62nd Cell - Tread Softly (YozMaz, 2021)
UK Techno and Bleep legend Dave Campbell continues to serve up the goods with this latest effort from the 62nd Cell name, with the music flittering between gorgeous downtempo soundscapes and enriching skippy liquid d'n'b numbers.
Here at EG HQ, we always appreciate the artists who story is a differential to the linear, instead having a branch like structure that feeds into the collectivised hive mind of electronic music, providing us with a plethora of musical avenues in which to discover and fall in love with. One of the best ways in achieving this is firstly having a mind set that is elastic in relation to exploring such a wide plain of expressionism, having the creative means in which to achieve such a diverse set of sounds, and attaining a burning desire in which to craft beautiful threads that feel different to the last yet remain interconnected - like a web or network of tone that keeps it all locked in together. This in turn creates an audial identity that is bound by the sheer scope of it all, a world that expands and contracts at will to focus our attentions on one grouping of sounds that make up a particular thread, with a shift maybe occurring when the next release comes out. This kind of journey is usually achieved by the multitude of aliases that musicians craft for themselves to represent their expanded universe, with each name catering to a differing side of the story, as every new release feels like a new chapter being penned in a never ending dialogue of musical exploration and depth. The 90s was probably when this practise really hit its stride, with countless producers making a space for themselves not just with their birth name but with a number of side projects that reflected their curious characters, with one name acting perhaps as an anchor whilst the others filtered around it. This was a reflection of the significant shift in possibility that occurred during the era, where new genres, technologies and cultural scenes bought forward the notion of giant leaps and made the seemingly impossible seem possible, with all the idealism in the world shaped and crafted into a incredibly powerful creative process. You had house producers making d'n'b, ambient artists crafting Techno and Jungle, and so on and so forth, with each individual or group signifying their own take on a musical universe that exploded in a relatively short period of time. It became about who took what path and how they looked to undertake it, with people drawn to particular producers who made it their mission to craft a deeply believable world that drew power from cross-referencing and morphology. These became the kind of artists who naturally gathered followers to their cause, drawing in people from all parts of the electronic music spectrum who became invested in both their core sounds and the flourishes that proceeded in their branches out. To this day, we look back to this era and start to see patterns emerging that were laid down by producers who made music with diversity and scope in mind, as their story and the various releases held within it begin to resonate within the contemporary musical landscape. Recently a big light has been shone on the achievements of many producers from the early 90s, with loads of timeless gems resurfacing as the modern era starts to wake up to the future that was created during this period, and more often than not we look to the diversifiers and explorers for those most priceless of musical experience.
One producer who certainly crafted one of dance music's most intriguing worlds is UK producer Dave Campbell, who since the late 80s has continued to expand and nurture his sonic universe with only the finest examples of electronica going. Campbell began his career during the new dawn of UK dance music, where the new sounds of techno and acid house made their way across the pond and kick started a cultural and musical revolution. Campbell would initiate his career at the very heart of this phenomenon, with his initial releases focusing on the emerging UK Techno and Bleep sounds, with his works during this period highly praised and singled out as exemplary records within these fields. His early music contained shades of New Beat and the second wave of Detroit Techno, with the resulting mixture a deft blend of percussive power and rhythmic melodic pulses, all the while merging the chirpy sounds of Bleep within a classy techno-esq structure. It was a sophisticated and deeply pulsating sound that rocked to the core many a warehouse and club at the time, with Campbell already exploring how the use of differing aliases can be harnessed to explore his initial dabbling in the aforementioned genres. Campbell would then look to blending his established musical identity with other emerging genres, such as IDM and Hardcore, and with other producers whom he shared musical interests with, which demonstrated his ability to cross pollinate his core ideals with differing genres, with the resulting records big on musical diversity and application. This approach would serve him well, with further