February 21, 2009
JOIN The Q, the debut album by The Qemists, meshes the high energy of drum’n‘bass and rock with a wide-ranging set of sounds that betray the fact that the mysterious trio were a band before they took to the decks.
We’re talking dancehall, metal, electro, grime and hip hop with a smattering of respected guest vocalists.
But while they’re certainly at the top end of the drum ‘n’ bass revival (easily surpassing the likes of Pendulum and even some of The Prodigy’s more recent material), it does threaten to outstay its welcome on occasion.
Album opener Stompbox, for example, is an unrelenting distortion of drum ‘n’ bass sound that could just as easily leave you reaching to turn it off.
Even Lost Weekend flirts with being too one-note and is saved only by an emphatic rock vocal from Faith No More’s Mike Patton, which give it extra bite.
Hats off to The Qemists, then, for at least trying to mix things up at regular points and keeping things interesting and of wider appeal than the early tracks suggest.
Dem Na Like Me, for instance, finds Wiley adding some grime and Brit-pop to the mix for an invigorating workout that deservedly became a recent single, while Alabama 3’s Zoe Devlin Love adds some sultry soul to S.W.A.G, which unfolds over the course of two tracks and surely represents the album at its most sonically ambitious.
There’s a distinctly Nine Inch Nails feel to the industrial rock and drum ‘n’ bass mix that is the pumped up Drop Audio, featuring MC ID, and they even draw on house and pop for Got One Life, which namechecks south London and features another useful guest vocal from MC Navigator – not to mention a famous classical sample weaving its way in and out to appealing effect.
They end with a flourish, too… The Perfect High referencing the voiceover on Michael Jackson’s Thriller for opening effect, before dropping an utterly pulsating collision of orchestra, electronica and drum ‘n’ bass beats to, quite literally, finish things off in breathless, sweaty style.
It’s just a shame that Join The Q can’t quite maintain the high standards of its best tracks. If drum ‘n’ bass is your main music scene, you’ll be riveted. But for an album that threatened so much crossover appeal, it’s not nearly as accessible (or enjoyable) as it might have been.
Download picks: Lost Weekend, Dem Na Like Me, S.W.A.G, Got One Life…
2. Lost Weekend
3. On The Run
4. Dem Na Like Me
5. S.W.A.G (intro)
7. Drop Audio
8. When Ur Lonely
10. Got One Life
11. The Perfect High
All in all, it’s what Pendulum’s latest album should have sounded like…