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Jackson Ryland - Most Necessary (STEP Recordings, 2021)

One of the contemporary scene's most forward thinking producers keeps the fire burning within a stellar 2021 with a superb release on the Catz N' Dogz imprint STEP, with the vibes as powerful and profound as ever.

Pointing in different directions within dance music always has the effect of working over the mind, the body and the soul, and this feeling only comes out when the producer behind it all has spent time to find that perfect blend between emotional tools and deep percussive patterns. The notions of genres like House and Techno were built upon the relationships that persist between the keys and the drum machines, their synchronisation key in uplifting the corners of the club to new heights with a righteous feeling that had revellers moving to the pulses all night long, and this feeling has remained ever since as a representation of culture, community and togetherness. Such was the capacity for these new kinds of technology to continually explore and grow in potential, that innovation remained very much at the forefront of Dance Music's development, with a rich stream of new genres and sub genres moving through the gears as we travelled along through the 80s, 90s and 00s. As we arrive into the present day, innovation remains very much at the forefront - as it always did - but it resides in the little things, the sequences, the momentums, and the personal developments, perhaps more so than it does in the curation of new scenes. We see now artists who are very capable of blending so many strains of Dance Music into their own fluidities, their sound build upon pre-existing tenants but with a continuous scan to understand how new frequencies could build upon and further enhance their craft, and this ever present desire helps to push forward the collectivised soundscape. Particular voices begin to ring true from within the swirling mixtures of sound, ones that call out the loudest and seem the most profound in terms of their musical content, sounds that provide us with an alternative angle to our own listening preferences and a inward looking presence which helps us to expand our horizons to new places and spaces. It's a landscape that persists on producers who buck the trend, who ease out from the channels that be and look beyond the parapet to explore new methods of thinking, to make music that feels it's way into both the context of the club and into the living room. Within House and Techno in particular, there is an immediate gravitational pull towards those within the spectrum that feel out their music in this way, where the progressions, tones and compositions come to us with immediacy but also providing a sense of having a lot going on underneath, where on repeat listens we still feel an immense sense of satisfaction as we tune out for the evening. To operate on both fronts is particularly appealing, in that we feel compelled to meander down differing tracks towards new spaces and places each and every time, be it to an emotional space or one where we feel the groove deep in our bones. Dynamism remains a key feature of dance music, as it always has, and perhaps in this day and age - where so much music gets released frantically around the globe and remains very much a click away - it's this characteristic that remains so important. Many audial frequencies populate the contemporary music scene, of which some abound a little bit harder than others, as the differing range of blends starts to help paint a picture of worlds that feel so vivid, so upfront, and so invigorating.

For some time now, D.C based producer and DJ Jackson Ryland has been making all these visions a very intoxicating reality indeed, with his deft blend of House and Techno winning so many hearts the world over. Listening to his music is like engaging with a sensory field that wraps itself around you, where colours and vibrancy reign supreme amidst a sea of drumming patterns and beautifully considered melodic progressions, all of which is pulled off within a unique textural space that gives over enormously to us with each track that passes by. Ryland in short has crafted a somewhat singular audial language that seemingly remains his and his alone, with the wavelengths continually singing to one another as sequences intermingle with passion across the top ends, and the rhythmic foundations that persist underneath just doing so much to move the body into near states of ecstasy. This is a feeling that grows within us every time we finish up with one of his records, be it a release under his own name or as part of group projects like Superabundance and Rush Plus, in that you feel like something meaningful is always going to happen, as if a plan always remains in place to place us within a certain emotional mood or imagined context. It's this visceral presence that captures a spark that burns within all of us, music that hangs in the air delightfully as we find ourselves looking throughout it's many layers to understand the complexities going on, and this inviting in is something that is always captured within Ryland's music. Be it getting to grips with a very explosive Techno slammer, or a softly undulating form of House music, or something kinda in the middle of those two delightful feels, Ryland always pulls it off with an understanding of atmospherical factors that simply takes the breath away, with the listener always placed on a pedestal and giving plenty of opportunity to look around and marvel at the sights and sounds of it all. All of the music released under his own name is very much worthy of a mention, with our favourites including the meandering simmers that reside within the gorgeous 'Acting Careless' record, which landed on his own label Jackson Ryland back in 2019; the absolute power found within the progressive 'Stealth Mode' EP, which came out in 2020; and finally, the utterly mesmerising force of nature that is the 'A Million Questions' record, that came out earlier this year and is honestly one we cannot recommend enough. Earlier this year, Ryland blessed us with the first of hopefully many, many Superabundance records, 'Superabundance', which is a group project alongside fellow Future Times affiliate Max D, and the results are truly glorious, with the sound of this project very much a symbiosis of the two's natural affinities with Techno. Ryland's outputs paint a very stellar picture indeed, one that remains filled to the brim with curiosities, flavours and subjects to marvel over, and as we slip through the exhibition we only get to see more of his fascinating sound. Highly visceral and involving, you feel immediately embedded within the flows that unravel from each of his compositions, as heavy set drums flicker underneath the lightest of melodic progressions, a whirlwind of feeling and emotion that you just cannot deny or stand aback from. As frequencies go in the modern age, his is very much one to wrap yourself around, to be a part of, to accept that invitation to grow into the music, and at the end of the day, that is one of the best features of any kind of dance music. If you haven't had the chance to go and check out his previous works, then we highly recommend going back a little bit and getting to know them, you won't be disappointed.

