Hearing this, you wish High Contrast would cut loose
Chris Power 2009-04-28
The new album from High Contrast (aka Welshman Lincoln Barrett) divides itself between the drum and bass star's original productions and his prolific work as a remixer. Having made his debut back in 2001, High Contrast has blazed a trail through the drum and bass scene, his performances on the decks earning as many plaudits as his work behind the mixing desk (including the Radio 1 Essential Mix of the Year award in 2007). His sound is undoubtedly slick but, as this album goes to show, it can be bland, too.
2004’s High Society is the best represented album on the disc of High Contrast's own productions. But while the unusual chiming quality of the bass on Twilight's Gleaming and the old-school house organ melody on Basement Track snag the listener, their effect is undermined by perfunctory drums and predictable bassline progressions. Four tracks from 2007 – three from the album Tough Guys Don't Dance and one 12'' release (When the Lights Go Down) – prove more engaging. If We Ever unleashes a ferocious Amen break beneath interesting sliding strings; Tread Softly reaches back to the lush, hypnotic vibe of mid-90s ambient drum and bass; Kiss Kiss Bang Bang wraps itself around an irresistibly catchy sample taken from Julie London's version of Cry Me a River.
The remixes disc sees relatively obscure drum and bass and breakbeat movers and shakers such as Omni Trio and ILS rub shoulders with regular UK chart habitués Basement Jaxx, The Streets and Adele. The remix of the latter's Hometown Glory constructs a fantastic melodic line from her vocal voice, but it's on The Streets' Has It Come to This that High Contrast can be heard having the most fun, blending the track’s vocal hook with elements of his own drum and bass remix of RIP Groove's speed garage anthem Double 99.
Hearing this, you wish High Contrast would cut loose or go for a sound that’s a little rougher around the edges more often. Obviously talented, he has carved out a niche that has brought him success, but that shows scant interest in adventure.