this the year of the Ram? We’re asking because in just a few months the venerable UK-based drum ‘n’ bass imprint has become the new home for Calyx & TeeBee (check their Big Shot Guest Mix here) and Toronto’s Rene LaVice. One of the hottest DJs on the North American scene, LaVice recently turned heads when he dropped his Dimensions 5 EP. This week LaVice upped the ante by releasing his Absolute Monster EP on Ram, a release that features four dance floor monsters. On his exclusive 36-track Big Shot Guest Mix, LaVice crafts an unforgettable 36-track session featuring his new tunes as well as rollers from Calyx & Teebee, DC Breaks, Total Science, Delta Heavy (check their Big Shot Guest mix here) and Noisia. Download and enjoy.

Big Shot Guest Mix: Rene LaVice by Big Shot Magazine on Mixcloud

Big Shot Guest Mix: Rene LaVice

1. Loadstar / “Second Skin”
2. TC / “Tap Ho” (Taxman Remix)
3. Noisia / “Dustup”
4. Mind Vortex / “Hotbox”
5. Need For Mirrors / “Lofar”
6. M&F / “Wreck The Noise” (Cold Blooded Dub)
7. Calyx & Teebee / “Elevate This Sound”
8. identi-Fi Wickaman & RV / “Final Crisp”
9. Loadstar / “Terror Drone”
10. DC Breaks / “Era”
11. Culture Shock / “Trogladyte”
12. Rene LaVice / “Dank”
13. Total Science / “ Jungle Jungle”
14. Optv & BTK / “Don’t Need You”
15. S.P.Y / “Love & Hate”
16. Chase & Status / “Time” ft Delilah Enei Remix
17. Meow v12 – Mastered
18. Rene LaVice_/ “Save_Me” (VIP_vocal)
19. Artifice / “Hands Up”
20. Rene LaVice / “Dungeon”
21. Dillinja / “Time Out” (Original Mix)
22. TC / “No One”
23. Delta Heavy / “Get By” (Delta 174 Mix)
24. Foreign Concept & Bringa / “Cemetery”
25. DJ Fresh & Sigma / “Cylon”
26. Major Lazer / “Get Free” (Andy C Remix)
27. Jubei & S.P.Y / “Project 1”
28. Culture Shock / “I Remember”
29. Rene LaVice / “Absolute Monster”
30. Noisia / “Friendly Intentions”
31. Wilkinson / “Tonight” (Original Mix)
32. Rene LaVice / “Regrets”
33. Rene LaVice – ???
34. Friction / “Someone” (The Prototypes Remix)
35. Rene LaVice / “Headlock v11 VIP”
36. Seven Lions / “Below Us” ft. Shaz Sparks (Smooth’s DnB Remix)

Big Shot Guest Mix: Calyx & TeeBee

Well established in the drum ‘n’ bass scene for over 15 years, London’s Calyx & TeeBee are taking their music to the next level in 2012, signing with the mighty Ram Records and working on the followup to their acclaimed 2005 full-length, Anatomy. The pair just dropped a hot double single, “Scavenger” / “Stepping Stones,” and they’re hard at work on their sophomore full-length. You can hear the pair’s latest tracks on their phenomenal Big Shot Guest Mix, featuring as-yet unreleased bangers from label mates Culture Shock, Hamilton and DC Breaks as well as cuts and remixes from Gridlok, Alix Perez and Ulterior Motive & Hybris. Download and enjoy.

Big Shot Guest Mix: Calyx & TeeBee by Big Shot Magazine on Mixcloud

Big Shot Guest Mix: Calyx & TeeBee

1. DJ Shadow feat. Little Dragon / “Scale It Back”(Calyx & TeeBee RMX) (Ninja Tune)
2. Ulterior Motive feat. Lenzman / “Catharsis” (Subtitles UK DUB)
3. Mark Knight feat. Skin / “Nothing Matters” (Noisia RMX) (Toolroom Records DUB)
4. Hybris / “Lair” (Revolution Records)
—-> Hamilton / “Brainstorm” (RAM Records)
5. Culture Shock / “Troglodyte” (RAM Records)
—-> Gridlok / “Insecticide” (P51)
6. Hybris / “Agent” (Subtitles UK DUB)
7. Apex / “Inner space” (Subtitles UK)
—>Cutlture Shock “Machine” (RAM Records)
8. Ulterior Motive & Hybris / “Bring out” (Subtitles UK DUB)
—> Culture Shock / “Protection” (RAM Records)
9. Submotion Orchestra / “It’s Not Me It’s You” (Alix Perez RMX) (white label)
10. Break / “Something New”(Xtrah RMX) (Symmetry DUB)
11. Calyx & TeeBee / “Stepping Stones” (RAM Records)
—> Wilkinson / “Overdose” (RAM Records)
12. Chris S.U. feat. Mira / “Higher” (Subtitles UK DUB)
—> DC Breaks / “Creeper” (RAM Records)
13. SPY & Kasra / “Surface Tension VIP” (Critical)
14. Calyx & TeeBee / “Scavenger” (RAM Records)

