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Floating on a soul cloud, high above the destruction, sat Lincoln Barrett, young, ambitious, Welsh and - at that point - short of hair.
A wry smile played across his mouth as he helped fellow rebels of nonchalance (Marcus Intalex, Fabio, DJ Marky, Calibre, London Elektricity, 4 Hero, LTJ Bukem) deftly weave rays of sunshine into a coruscating musical rainbow that would act as a beacon for the soul-loving masses - and perhaps woo the chicks back too.
It worked. By the time High Contrast's debut LP (True Colours) was ready in 2002, the scene had bloomed into a multitude of fabulous flavas and his mellifluous mix of eclectic beats was joyously received.
Fast forward to 2004.
Barrett is a little older, his hair is bigger (rivalling now John B's brazen bouffant) and his production skills have definitely matured.
The vast talent hinted at on his debut is confirmed in his sophomore effort High Society - an album that effortlessly blends samba, jazz, 2step, bossa nova, hip hop, rare groove and Detroit techno, and has been favourably touted by the mighty Fabio as one of the best in the scene "for a couple of years".
Yet to call it a conventional d&b album would be to do High Society an injustice.
The rhythmic rush and compelling warmth of tunes like opener "Lovesick", "Tutti Frutti", "The Persistence Of Memory" and "Racing Green" (which has seen more rinses than a West End salon) are perfect for the hip-twirling excesses of the dancefloor, but it's the gregarious genre-blending that makes the album truly interesting.
"Only Two Can Play" (featuring the enigmatically monikered Spoonface) "Angels and Fly" (with East-end grimester Nolay) and even the downtempo title track (starring ubiquituos, multi-speed MC Dynamite) are all amoeba-like creations, side-stepping convention and brimming with typical Contrastian whimsy - fine examples of his magically off-kilter 'phusionistic' approach.
By creating an LP that has more thrillers than fillers, more skills than frills and more funk than thump, he warmly invites us all - yes, the ladies as well - back into the radiant, multi-coloured, post-apocalyptic world that is, once again, drum & bass. --Jack Smith
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NB: anything not by ed rush or optical will automatically get slated. if in doubt - please also check any review of kosheen and lamb.
'high contrast' is clearly trying to mess around with the form, add his own flavour to the proceedings, and generally do something new with DnB. this is commendable. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. when it doesn't - yes, it can be pretty weak. but when 'high contrast' gets it right - man, it is really really good. the two highlights IMO are the malevolent eighties-inflected 'natural high' and the soulful (but pretentiously named!) 'twightlights last gleaming'.
overall - the mis-steps are not as embarassing as some would have you beleive, the standard is pretty high, and the highs are remarkable.
if you are window-lickingly contented with the standard jungle format, set 10 years ago and utterly unchanged ever since - then look elsewhere. if you are a bit more open-minded about DnB, and want something that is a bit more commercial, without being subversive pop, then look no further. and check out this album - it contains some real quality.
Every now and then someone comes along who produces something magical on the scene. On this album High Contrast has fused melodies with Drum & Bass to awesome effect.
The title track and 'Racing Green' (a huge uplifting track, which was a hit on the scene earlier in the year) stand out for me as the best tracks on the album, the former with Dynamite MC on vocals. The title track 'High Society' is where I feal High Contrast displays how Drum & Bass fits so well with melodies, apose to the mish mash of poor drum beats and bad production (so often the case with many a dub plate). The album also includes guest vocals from Nolay and Spoonface, these being the only tracks that feature vocals. The track featuring Nolay 'Angels and Fly' starts out as a hip hop based track and almost ruins the album., as it would not follow the format of the rest of the album. However, it soon bursts into life after a short breakdown and actually adds to the album, as again it is something different.
High Contrast has kept the album largely melody based, but at the same time it still keeps the drums rolling. If you have bought any of the 'Hospital' compilations the beats you are getting here will not be too unfimiliar to you, along with the two step style (as used for Dynamite MC on his track 'Ride'). The album also includes 'The Basement Track' from last year as a bonus track (a two step track with a rolling base line). This rounds off the album nicely.
Listening to this album reminded me of the first time I heard Goldie, where something completely different had been done with Drum and Bass. Hopefully this album will inspire likeminded DJ's and Producers to do similar things, as I feal this is he way forward for Drum & Bass in the future. I don't have the first album, but I will definately be buying it now!!
'High Society' is High Contrast's (born Lincoln Barrett) follow up to 2002's stunning debut 'True Colours', which recently made iDJ magazine's "All Time Dance Albums" listing.
'High Society' features variety and style as its main ingredients - from dancefloor thumpers like 'Racing Green', 'Tutti Frutti' and 'Persistence Of Memory', to genre bending selections like the dancehall-soulboy styles of the Spoonface-led 'Only Two Can Play', to future classic 'Angels And Fly' that brings in upcoming grime star vocalist Nolay, and the Dynamite MC vocalled title track.