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CD Feature/ Liar's Rosebush: "Circle the Squares"

img  Tobias
There was a point when Drum n Bass was at a crossroads: Either to stay alive by returning into the same darkness it came from and nurture its roots or develop into something so unimaginably complex and otherworldly that it would defy all criteria considered musically necessary even by the most adventurous listeners. Quite obviously, the genre has chosen to pursue the first option, growing in aggression and loosing itself in apocalyptic visions. But an album like “Circle the Squares” allows for a glimpse at what the present could have looked like if some people had cared more for the future in the past.

Some have been predicting a work like this to flow from the hands of Matt Rosen ever since one of his demos made it to the desk of Dave Dandy-Moore, himself a man at the forefront of fusing the clinical with the emotional and of crossbreeding classical harmonies with state of the art technology. “None Higher”, released in 2003, was hailed as a work with the potential of establishing new borders and of freeing Drum n Bass from its junglist chains, from long overcome conventions and, most urgently, from utter boredom.

If he now returns with a full.length after just under five years on Hive Records, this is by no means a coincidence. Hive have flirted with the genre before, approaching it from the angle of electro, EBM and – occasionally – HipHop – all styles with a decided potential for enrichment and new perspectives. Their point seemed to be that if one took Drum n Bass very literally, its constituent elements were a stormwind of broken beats and the deep bass vibrations reverberating underneath. Rosen adds another train of thought to this approach: If polyrhythms are essential to Jazz and Progressive Rock, why then not use them from this perspective to create a completely unique blend of categories to eschew the dangers of repetition?

With the twelve tracks of “Circle the Square”, he has managed to destill the results of this exciting idea into a mindbogglingly ambitious work. Instead of growing ever more depressed, the timbral palette has expanded to include spacey, brightly flourescent and atmospheric sounds. Long passages of percussive cascades are broken apart by ambient moments, midnight moods and hints at tenderness. Rosen toys with techno, rave and hardcore and builds his relentless attacks from slowflowing grooves. Jazz, as envisioned on “Three Pyramids”, is no longer a metaphor for implicit sexuality, but a method to arrive at greater depths and at an ambivalent kind of eroticism.

The main selling point of the album, however, is how the arrangements of its pieces mirror the mix of musically influential parameters. Just like drum rolls and breaks, the pieces themselves morph in permutating convulsions and complex spasms, tearing and twitching in agony, but also succeding in finding irrestable grooves. Just when you thought the texture of a track couldn’t take any more, it suddenly explodes in a gentle blast, leaving nothing but a warm bass line and the comforting rattle of a thousand different hihats and effect particles swirling about and marching lock-step.

Because of its muscular display of confidence and complete ignorance of established structures, “Circle the Squares” is not an album which is likely to please many right from the start. Which only goes to prove how much Drum n Bass needs something like this. In all of its intellectuality, gut-feeling, with its complexity and brute force, this album makes you feel as though time could really be turned back – and as if Drum n Bass were still at a crossroads.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Liar’s Rosebush
Homepage: Hive Records

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