Pendulum were the first act to force the seemingly stubborn genre of drum and bass to crossover into the mainstream and garner themselves some success. But at what cost? The scene they took their inspiration from has largely turned its back on them and shrugged its shoulders at their commercial achievements. By some they are now regarded as nothing but a watered down, mainstream, indie-influenced cop-out that is dismissed as ‘clown step’.
But what has all of this got to do with Ninja Tune’s latest signings, The Qemists? Well, everything and nothing. The Qemists do come from the same drum and bass stable and their larger than life beats and breaks and rock influences may upset some of the D&B connoisseurs just as Pendulum do, but there’s more substance and energy to the Brighton-based trio than their contemporaries have shown in a long time.
There’s no sense that they have just decided to dilute a style so it’s easier to flog. Much of the album is as uncompromising as the most credible of drum and bass acts but the difference is The Qemist’s music isn’t completely dark and moody, there’s an element of enjoyment and fun lurking in there too.
That may come as a surprise when you see that Mike Patton from Faith No More and grime superstar Wylie are guesting on Lost Weekend and Dem Na Like Me respectively, but while this isn’t an album of ‘clown step’, it’s not one for the brigade of overly serious, moody, chin-stroking heads that D&B sometimes attracts either.
That could form the album’s downfall: not accessible enough to appeal to Pendulum’s more pop-oriented crowd and too much fun for anyone who wants to stand in the corner of a nightclub with a frown on. But if you take Join The Q on its own musical merits alone, you’ll discover an album that’s mostly in your face and full of raucous energy but also betrays the attention to detail The Qemists have clearly put into every track.
From the off the album is all about intensity, with the wailing sirens and pumped up guitar thrashing of Stompbox flying off into a full on, growling D&B rock out. Lost Weekend, another highlight, follows in a similar vein, building up into a jump around shouted ‘chorus’ from Patton.
There’s little let up throughout, aside from the brooding intro to S.W.A.G which eventually shows both the soulful side and the attitude of vocalist Jenna G. Early single and album standout Drop Audio probably encapsulates The Qemists’ rock and dance mix best as it shifts tempo to allow the beats to rain down. If the bombardment of your senses this music offers doesn’t even mildly excite you, you really should get that pulse checked.
If people can just drop their preconceptions of what drum and bass should be – both the Pendulum popsters and the D&B hardcore – then there could just be a niche for The Qemists to slot into very nicely.