aliases created to continue even further into the realms of dance music, with new genres picked up along the way including electro, trance, future jazz and drum'n'bass, all of which were approached in the same considered and technically broad reaching way. Its amazing to look back at the significance which Campbell was able to achieve throughout his career, with each name providing a differing angle to his continued development as an artist, the narrative remaining one of continual momentum that sparked the imaginations of many listeners and dancers along the way. Not only does he have a magnificent back catalogue of records to shift through, but he continues to make music to this day, either releasing brilliant new material or issuing never before seen tunes before, which only continues the narrative onwards up until the present day. His works remain some of our favourite to meander through, with so much to touch upon and highlight as to make picking favourites a pretty difficult task, but we shall list some of the top top records here, starting off with the excellent 'Sit On the Bass' EP and the deeply compelling 'Cyborg Society' record, with the releases arriving in 1991 with both showcasing his wicked hybrid of deep expansive techno and expressive bleep. From the Hi-Ryze name, there is a lot to highlight, with our favourites including the excellent self titled record from 1991, the equally brilliant 'Progress' EP from 93', the electro infused beauty of the 'Polaris' record from 99', and two of his more recent releases, 'The Lowdown' and 'Bellboy', both of which showcase Campbell's natural abilities to keep creating incredible music. From his other aliases, our favourites include the raw power of the 'Phase & Rhythm' album, released under the Kibu name in 93'; the deep funky hardcore tones of the 'Toys' record, released under the XtRO name in 92'; and finally, the brilliant bombasticness and rhythmic slickness of the future jazz/d'n'b 'Resist/Double Zero' record, that arrived in 97'. Campbell also released a fair amount in collaborations with other artists, which includes the 'Ur1/Dakota' record from the Mainline project which was released alongside Robyn Arlow in 97; the wicked high octane future jazz of the 'Freefall/Burnt Out' record, released alongside Tom Withers as Phume in 96; the wicked percussive feels of the 'Machines' record, released alongside Tom Withers as Scorpio in 95; the deep and dubby techno of the 'Dishwasher' record, released with Viv Beeton as Timenet in 92; and finally, the works of Ubik, which we recommend you go and listen to in its entirety, with particular attention to the stunning 'System Overload' EP, with the project shared with Viv Beeton also. In all, Campbell's universe is a pretty compelling one, filled to the brim with some of the finest examples of UK techno there is, and plenty to explore outside of that scope if you feel the need to. Over a number of aliases and group projects, Campbell showcases his abilities as a producer but also as a visionary, with many of the releases discussed here standing out for their creativeness and blended approach, with the tones always keeping us on our toes as the rhythms flow all around us. We cannot recommend his previous works enough, so maybe go check them out for yourself!
And now we arrive at his latest record, 'Tread Softly', that is released under his 62nd Cell name, with the record arriving via Campbell's YozMaz imprint. 62nd Cell is very much a modern incarnation of Campbell's sound, and staying true to form the alias' musical identity is a very broad one indeed, with each record released coming across as a self-contained world for us to inhabit, with the mix of genres spanning techno, IDM, experimentalism, d'nb, downtempo and many more. It feels like an accumulation of all Campbell has looked to achieve over the years, with the resulting cocktail of flavours a highly intoxicating one, and with these new records pressed alongside reissues of his older works there is so much cross-correlation going on between both eras. Put simply, Campbell remains one hell of a producer, with his creative will as broad reaching and expansive as ever, a statement that rings true from the 62nd cell records, with this new one no different. Whilst the previous records under this name more uptempo and horizon reaching, the cuts on 'Tread Softly' are more mellow, feeding into the lounge and the bedroom more so than the big rooms and sweaty warehouses, with a laid back approach that still feeds into multiple contexts and tones, no matter where you might be. The tracks on this record were all recorded between 2000-2015, and as a result don't feel tied down to a particular moment in time, but merely floating between the time scale, filling up the years with a easy going dive into the powers of electronic driven soul and crunchy vibrating atmospheres. Its a drive through the city, the meandering down by the chilled out coastline, a permeating presence through the membrane, and its simply wonderful. So, without further delay, lets dive right into this wonderful collection of music.....
