The remarkable thing about the drum and bass genre is its near total disregard for tradition. In its early inception that grew from the jungle scene, the foundations were laid for composers to develop breakbeats, ambient pieces to the more abstract jazz improvisations. But it has often been a studio and club based movement. Now however, drum and bass is moving to fuller vocal forms that can be performed live with a full band and this is where bands like obedientbone come to fore.
Devon based, they are vocalist Demelza, programmer James Yardley, (brother of Stanton Warriors‘ Mark Yardley), bass player Richard Newton Austin and on drums, Tim Peirce. The first track on their debut album marks their introduction with a class tune. Lost It kicks in nasty but swiftly arrives at a laid-back beat that could be called ‘lounge dnb’. Languid and effortlessly lazy, vocalist Demelza hit a mark with a cool swirling vocal backed by throbbing production. As the chorus rises, the mounting melody takes the listener to a place beckoning dance pure and simple.
Can I Just Say starts serene and lush. Lopped harps swish and swirl as the beat brings it heavier. The live bass shafts this tune forward as Demelza’s clipped vocals propel the melody. It swarms into a maze in the verse that then hits a stand still for the chorus again to enter with its uplifting bent. The discordant harmonies add another layer of vocal interest to a smooth and cool tune.
The silkiness and effortless flow of the first two tracks are eminently pleasing in a laid back way. Listeners will sway and dance and simply enjoy. More interestingly however, the next tune, Spunge breaks it up beat and melody wise and with this heralds a more remarkable aspect of the LP. Harmonies mix with abstract based production, a gloriously crazed bass line, and as the chopped up verse flows into a mayhem chorus that really hits the manic mark. The listener is rewarded by the hardness of Demelza’s vocals, more than the sweetness evident in other songs and as this album starts to show that it has two tails, the purest lounge dance aspect, and the less immediate, more experimental bent, the listener becomes seriously intrigued.
Lyrically, Demelza attempts poetic statement. In the supreme Chlorine she writes “I posses a certain anarchy, contradiction, or two, collected all these memories, sand and chlorine, black blue”, and there is a flow of words that creates a feeling of movement within the songs. This, in turn, creates almost an illusion of style that maintains the impetus of the tunes. Interesting.
The commercial supremo of the LP is without a doubt Tendril, featuring the mayhemed vocals of Brighton boy MC Darrison. The bass hits it hard with a throbbing drum line and it immediately grabs the listener and will not let go. This track impacts in a similar way to The Prodigy‘s Firestarter or Tricky‘s Black Steel, it drills into your head and stays there, unyielding in its intensity. This tune will ram home in the clubs and were there any musical justice, would chart.
Little Bit More shows obedientbone at their off kilter best. The production is beautifully nasty and jazz intonated. Demelza’s vocals are fuzzed up, which works to innovative effect and illustrates obedientbone’s ability to write imaginative dance forms rather than presenting just straight tunes.
Less Is More is less satisfying however. Its poppy inflection feels lacking in the verse, and though rising to lovely effect in the chorus this tune simply does not have the depth now expected. Indeed, the band’s tendency to start a track with delicacy, nasty or otherwise, hit in with a hooking melody, then change it to mayhem at the slightest inclination is far more intriguing and rewarding. Quaxitron is good example of this with its jazzed up beat hitting it heavy with blast creativity.
This album introduces obedientbone as a class live dance act and a serious contender of new wave dnb. The listener is intrigued by musical invention and also delighted by purest dance tunes, which makes them appealing to both hardcore dnb aficionados as well as to a broader market. It’s a long album, perhaps slightly too long with the short musical interludes between some tracks not feeling necessary. However, with the long awaited live dnb evolution on its way, there is little doubt that obedientbone will be at the centre of it.