Upon its release last year, the first volume of Astrophonica’s ‘Gradients’ compilation series showcased the roster of the label founded by London-based DJ Fracture in impressive style, with contributions from the likes of D-Bridge, Moresounds and Sully. A year on, this second volume highlights the distinct progression in the label’s aesthetic since then, and while there’s still a strong junglist / drum and bass presence to be found amongst the 14 tracks collected here, it’s increasingly the similarly hyper kinetic rhythms of footwork and juke that are most keenly pursued here.
If anything, the selection of artists manages to eclipse the first volume in terms of impressiveness, with the seemingly omnipresent Luke Vibert, recent Hyperdub signing Proc Fiskal, Falty DL, and a welcome reappearance from Machinedrum and Om Unit’s Dream Continuum collaboration featuring among the contributions here, all of them previously unreleased exclusives. Fracture & Neptune open proceedings with ‘Chal Dub’, as an eerie sampled female vocal intoning ‘I’m trapping you’ loops continually against a forest of flickering synths, only for hammering footwork kicks and pulsating bass tones to suddenly lock in, sending the entire track galloping off, the frenetic hi-hat programming accelerating into a blur.
Luke Vibert’s ‘165 303’ reaches further out into breakcore jungle in a similar manner to his Amen Andrews releases as radio announcer samples and cartoon rave whistles get cut up into ridiculous new phrasings against clattering ‘Amen’ breaks and uplifting pads that scream ‘1995’, before Sam Binga, Lewis James and Rider Shafique combine forces for ‘Everfresh’, a swaggering piece of distorted sub-bass loaded ragga-grime that’s easily one of the biggest highlights here, its serrated grooves calling to mind the likes of The Bug and Miss Red.
Elsewhere, Dream Continuum’s ‘Ride Away’ opts for a streamlined junglist / footwork hybrid that drapes sped-up rave pianos and wordless diva vocal samples over a backbone of steely breakbeats and fat analogue bass pads, before Reprazent / Full Cycle veteran DJ Die makes a welcome reappearance alongside Dismantle as DieMantle with ‘Be Right There’ , which similarly offers up a seamless meeting point between the stripped back junglist explorations that established his reputation and the efficient snare-roll propulsion of post-Teklife footwork. Excellent stuff all round that further cements Astrophonica’s reputation as a label to watch.