Headed by Sola, DnB label Grand Theft Audio is closing its year with a monumental 32-track various artists album. Here’s what every artist had to say about their tune.
Drum & bass is about to close another fantastic year, with new groundbreaking music delivered by both newcomers and stalwarts of the genre. 2022 has also been a year of stellar drum & bass albums, and one of them was Manchester-based trio Sola’s ‘Stars Align.’ Encompassing nearly every style that the genre has on offer, Sola delivered an album that caters to every mood.
The album landed on their label Grand Theft Audio – one that has been consistent in pushing dancefloor oriented drum & bass for over nine years. Along with the release of the album this year, Grand Theft Audio has also brought talents like Perplex, Shayper, Intraspekt, and many more to showcase their talent to the world.
One of the label’s yearly rituals has been to bring talents from the label together; stalwarts and newcomers alike – to be a part of their compilations. Taking a step further into their legacy, this year, Grand Theft Audio has brought talents from every spectrum of drum & bass forward, to compile a thrilling selection of tunes that epitomize the label’s ethos.
Sourcing 32 tracks with 52 producers and vocalists that have lovingly crafted music for every occasion, the ‘Fresh Music Annual 2022’ compilation is the first of what will be a yearly flagship album. Drum & bass has thrived for decades because of its strong sense of community, and this mammoth compilation is a salute from Grand Theft Audio to the genre, where some of the most enchanting magic happens.
We were immensely intrigued by the size and the quality of ‘Fresh Music Annual 2022’ by Grand Theft Audio; so, we decided to give you a track by track review, along with insights from the artists themselves. We also asked the producers what drum & bass means to them and we’ve got some great responses. So, sit back, and buckle up, because this is going to be a fascinating ride.
Starting with the amazing pyxis, who brings her progressive and melancholic style of music on ‘Vegsívir.’ The name of the tune is originally that of a magical Viking way-finder symbol, and that’s exactly what this tune does with its melodies. Its deep, yet euphonious structure has the power to take you on an intriguing Scandinavian chronicle.
To pyxis, who has been a mainstay of the genre for two long decades, DnB means everything. She states, “It’s my life’s work – it’s friends, it’s family.” Having been involved behind the scenes in DnB since the late 90s, and raving since the early 90s, pyxis is a key identifier of the genre. “I find it difficult to really consider that I’m anything else,” she says.
Up next is the explosive DnB duo, Perplex with ‘Crank It.’ A pulverizing addition to the compilation, Perplex notes its highlights, namely its “big drums, big basslines, and cheesy vocals.” A staggeringly large delivery indeed! The producers then goes on to note, “Without DnB, life would definitely be a bit crap.” We couldn’t agree more.
For the third tune on the album, label chief Sola and American DnB stalwart Nvrsoft team up for a gritty and flowy number, ‘Through My Eyes.’ Sola states, “It’s beautiful and melodic, with a hint of sadness, and some abrasive noises here and there for texture.” With Sola’s album, which was released about a month ago, you will experience exactly what was intended; and they have now seamlessly integrated their style with Nvrsoft on this seminal album.
Nvrsoft echoes this, highlighting the track’s dynamics as “chill but energetic, and melancholic but uplifting.”
Oxford-based producers Dukes took on the task of remixing the label heads, and the result of flipping Sola’s ‘Motive’ on its head, is phenomenal. Dukes describe the remix as “daunting,” and a “neuro slapper,” accurate words for a track that delivers on both descriptions.
Acknowledging DnB’s evergrowing circle and its impact on all those involved, one-half of the iconic duo, James Sola, states, “Every person I know except for my parents and brother, I know through drum & bass. It is an artform, a community, and a way of life.”
Robbie, other half of Sola, stars the genre’s stylistic inclusivity, and the ease with which DnB channels a multitude of genres and subgenres. He says, “Drum & bass is the most varied type of music in the world. Whatever kind of music you are into outside of DnB, there is a subgenre that fits it. Whether that be rock, classical, reggae etc.”
German drum & bass talent Scurrow makes an appearance on the compilation with a bouncy tune that has flickers of old-school elements immersed flawlessly into the track’s razor-sharp drums. Joely’s hard-edged style of music on ‘Spectacular,’ which he says is a mix of “dutty, heavy, subby, lyrical and clever,“ is complimented immaculately with MC Reality’s vocals. Both the artists, like us drum & bass heads, have described the genre as being one of the most important cogs in the their life; especially Joely, who pulled out of some tough times by pulling from the genre and its energy.
