The album features tracks from El-B, Hybrid Minds, Enigma Dubz and more
Here we have a label compilation "album" (read: digital bundle, because there's no physical release, or at least not as far as I'm aware) that collects together the best of Brummie bass label's UK garage output over the past eight years. Hence the cunning subtitle, UKG Archive Vol 1.
The collection begins with four cuts from the mighty El-B, culled from the two Attitude (Pts 1 & 2) EPs he released on Four40 in 2016 and 2017. That date's worth noting, because otherwise you could easily assume Love Is Coming, Memories, Ease My Mind and In That Attitude - long as they are on skippy beats, chipmunk'd diva vocal bites, rough-edged bass and spinback FX - were lost relics from 1997-98! The latter even chops up the vocal from Colonel Abrams' original 1985 Paradise Garage classic Trapped for maximum old school appeal.
We then have four tracks from Enigma Dubz. Between Me & You and Hard To Smile are deep, sparse and possessed of some seriously speaker-threatening low end, What Must I Do is a much gnarlier affair that bites India's Lover That Rocks You for a vocal and then Without You By My Side veers towards dubstep/grime territory. Hybrid Theory and Nu Era's bassline collab Medicine comes next, followed by Hybrid Theory's own moody, sultry So High, before I Killed Kenny feat Slick Don's Crux Pedro plays us out on an edgier, grimier tip.
It's the El-B contributions that stand out for this reviewer, but if you were wanting a quick snapshot of how this most resilient of UK music strains has been evolving (and/or staying obstinately faithful to its roots!) over the past decade, this is the ideal place to look.
Words: Russell Deeks
Release date: 9 March
Review Score: 8