Drum & Bass emerged from the rave and jungle scenes of the UK underground in the 90’s, characterised by its fast rhythms, clattering breakbeats and heavy basslines. The genre has gone on to enjoy commercial successes with artists such as Pendulum, Sub Focus, High Contrast and more recently Sigma. The sound has established itself across the world and it has garnered many stylistic off shoots, with one of the most significant and enduring of these being liquid or liquid funk.
Melodic Liquid Funk
Driven by synths and instrumental layers alongside driving basslines, liquid is renowned for its sense of atmosphere and smooth melodies. Hospital Records have been helping pioneer the sound since the early 2000’s, releasing some of its most significant records and launching the careers of Netsky and Camo & Krooked amongst others.
Hospitality In The Park
For a long time now, Hospital have run a series of nights and events through their Hospitality brand, including club nights at Brixton Academy and hosting tents at Lovebox and Global Gathering. However this September sees the team expanding their horizons as they celebrate the 20th birthday of Hospital Records. Hospitality in the Park will be hosted in Finsbury Park on 24 September and will be the UK’s first outdoor Drum & Bass event. Featuring stages from Dub Phizix, Soul in Motion and Rampage, the events promises to deliver sounds from across the full spectrum of drum & bass and features pioneers London Electricity, High Contrast, Danny Byrd, established acts Modestep and TC and emerging acts such as Maduk.
Fred V & Grafix Return With Oxygen
Ahead of this event, one of the label’s biggest artists, Fred V & Grafix return with their new album Oxygen. Having previously pushed the boundaries of liquid with their debut album, Recognise, the duo, also known as Fred Vahrman and Josh Jackson, have always experimented in their work and this continues on Oxygen.
Vahrman has taken a more active role in the songwriting for this album, alongside guest vocalists Amy J Pryce and Tudor. Whilst not a songwriting masterclass, songs such as ‘Altitude’ and ‘Electrify’ are clear indicators of expanding ambitions. Similarly Jackson has pushed the instrumental scope of their work further, in particular with his guitar playing. They sit higher in the mix this time round and Jackson has tested what can be achieved with the instrument, acting at times as a second synth line.
Stylistic Experimentation and Broadening Horizons
Slightly overlong and sprawling, there is plenty of room for stylistic experimentation across the album, with the band crediting acts such as Flume for inspiring them to challenge their artistic vision. There are departures into funk and electro (‘Comb Funk’), electronic pop (‘Oxygen’) and UK hip hop on album standout ‘Together We’re Lost” which matches Streets style hip hop of Franko Fraize with dub infused grooves.
Whilst slower tempos almost outnumber the usual 170bpm of drum & bass, what remains at the record’s core are the soaring vocals, harmonies and big drums that typify liquid records. With song titles including ‘Like The Sun‘, ‘Altitude’ and ‘Oxygen’, atmospherics and rich textures dominate much of Oxygen. There is less space for liquid epics like ‘Bladerunner’, which were heard earlier in their career, but anthemic drum & bass hasn’t been completely abandoned. Lead single ‘Ultraviolet’ and ‘Our Story’ featuring Kele of Bloc Party are testament to this and arguably this is still where Vahrman and Jackson sound their best.
Oxygen is a record of broad ambition as the Exeter duo find their voice and challenge expectations. With such sonic variety, there are moments suited to the dancefloor and afternoons in the sun alike and the album look set to soundtrack the summer ahead.
Tickets for Hospitality at the Park, where Fred V & Grafix will be playing the Hospital stage, are available here . Oxygen is out now on Hospital Records.