Shayper, regarded as one of the hottest talents in the scene, brings a giant wall sound on ‘Party Hard’ – a track that exemplifies the label’s sound. Shayper describes his tune as a blend of “angery olde skoole reese go brrrrrrr, stepping hybrid drums go S L A P. Step 3 – Profit.” And we don’t disagree with a single syllable in his description.
The drum & bass community is a network of like-minded individuals that love the same things, so it is no surprise that Shayper notes its contribution to his life and career. “Drum & bass is that creative output I’ve always needed, and a path to meeting friends I’d never dreamed of,” he says, adding, “And, it is also very angry music I get to blast out to loads of like-minded people.”
Newcomer Deazy, who already has massive releases lined up on Jungle Cakes, Celsius and Fokuz, delivers a tune called ‘Godzilla,’ which sounds precisely like it reads – sinister and rip-roaring. The Ramsgate-based producer shares, “Godzilla has been designed to represent the concept of if the iconic beast had a love child with a sub… I think I nailed it.” Well, absolutely you did.
Deazy also awards praise to Grand Theft Audio and its principles, stating, “The community nowadays is so diverse compared to what it was in the early 2000s, where people are there to help you instead of treat you as competition. The guys at Grand Theft Audio are such a great bunch of people and treat you as a person, and not just another tick on their roster.”
Corrupted Mind, who has made some serious strides this year with his intense brand of drum & bass, says the genre means everything to him. Which he has expertly presented on Vektral’s ‘Where Did You Go,’ where he ignites every human sense with a pounding rework of the original.
Bristol-based producer K Jah, who describes his tune as “a nod to the old rave sound updated for 2022,“ leaves nothing behind in blending old school and contemporary drum & bass with 8-bit flickers, making the tune a bouncy affair. It’s fascinating to witness the people involved in drum & bass commit their lives to the genre, never looking back; and with a career spanning two decades, K Jah rightly considers DnB to be his “life and soul.”
AJ Mutated, one half of the former DnB duo Mutated Forms “went a bit geeky on the production, “taking the techy route with a marauding sonic attack in ‘Sanity.’ Some catch the thrilling pulse of drum & bass rather late, and for some like AJ Mutated whose “life certainly changed at the age of 12,” the magic happened quite early.
Drum & Bass producer, vocalist, and MC Diligent Fingers makes his return on the label after seven years away with a steppy banger featuring Neil Badboy. Badboy describes the track as having “new skool jungle flavors with a lot of old skool elements, and catchy vocals. About his thoughts on what drum & bass means to him, the jungle/dancefloor producer says, “It has been my life since the early 90s , and is the second most important thing to me after my family.”
Plymouth-based prolific production pro Plasmator packs a menacing punch on his tune ‘Urchin,’ and he describes DnB saying, “Pretty much everything I do outside of my day job is focused around drum & bass, so I guess the effect it’s had on my life is that it is my life.” Next up is the owner of jungle music behemoth Nuusic Records, Rafiki Dubs, who brings two eras of the genre into a single tune called ‘All I Ever Need.’ For such an important name in the scene, we were keen to know what he had to say about his thoughts on drum & bass, and Rafiki Dubs summed it up with the term, “family.”
Change of Pace, who comes with his blistering take on drum & bass music describes his tune the way we could describe the last few years. “A glimmer of hope in the endless struggle,” he expresses; poetic, and a poignant truth.
Albuquerque-based ESKR, who released his smashing debut album on Grand Theft Audio, returns to the label with a high octane tune, ‘Nobody Stopping Me,’ bringing liquid, jungle and neuro elements together. Speaking about the significance of drum & bass in his life, ESKR explains, “Drum & bass has become my way of life. The energy and excitement it’s brought to me over the years has truly helped develop who I am as a person. There is nothing else I’ve dedicated myself to as much as I have for this music; and being able to create it, and have others enjoy it, means the world to me.”
Toss-T teamed up with Colossus for a tune that gave us some serious early-day Netsky vibes; who also had an interesting perspective about the genre. “I love that within the niche of DnB there is still a huge range of soundscapes to be accepted. Want to do minimal tracks where you basically hit some pots and pans? You rule! Want to chug some metal guitars over a mechanical burp and some wailing lady, you got it. Variety is the spice of life,” he shares.
Clarkey comes next, with a thick and powerful banger that ventures through the human soul, engulfing the listener with composition swamped with sharp bass vibrations. Beskar, contrary to the name of his track, ‘A Bad Feeling,’ fills us up with energy from the track’s funk-driven narrative which the producer likes to describe as a “build up of Beskar’s signature vocals, and samples of an upright double bass, dropped into a dancefloor banger that will melt your face off.”