And now we arrive at his latest effort, 'Most Necessary', that arrives via the Step Recordings imprint, and the feels on this one very much continue the impressive vibe that Ryland has curated over his previous releases. From the off we are scooped up and placed within a ever rising vortex of sound, where shades of feeling wrap themselves around us as the kicks hit heavy within the soul, with the scale and scope of proceedings feeling like they continue onwards towards the setting sun and beyond. Ryland keeps up his impressive control over dynamics and textural application throughout, with little touches added here and there to the layering and how the track moves onwards from here to there in a delightful manner, and we for one are so happy to be able to immerse ourselves into his work once more. So, on that note, lets take a deep dive into this little masterclass in progressiveness, tonal mastery, and effortless audial application.....

Up first comes 'Vanilla Extract', and this one begins with the uptempo hats and shakers interwoven with the distant pads to get us going. We get acquainted with the opening salvo but dive headfirst into the momentum as the kicks arrive to provide a sense of rhythm, and as we pass through the bars the background synths start to swell with pride and presence, with the hats arriving soon after to keep the progression moving onwards with a feverish intensity. The magic starts to present itself on top, as filtered elements start to drift in and out of place and time, with plenty of convergence occurring as sequences blend into one another with a hypnotic feel. The keys then retreat in order to draw focus to the drums, before coming back to the fore as we descend into the first breakdown of sorts, but this remains short lived as we move back into an even more energetic drumming sequence with the claps making their presence known. The track continues to drift across the plains of existence with all the meaning in the world, it's energies bound to the earth that persists underneath but always finding the time to wash over the top ends, like waves overlapping a sea wall, as we feel through the grooves with our hands, ever watchful of what might crop up over the next set of hills. This one is pure power and feeling, that's for sure. Up next comes 'Spine Realign', and this one begins in suitably uptempo surroundings. The drums greet us immediately, with the kicks and hats crafting a cavernous scale to the track, with the repeating key line starting off slight but emerging as a fully realised line of inquiry, with further meat added to it's progression as the chiming key line comes along for the ride. The drums then move away for a momentum in order for us to get to know the sequences in all their glory, with this moment of peace providing plenty of momentum as we move right back into the drums, and we really lift off during this moment. The drums remain as powerful as ever, with the light sprinkling of melodics doing much to connect with us on an emotional level, as we feel both sequences doing much to channel their way into every single part of our bodies and minds. We get lost deep within the grooves in the best of ways, our eyes captivated by all that flows beside us and beyond us, the music stretching out on the lonely highway through the most beautiful of soundscapes, it's perpetual energy feeding off the earth itself. Glorious stuff.

Up next comes the title track, and this one begins in similarly energised surroundings. The beat contains a mixture of clear cut elements and filtered panned tools, with this approach helping to really feel out the room and craft a sense of dynamism which digs up all the corners and lifts us to some very special places indeed. The melodics that arrive soon after only fuel this sense of depth, as the pads spend a significant amount of time moving around the top and bottom ends of the spectrum, their ever swelling presence flittering between the various spatial environments being presented to us. Very impressive indeed. To wrap things up, we have 'At This Place', which again presents us with with a very intriguing audial outlay indeed. The drums remain understated at first as a sweeping melodic presence moves around within the backdrop, it's swelling feel propped up beautifully by the snare that comes into the mix, and this seems to push the keys into overdrive, as swirling chordal lines become blended with a beautiful arpeggio which grooves through all the layers of the track. The power that abounds from this track truly is immense, with our minds firmly locked into the whirlwind of grace and fury that flows past with every passing second, with the track remaining a fitting end to a record that knows exactly where it is heading and how it looks to make us feel. Truly one of the year's best.

Underneath a lot of Dance Music there remains an essence that really captures the imagination, and in many ways it's hard to pinpoint exactly what this is, but it usually comes around when the artist behind it all spends plenty of time exploring ways of showcasing to us how their combination of melody and rhythm can work on numerous levels. Jackson Ryland is certainly a producer who spends a hefty amount of time dealing with the sonics of his music, and on this record this approach continues to serve him well, with the music presented here really taking us on a series of journeys filled to the brim with powerful percussive structures, intriguing melodic sequences and beautifully considered textural wonderings. The three combine to provide us with music that lifts the soul, that inspires tired bones, and touches the heart with it's effortless and relentless momentum that seizes the opportunity to continually wash over us. It's a presence that perhaps will always remain unseen, but with Ryland's music you always end up feeling some kind of connection to it, and here you really feel locked into the music, from start to finish, and it's a pretty wonderful feeling. A class act through and through, this one.

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