Production duo’s long-awaited debut album is an hour of inventive dance music.
Chris Power 2011-04-19
In 2007 production duo Instra:mental became part of a group of drum‘n’bass producers and DJs, including Commix and Marcus Intalex, restoring invention and subtlety to a scene obsessed with sugar-rush builds and kitchen sink breakdowns. Instra:mental’s approach harked back to the mid-90s avant-garde of Source Direct, Photek and Hidden Agenda. In 2009, alongside dBridge, they were installed as residents at Autonomic, a d’n’b night at London’s Fabric that spawned a collection of diverse podcasts and, subsequently, a FabricLive CD that has come to be regarded as one of the best to date.
2009 also saw Instra:mental (Alex Green and Damon Kirkham, aka – in case you forgot their d’n’b origins – Bleeky and Drama) launch their own label, NonPlus+, and the diversity of its choice roster – including ASC, Actress and Kassem Mosse – accompanied the shift of their own productions towards dubstep and techno hybrids. Throughout 2010 their releases gradually dropped in tempo, and on this, their long-awaited debut album, they present a series of rumbling grooves that trade on both sides of the porous border between techno and dubstep.
Within this range, Instra:mental repeatedly subvert expectations of which sounds belong at which BPM. The DBX-like paranoid techno of User and Love Arp’s glimmering synth arpeggios flow seamlessly into the greyscale dubstep of Arc and the Underground Resistance-style electro of Delta Zone (Advance). These, in turn, are jostled by the grime assault of tracks like Thomp and 8, while for aficionados of Instra:mental’s layered synth work there are tracks like Waterfalls. Its scudding half-speed drums balance the weightless swirl of its deep sonics, and provide some much-needed respite in the midst of a frequently aggressive set.
Despite the wide-ranging array of influences and styles in play, Resolution 653 manages to cohere as an album: while rhythm patterns and synth textures change, the guiding aesthetic remains the same throughout. Just as shifts occur between tracks, so too do unexpected variations take place within them. The breakneck Thomp, which is reminiscent of Untold in the convulsive warp of its sub-bass and the dryness of its percussion, becomes all the more resonant when it dissolves into a glimmering stillness, cut through by a single melancholic chord.
In musical terms, Green and Kirkham have described themselves as "growing up through the rave generation", and many aspects of Resolution 653 confirm that. But the debt this inventive hour of music owes the past is far outweighed by its claim on the present.