Oversight brings Drifta on the album, with a tune he describes to be “sort of liquid but bare dance-y,” with its beauty lying in the balance between its melodics and its chew-your-face wobbles. ‘Want You Tonight’ sits 20th on the compilation, a more-than-halfway-through assured potential party staple.
Moisinn comes in next with crunchy humdinger ‘Sleep Paralysis,’ taking us on a journey that embodies the true meaning of musical hypnosis.
DA TU & Mzcl then flip the dense sounds of Moisinn’s track to bring supremely celestial vibes on ‘Slow.’ DA TU recalls, “Slow was a track made when Mzcl and I met in Portugal. The weather and area we stayed at was beautiful, so we followed suit with that vibe on the track.” Now that explains the sudden urge to hit the beach everytime we have this on!
Next, Boomslang Recordings chief Gigan features on the mammoth album for a tune called ‘Vapour,’ which takes no prisoners with its brutal bassline. We’re always keen to hear label heads talk about drum & bass, and Gigan, like the other label bosses on the album, shares similar feelings. He says “I’ve been doing music since I was 7, where I began playing the alto saxophone, so music in general is just part of my daily life. The comradery of creating with your mates and releasing tunes with a label; building friendships that span multiple continents.”
Next comes Wez Walker, with a beautiful description about his view on DnB. “Drum & bass to me is freedom of expression. There is very little limitation and I find that the DnB community is very supportive of each other. Being a liquid producer, I find it really easy to put real emotion into a track and tell a story with how the track progresses.” When it comes to drum & bass, the feeling is universal; Wez Walker just described it better than most could.
Replete, with his tune ‘Raptor,’ has ensured that his debut on Grand Theft Audio doesn’t go unnoticed. Combining “brutally primal elements with screeching roars, and metallic sound design,” Replete has brought the Jurassic Park experience to our ears.
Error 404 & eFly, who collaborate on a track called ‘Send My Demons Away,’ get the sonic exorcism ritual spot on with a melodic roller. On how drum & bass impacted Lithuanian eFly’s life, he says “I’m an ex drummer, so back in the day I loved playing fast grooves. After I started producing, I was making all kinds of music until I heard Konflict’s ‘Messiah’. I think it was the Spor remix, and oh boy, that kickstarted my love for DnB. I wanted to listen more and more of this music so I started to research it.
“I started with Skullstep DnB, then got to neurofunk. After sometime, I found myself more into deep, dark and techy drum and bass; and now I make something between neuro and deep. Over a period of time, I’ve noticed that artists like Current Value, Spor, Noisia, Audio, Neonlight, Kasra, Enei, and lately Sleepnet, had massive influence on my own production. Drum and bass for me is like meditation. When I have loads of stress I turn DnB on, and it all fades away with those reeces and drum grooves . I love drum & bass.”
UK-based DnB quarted and eFly’s collaborators, Error404, furthered these sentiments, stating, “Everything; the passion you feel on stage playing your own music, the community, the escape when making music, I could go on forever!”
DJ Ferro, who combines “energetic dance floor DnB with 80s sounds and a melodic, ecstatic intro,” doesn’t miss a beat in showcasing his drum & bass talent on ‘Not A Test.’ When asked what the genre means to him, Ferro replies, “Drum & Bass is the music that changed my life and that of my group of friends, it has united us in an incredible way so it will always be more of a musical genre or an art form for me, it’s my way of life.”
To bring the colossal album towards its end, Organix delivers a liquid anthem with lush pads and strings on ‘Out Of Time,’ before Eski B takes on the intensity of delicate DnB condiments for a warm and gritty tune called ‘ASTR.’ E.R.F then raises the roof, and follows up on his debut on the label, with a surreal crossover of dancefloor drum & bass on ‘Prepare.’ Double XP, at the 31st spot on the album, comes in with ‘Affirmation,’ a rapturous spin with a choppy and unpredictable stomper.
And finally, closing the album is Latvian producer Zionov ND with ‘Beat,’ a “funny, uncomplicated and danceable tune,” mixed by label half James Sola. Zionov attributes drum & bass with its community, friendly and responsive – almost like a family. “Drum & bass is a lifestyle,” he sums.
For Grand Theft Audio’s biggest various artists album, ‘Fresh Music Annual 2022’ has smashed it out of the park, featuring a bright and shiny list of DnB’s finest. There could be no better way to wrap the year!
Listen to ‘Fresh Music Annual 2022’ in all its glory, here: