In the rush to beat out the competition or to keep up with it, music critics often overlook lesser-known but influential artists. Nowhere is this scenario more apparent than in electronic music, a genre that continues to thrive in the realm of the 12-inch, but that receives notice only when an electronic producer releases an album (a "longplayer" in DJ-speak).
ARO.space, Sunday, November 8
So while the critics scramble to write about Photek, Roni Size, and Goldie, equally deserving jungle producers remain in the shadows. DJ Krust is one of those producers whose body of work remains as impressive as that of his cohort and sometime bandmate, Size, but whose status is sadly relegated to the dance floor.
Krust's music, not surprisingly, feels similar to Size and the other Reprazent crew—DJ Die and DJ Suv—not least because the foursome spent formative musical years together in their native Bristol. Krust and company have been around as long as the seminal Bristol sound system the Wild Bunch, the crew that spawned Massive Attack, and Smith and Mighty. But though Roni Size continues to record and remix 12-inches for his own labels and others, it was Reprazent's full-length, New Forms, that garnered praise and accolades. And though Krust is a vital member and contributor to Reprazent, his 12-inch work—as with Die's and Suv's—gets passed over in favor of the more glamorous and seemingly more arduous album format.
More bombastic than Size's, but no less refined, Krust's music might be harder for the rockist crits and fans to get their heads around. Marked by a primal urgency, but simultaneously coupled with sophisticated but not-too-smooth vocals and barely a hint of jazz, classic Krust tracks like "Maintain" are beautifully dark and very different from the adult-contemporary drum and bass of the Mercury Awardwinning New Forms.
Like his Bristol friends, Krust records for several labels, including Full Cycle, V, and Dope Dragon. His releases on each vary in feel and sound. Early works on V, like "Jazz Note"/"Burning," are erratic, with jagged edges and treble ruling as the track grows from near minimalism to a full-out war of beats and pieces. The producer's Full Cycle releases demonstrate his knack for tidy, controlled beats and off-kilter rhythms that sound deceptively simple. While the abstract jungle of producers like Photek pleases the critics because it's "intelligent," Krust's work on the futuristic Genetic Manipulations EP (Full Cycle) is just as structurally complex and satisfying as any head-trip drum and bass.
But even Krust's most accessible release, "Maintain" (V), with its gloriously sublime vocals by Morgan doesn't crack the critics or the mainstream public's consciousness. No wonder then that the typical Krust track frightens even those indoctrinated into album-orientated drum and bass, but not the jungle of the dance floor. 1997's "Warhead" (V) is the sort of jungle that makes you keep the faith. A tremendous track—it's still effective a year after its release date (unlike the typical 12-inch, whose life span is at most three months). Wailing sirens creep up to the surface, struggling against a dank, deep subterranean sea of bass; by the time the siren reaches its piercing apex, the drums crescendo into a caterwaul of force and fury. "Warhead" has all the hallmarks of good jungle—bass and space with a tension rivaling two siblings' bitter fight. If that's not rock 'n' roll, then I don't know what is.