The rise of the underground continues. Hardcore Underground, specifically. Taking the increasingly unusual step of releasing physical product (in the case of the album under review, physical only), HU are given the buying public something tangible, something real. In terms of an actual CD, and the music which is contained thereon.
Fracus & Darwin’s second artist album, Point Of No Return, was released on the 28th May. The tracks on the album vary from more-or-less straight-up UK hardcore, to breakbeat hardcore, freeform and the album exhibits traces of trance, hip hop and more. Weighing in at an extensive 17 tracks, the promotion of the album, including a TV spot, offered much hope for the release. Both Fracus and Darwin have built reputations in live performances both separately and as a duo, and both producers personalities are allowed to shine on PONR.
The opener, Chime is an immediately beautiful track, produced in collaboration with CLSM. Hints of UK hardcore and trance sounds can be located in the breakdown, but Chime, as one would expect with CLSM, is dominated by breaks in the main. The vocals are filtered, but the effects are not overdone.
No Disguise has a rushing intro reminiscent of Fracus’ work with Next Generation’s Brisk, before ghostly-sounding female vocals lead into the main breakdown. The main vocal line lifts out of this, underpinned with subtle breaks. The track is a great example of the established F&D sound which was showcased on 2010’s Balancing Act and is a lesson in modern hardcore music production.
The trancy intro and stomping beat of Magnetised points to the track seeming to fill the role of a DJ tool, until the breakdown and euphoric, vocal snatches, with Turn Back Time acting as an obvious follow on. This really impressive number flows from intro, into a staggering sampled vocal drop, epic breaks and roll-along piano.
The majority of music on PONR works very well. A mark of quality in electronic music is when elements are not immediately obvious, but prove indispensable when listened to repeatedly. Hard To Find is an example of this. The track features Fracus on vocals in front of sparkling, shimmery, electrodub- influenced UK hardcore accompaniment.
The quality continues to shine through on Love Comes Back, on which Jessica Palmer’s vocals filter in, in classic hardcore fashion. Synths balance, and the way the vocals sweep in and out is truly beautiful. One ticket to goosebump city, please.
On Voodoo Magic , featuring Frikshon, hints of reggae and hip hop are discernible in the intro, before the music drops into breaks at a varied pace, whilst Yesterday is a driving chase track, with nods to both happy hardcore and freeform.
There is a chilled interval in the shape of Drivetime. A slow, deliberate intro is floated over by Chwhynny’s vocals. Drivetime denotes a different take on Fracus & Darwin’s work, with the producers not afraid of taking a step away from the bustling beats and pounding bass.
Music Blocks proves to be a combination of all aspects of F&D’s work – breaks collide with freeform-y synths and multiple effects. The piece starts with a rising melody, before the pitch drops and the track continues. Standing In The Rain meanwhile has more hints at the classic UK hardcore sound, and its beats and pianos are of the very simple but highly effective school, with all elements working joyously together.
Snap! (with Obie) is a punchy, stompy, techno-y track complete with MC snatches at intervals, driven by hard, pitched-up synths. The intent of Step Down is obvious from its title, but the cut is again an example of PONR’s ability to appeal to the unusual. Breaks morph in, surrounded by spacey bleeps, but the piece melds into something different. (Rapped) vocals are provided by Fracus again.
One of PONR’s stand out moments, and one of my personal favourite tracks before its release is Got The Rhythm, featuring Becca Hossany. The vocals are damn near perfect, as is the message they convey. Hands will go up right from the off and the pacing and the way the breaks burst into life is fantastic.
Supporters of Hardcore Underground, and their mission of providing a new and progressive style of hardcore will have wanted this album to be a fitting and high quality follow up to Balancing Act – and it so is. F&D are firing on all cylinders, and those looking for music of variety with an underground edge will do worse than look into Point Of No Return.