by Sterling McGarvey
Before beginning the review, a warning might be appropriate. If you're part of the Thugalist massive who can't tolerate any Drum n' Bass that doesn't involve an NWA sample or robotic angst, then please click the "back" button on your browser. Save yourself the trouble.
Now, for the uninitiated, Nookie (aka Gavin Cheung, his real name; he has produced tracks under a plethora of aliases) was the huge signee in 2000 to LTJ Bukem's Good Looking Records. His role in the Hardcore and Jungle scene of the early '90s is held in great esteem. A remix of Goldie's "Inner City Life," as well as releases on Reinforced and Moving Shadow, are among his many accolades. His remixes for Good Looking artists such as Makoto and MC Conrad have been among the highlights of the label's discography in the past year.
in@thedeepend is his first solo CD for the label, and it is his first full length album since 1995's The Sound of Music. DJs will certainly have a copy of this album in their repertoire when it's all said and done. Music connoisseurs shouldn't be in the dark, either. This album will exceed expectations not that they were low in the beginning.
The album opens up with "Disillusion," which sounds a little sparser and darker than most GLO releases that I'm used to hearing. Not that it's a vicious sphincter-ripper or anything, but it's certainly a bit colder than the rest of the album. "Natural Experience" is the cut that's mixed into the Progression Sessions: Live in America disc. It is on this album in all of its unmixed and instrumental glory. It's all about the keys on this track.
"Pushing the Vibe" features the vocal talents of MC DRS. Keys and vocals overlap a funky electric bass and DRS's spoken word lyrics. "Innerspace" takes us through a vast soundscape. It feels like a film score laced over the Hotpants break.
The jumpy drum kick of "Dimension of Sound" definitely makes it a standout of the album. This is a track you could expect to hear at peak hour of a Blame or Bukem set Stateside. It's got that Intelligent sound to it, but at the same time, it lets loose enough to make you go crazy, like the best Makoto productions.
"Blu Funk" brings to mind that old (unconfirmed) legend about Virgin Airlines playing "Inner City Life" before takeoff to calm passengers. It soars. The intro reaches and glides. It's a befitting soundtrack for a trip over the friendly skies. "Beyond Therapy" demonstrates more of Nookie's predisposition toward the keys as they run over a stabbing kick and filters.
Before proceeding, a warning would be appropriate. If you're part of the Militant Junglist Krewe who can't tolerate anything that's not at least 180 BPM or appears to be part of a genre that rhymes with "mouse" and starts with an "H," or you think Detroit Techno is part of the aforementioned genre, then please click the "back" button on your browser. You've read all you can handle.
It is with the final two tracks on the album that things take a turn for the unexpected. The quality of the Drum n' Bass tracks is certainly evident, but "Stepping Back (Made in Detroit Mix)" is something completely different. This one's straight out of Michigan '87. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck...nah. Another cliché comes to mind. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and damned if this shouldn't flatter the taste of old school heads out there.
Finally, the album closes out with "My Lovin'" featuring the vocal talents of Ebony Simone. Once again, it's all about the keys as Nookie breaks out a vocal House track that parallels nicely with the House tracks that Good Looking puts out, especially those on the "Earth" series. It also brings to mind the buzz that surrounded Photek in late 2000-early 2001 around his House track, "Mine to Give."
So...if you've made it this far without clicking "Back," you might ask yourself: "Should I buy this album? Good Looking Records CDs ain't cheap, you know!" If you are heavily into the Intelligent DnB sound, then there is no reason not to pick it up. If you are a DnB DJ who spins Intelligent, then you should be smiling as you read this as you look over at your copy of it on vinyl. It's not off the deep end; it's @thedeepend.
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