"All you touch you chance, all that changes, changes you"
Up first comes 'Earthseed', and this one begins with the gently tapping layering of keys to get us going. The varying sequences all work alongside one another to craft spatial depth to the cut, with the lightest of twinkles and hats making their way into the progression, with far away drones helping to set a very large sense of scale indeed, and as these droning wails reach a head we see the kicks start to emerge from within the structure. The walls of the living room drop away to showcase a scene of flickering lights and glistening objects, with the composition moving between densities to help further the notion of momentum, as all manner of tonal applications make themselves known throughout the many levels of expressionism. The piano that arrives starts to bring us down to earth a little bit, adding further warmth to the piece that seems so certain on moving us to new heights and realms of understanding, gently lulling us into a space where expansionism of the mind is a given. What a beautiful opener. Up next comes 'First Contact', and this one begins in similar territories, except its the drums leading the way on this one. The subdued kicks give way for something greater as the acid tinged chimes draw us closer into the unravelling groove, with vocal snippets adding further intrigue to the progression, our heads nodding up and down to the rhythm as it delves from the highs to the lows with unbridled confidence. Its hypnotic to the ears, locking us within the mid section as we look to our right and see someone talking to us, a speech that operates very well indeed within the confides of the cut, with the experience rolling onwards within a kind of suspended bubble. The track switches it up around the 4:30 mark with the melodic features moving away from a solid application and into a more sporadic application, as the cut moves between further realms, spaces and places. Gorgeous stuff. 'Seven Breaths' comes next, and this one starts off with the skipping drums and deep keys getting us going. The initial picture is very inviting indeed, our eyes moving from left to right in an instance in order to take in all that is being unearthed from the tracks foundations, with eerie keys and expressive drumming patterns propping up pulsating bass notes. The lead synths drop in and out of the picture at all the right moments, keeping their presence known but providing spaces for the other elements to shine in all their rhythmically intriguing glory, as the flow of the track becomes more and more compelling as time goes by. The sequences are full on and properly realised, which is made all the more profound as the vocal snippets come into view to help contextualise what we are experiencing, and after their appearance the track enters a particularly lucid passage indeed. The melodics become pretty psychedelic as the drums respond in kind with plenty of double time action and layering going on, with the resulting passage really melting our minds. Pretty exceptional stuff!
"Astral Projection mode".
Up next comes 'A Voice', and this one starts off with the woosh over the gently applied beats. The swells continue to abound within the emerging structure, the keys lightly doing their thing as rising pads float right to the top of the foundations and beyond into the misty horizon line, with the track striking a fine balance between density and sparseness. The switch up in the beats around the 2 minute mark is pure bliss, with plenty of reverb applied to the kicks to give that real crunchy undertone, with the vocal line blending in and out of time to craft that engagement on top of proceedings. The track just continues from there, the bass line providing a rock solid foundation for the track to vibrate to, as the synths do their bit to create a foreboding yet highly enjoyable experience for all involved. Brilliant stuff. Next comes 'Rahmondo', and this one begins in a particularly beautiful place indeed. The synths that open up proceedings are intensely gorgeous, with their solidness enhanced by the introduction of the lightly rhythmic repeating key line that does much to keep the feels expanding, with the melodic outlay propped up by the drumming pattern that aligns itself underneath. It all comes together so expertly, with the drums maintaining the spaces felt within the composition with their skippy nature, as rising pads throw themselves into the mix in an ever changing soundscape that prides itself on filling up the expanse with all kinds of melodic excellence. The additional chiming crescendos of keys do much to invigorate the mind and keep us fully engaged with the comings and goings, with the track doing much to channel the energies found within the mind and the body, our inner self reflecting the feels with such passion. The track enters into a down time moment around the 5:30 mark, which maintains the solid application of the keys whilst bringing in a bass line that adds further to the flavours, with the drums re-emerging to keep the blood pumping with one final salvo through the outer regions of experience. Glorious stuff. Up next comes 'Delightful', and this one begins with a series of refracted key lines getting us in the mood. Campbell does a great job at subverting expectations, as the fast paced nature of these keys indicated a fast paced beat yet instead we are greeted with a very chill structure instead, which goes on to support all manner of colourful key lines. The track is a head nodder, with the outlay of textures providing us with many elements and features to involve ourselves within as time passes by, with the spectrum of feels only expanding and growing as we become more involved with this engrossing soundscape. Beautiful stuff.