Adam F Talks Dubstep and Fusing Genres

As Adam F heads to Miami’s Winter Music Conference and ponders his next studio move, the British DJ/producer/actor says he’s planning to build off the recent successes he’s had with harder acts he’s worked with, like Nero, The Prodigy and Pendulum.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on the label (Breakbeat KAOS) for quite a few years, developing a few acts that we’re real excited about who are now part of the worldwide scene,” he tells Big Shot. “It’s time for me to get back in the studio myself.”

With some prime slots at WMC, and a looming U.S. tour with Caspa later this year, Adam F has given fans a taste of where he might be headed, musically, with his latest single, “When the Rain Is Gone,” a pop-laced, dubstep jaunt, driven by a euphoric hook.

But as the indie mogul who signed Nero and released Pendulum’s first platinum album, Hold Your Colour, he admits a deep dedication to the EDM’s harder, more rock-oriented edge.

“It’s just a different part of me,” he explains. “I like that epic sound — that really edgy, in your face, raw sound, like The Prodigy. It gives me a chance to be less organized within the music. It’s more free to go left with it when you work with people like Prodigy, which is exciting. And obviously people like The Prodigy, they’ve got such a big influence on the dance scene, that you feel you have to step up to the plate to deliver.”

“That’s what dubstep has done. It’s regenerated people’s minds to want to work together. It’s created this new bass music where everything is fused together.”

Adam has also worked with some of hip-hop’s top acts as well — from Redman to Pharaoh Monche to De La Soul to L.L. Cool J.

The L.L. Cool J collaboration, which was on LL’s 2000 smash, G.O.A.T. (The Greatest of All Time), was a true partnership in every sense. Adam not only produced the track, but did backing vocals and spent extensive time in the studio in New York with the rap icon, even rounding up girls from the streets to sing backup.

“That was fucking crazy,” he recalls of the experience. “I grew up with those guys, went to see them. I remember when Def Jam did that tour with Run-DMC, LL, The Beastie Boys. I went to that. So to work with him, that was an amazing experience.”

The hip-hop and rock influence has always made its presence felt in Adam’s music. With dubstep blurring the genre lines even further, he’s heading back into the studio, where he says he’ll toss convention aside and meld several styles into what he hopes will be a new electronic masterpiece.

“The new generation of music lovers and club goers have been less genre-specific than ever before. I’m excited now that so many new genres are fusing together,” he says. “And unlike any other time in club music history, people are going into clubs and hearing such a cross-genre of styles.”

“That’s what dubstep has done. It’s regenerated people’s minds to want to work together. It’s created this new bass music where everything is fused together,” he continues. “That’s why for me, it’s a good time to come back in to make music as Adam F, because it’s quite open now.”

Drum ‘n’ Bass’s Class of 2009

Drum ‘n’ bass has had its share of ups and downs over the years. Originally spawned from the UK rave scene, tracks like Origin Unknown’s “Valley of the Shadows” and Ed Rush & Nico’s “Bludclot Aarttack” paved the way for a whole new generation of music. Since then it’s been proclaimed dead and then risen from the ashes like a proverbial musical phoenix. These nine artists will no doubt take the genre to the next level in ‘09.

Words: Jeryl Wilton

DJ Blame

1. Blame
Who is he? Blame blew up way back in ’92 with the original rave anthem “Music Takes You” on Moving Shadow, followed by a stint on LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking label throughout the late ‘90s. More recently, Blame’s dropped tracks for Metalheadz, Charge and Hospital, including the immense “Stay Forever,” which was the soundtrack of last summer.
What does he sound like? Take one part euphoric strings, one part energetic breakbeat pressure and one part diva-esque vocals, blend them together and you’re getting close.
What makes him special? His unique mixture of uplifting melodies and vocal arrangements have made him a hit on British airwaves, with his latest single getting dropped left, right and center on BBC Radio 1’s daytime shows.
Blame says: “I feel like I’m making the best music of my entire career right now. Hearing my music on daytime Radio 1 is right up there with the highlights from the last 15 years. Currently, I’m working hard on a brand new album. This will be the sound of Blame I was always trying to capture!”

