In the world of underground drum & bass, there is no coincidence; and thus it’s no surprise that Audio’s third album is issued from the very label that almost one-and-a-half decades past not only ploughed the soil for Noisia, Phace and the likes, but set the standard and direction for the whole Neurofunk genre with the groundbreaking Wormhole album. Of course, this is not Audio’s first release on Virus – but hardly an album has ever grasped the old Ed Rush & Optical-spirit so pleasingly without becoming epigonic or inauthentic. Soulmagnet is definitely Audio, dividing one hour among 11 tracks one may enjoy smoothly with a bottle of red wine and an axe. But there is also depth, funk and long-lasting entertainment value in this diversified album, which unfolds qualities that were but vaguely perceptible in Audio’s earlier works. And at times -hear ye, hear ye!- it is even sexy.
To begin once more at the beginning: the epos starts –according to my chronic discontent with opening tracks- with the rather unspectacular Fringe, that has indeed a nice intro to offer but ultimately feels too artificial. Audio is still recording every movie he watches (and in all actuality a track opening with a Fight Club sample is likeable per se), and again some of the songs’ atmospheric parts rely on them – as does the second, the fast-paced and basic Contribute. But despite all the promises of variety not solely centred round aggression, it takes the spark until track three, Vein Drain (feat. Inside Info), to fully ignite. Vein Drain is more or less Audio’s answer to Noisia’s apocalyptic driving music Charger, likewise oriented around repetitive synthesizer-sibilance and dealing straight forward energy; another track posing the question ‘why didn’t the new Black Sun Empire album sound like this?’. (I guess it’s about time to get over it…)
Leaving the opening song-triad behind, we move on to the incredibly consistent middle section of the album, that well includes some of the best, purest Neurofunk tracks of the year. Starting with fine yet somewhat classic Audio stuff –Creature Comforts-, the following, second collaboration with InsideInfo marks the first climax: Recluse -to my endless delight- takes up the funk of aged Noisia tunes like Sandworm or Crank and hence continues the recent direction of the fabulous Fall Back (feat. Stapleton), fusing Audio’s powerful groove with the almost jazzy momentum first introduced by Ed Rush & Optical with Funktion, and thus heavily prancing on the thin line between techy telos and funk friskiness. Leech too follows that path, but as I said before, there is much variety in this album, so the next highlight, the excellently produced and elusively groovy Headroom, much more reminds of Break and Upbeats, and its deep rolling sub and relentlessly gnawing creak-bass should take the tummies by storm.
Furthermore, Audio takes on old Pendulum with the melodically slightly outmoded Point Of No Return as well as the outer space disco of later Ed Rush (Soulmagnet) before grouping up with Meth for the exploration of all the manifold possibilities of an LFO on Gamma. But that’s already far into the third part of this album, which finds its electrifying and stringent conclusion with Recon, an enthrallingly psychedelic aspiration to the stars.
So what will remain of Soulmagnet, once the tech-floors have digested it and the waves that such a massive impact raises have calmed? Well, on the one hand there’s the insight that apart from Maztek another talented producer more and more abandons the music’s anger expressing quality in favour of its beauty (or whatever you want to call it), while bringing along thorough technique and vast energy. Then of course the album highlights a direction of the genre that sadly became less and less prominent over the last couple of years, and whose reappearance on high level I strongly welcome (and shall not be the only one to do so). And who knows, maybe one day one will think back at Soulmagnet as the turning point that brought Neurofunk its second flowering, and talk about it as the wormhole, through which the funk re-entered drum & bass.
As to now it remains a wonderful album, like most greater works not always completely convenient, but utterly entertaining, groovy, and with its best moments definitely made to last even when the wine is long empty and the axe but blunt.
Noisia – Charger (MotorStorm Apocalypse OST) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOu1BRIJPbs (free & legal download via http://www.facebook.com/noisia/app_389514974442774)
Noisia – Sandworm (Subtitles Music, 2005) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGCCt8PwjpU
Audio feat. Stapleton – Fall Back (Renegade Hardware) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eM7y3M5g-W8
Ed Rush & Optical – Funktion (V Recordings, 1998) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UohWrNyBF6g
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