"Dawn sunlight through a chink in the curtains revealing a joyous, towering rustic view"
Up next comes 'Consume or Produce', which asks the question - 'Do you want to consume or produce?'. These lines during the intro move into the next phases which are personified by a incredibly trippy series of phases, with shifting drumming patterns supporting a collection of sporadic pads that do much to channel into the dusty regions of our brain. Its music that crawls along the sub-base, exploring and investigating the foundations of sound with a caressing hand that lifts us in and out of the sequence, with the original message spoken directly at us as we reach deep within ourselves to find an answer. The music is incredibly visceral, keeping us locked in until we find it within ourselves how we wish to proceed, and that in itself is pretty special as an experience. Gorgeous dubby experiments, right here. Up next comes 'Honour The Practise', and this one begins with the spacious key arrangement getting us going. The arrangement flows like water as the keys liquify within the immediate view, as the light drumming patterns emerge underneath the vocal line, with these features then growing to incorporate a slow down chuggy percussive structure that compliments the melodics perfectly. Its quite dubby in parts, with the drums threatening to go into full on d'n'b mode but not quite getting there yet, with dips in energy serving to introduce further synths into the mix, and before long we get greeted by another vocal line that adds more dialogue for us to get to know. The vocals move away to introduce us to the now fully developed progression, and its pretty fucking marvellous, with so much depth and compositional strength to look at, its a marvel to get to know and delve within. Vocal lines continue to be thrown into the mix, the words seeming to help guide the track into new stanzas, with the spatial scale going from far and wide to small and narrow in the drop of a hat. Glorious stuff. 'Tread Softly' arrives next, and this one begins with the flickering lights and expressive pads to get us going. The field of view is filled up with light key lines that cascade across the plain, with their presence then joined by the bass notes that add depth to proceedings, and before long we are joined by the drums. The ensemble feels alive, containing a significant amount of vibrancy that is personified by the movements onwards into the track, with all manner of textural application occurring to give the track a real kick. The movements into quieter moments is pitched to perfection, helping us to move along at a good pace which allows us to look at all the beautiful things unravelling before us.
Up next comes 'Rainstorm Coming', and this one begins with the drums setting the scene. The melodics remain in the background in the intro as the drums do all the work in crafting the tones, with the dippy trippy arrangement giving way for the solid rhythm to emerge, which morphs into a particularly dubby affair with the light bass line permeating through the bottom end of the track to great effect. The key lines that emerge only further the feels on display, keeping our eyes moving constantly to get a handle on all that is going on within the track, their presence rising high above in a ethereal display of emotion. The continued emergence of melodic frequencies keeps our eyes firmly locked into all that is going on, the body swaying to the beat whilst our minds remain intrigued by the wondrous display of melody and texture on top. Amazing stuff. To wrap things up, we have 'No Escape', and the eerie keys and singular percussive element get us going on this. The space set is enormous, with the drums underneath not giving too much away whilst the keys abound and groove on top, crafting a delirious feel that engulfs our consciousness one final time with its deeply textured approach. The keys shift from left to right on the pan, taking in all they can as short sharp vocal samples call out to us from across the sea, with sporadic percussive elements only aiding in guiding us from point A to point B with a daring infectiousness. The arpeggio key line that emerges is crunchy and effective, providing a final element for us to loose ourselves in on a record not afraid to lock us in and keep us seated for its entirety. This is a truly remarkable record.
We talked before about how the producers who strike out beyond their home genres are often those who are most fondly remembered and revered, and with this record we are reminded once more about just how good Dave Campbell is at applying himself to all manner of genres. We already know him as someone with an extraordinary ability to channel himself outside into other branches of electronic music, and this collection of downtempo cuts serves as another feather to his cap of making not just another kind of music but another kind of deeply intriguing music. From the off we are greeted with song after song of expressiveness and thought, where each cut contains its own interpretation of electronics and its ability - when in the right hands - to move us to places on both an emotional and physical level. Be it the sub-base explorations or the filtered soars of chords, there's everything here you need for your next intergalactic and highly visceral musical experience, soundtracked by a producer who has an endless pool of creativity to select from. Incredible music, really.
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