chaseandstatus

2. Chase & Status
Who are they? Chase & Status are two lads from London. Getting a rep for crafting a wide range of diverse styles, the boys found early success on Renegade Hardware, Bingo Beats, BC Presents and Breakbeat Kaos before finding a permanent home on Andy C’s Ram Records.
What do they sound like? If their rather awesome ‘08 debut album More Than Alot is anything to go by, they sound like any style of music they bloody well please! Taking in a wide selection of sounds, that long player was clearly one of the best of last year, and 2009 will no doubt prove even better for this pair.
What makes them special? The fact that they can knock out a piece of dubstep one minute, a smashing d’n’b anthem the next, and then top it all off with a UK hip-hop track that gets everyone hot under the collar. If diversity were an Olympic event, these boys would clearly be disqualified for pumping themselves up on performance enhancing drugs.
Chase & Status say: “Since the album came out we’ve been inundated with work. We’re currently working on album number two as well as an album project for Takura and other production work. We’ve recently remixed The Prodigy and Estelle and have more coming up. We’ll be stateside for the WMC so catch us down there and again in June. The goals for this year are changing all the time; let’s see what happens.”

commix

3. Commix
Who are they? Commix came up as part of the Future Sound of Cambridge crew, also including Logistics and Nu:Tone. Cutting their teeth with tracks on Hospital as well as high profile remixes for Breakbeat Kaos and V Recordings, they were then snapped up by Goldie and his Metalheadz label.
What do they sound like? Their debut album Call To Mind featured a bunch of different styles, most notably the rather disturbing blend of rolling breakbeats and heavyweight bass pressure that was “Talk To Frank” (a reference to a series of drug awareness adverts on UK TV).
What make them special? Other than the fact their signature sound has everyone from jump-up loving pill munchers to nerdy neurofunkers slavering for more, they were the first artists ever to be asked to do an album for Metalheadz and their incredible DJ skills have had them asked to contribute a mix for Fabric’s renowned Fabric Live series.
Commix say: “It’s been over a year since we released Call To Mind, and this year is all about finding a new avenue to explore within our d’n’b stuff as well as pushing ourselves as producers by exploring other tempos and styles. Drum ‘n’ bass seems to be going through a transitional phase right now and we’re excited to see what the next 12 months will bring for the scene as a whole.”

craggz-parallelpark

4. Craggz & Parallel Forces
Who are they? Craggz & Parallel earned their rep with the incredible funky guitar-led “Fizzy Piglets” on Dillinja and Lemon D’s Valve Recordings followed by a succession of crossover style musical d‘n’b tracks culminating in their debut album Northern Soul. Now they’re all about their own imprint, Product Recordings.
What do they sound like? These days they’re dealing out a more stripped back and rawer sound than their previous efforts. Tracks like “Shake The Disease” and “Magnetise” offer up some minimal, bass heavy goodness that shows maturity.
Why are they special? Having straddled the chasm of drum ‘n’ bass success and rather cleverly re-invented themselves, this pair have proved they have what it takes to last in this game. 2009 will be a huge year for them with plenty more lined up including the aptly named Product Placement EP due in May.
Craggz & Parallel say: “After releasing Northern Soul we felt we’d gone as far as we could with the sound we had developed. We’ve had to take a step back and re-assess where our music was going. In the past year we’ve seen a lot of refreshing developments in electronic music, which have inspired us and given us an exciting new direction for our next album.”

icicle

5. Icicle
Who is he?
Jeroen Snik is the Dutch wunderkind who’s taken d’n’b by storm with his distinctive rolling releases on labels like Ram, Soul:R, CIA and, of course, DJ Friction’s Shogun Audio. If you swing that way, you can dig a bit deeper and check out his rather good techno tracks too!
What does he sound like? Like Commix if you fed their basslines a strict diet of chest-clogging red meat oozing with fat. Tracks like the infamous “Franky Mountain” on Ram Records sum up this guy’s sound—minimal but with more bass than a Jamaican sound system convention.
What makes him special? Having knocked out a succession of the hottest tracks for the biggest label in the scene, Icicle finally inked an exclusive deal with Shogun Audio which should see the release of his debut album before the end of ’09.
Icicle says: “I want to make an album that will unmistakably sound like Icicle, but really push that sound to its full potential and maybe go slightly outside of drum ‘n’ bass, too.”

Read the rest of this article in Issue 26!