Neurodriver – Living In The Future


Gone are the days when people would wait expectantly for an artist’s album release – with downloads there is usually just a slow drip feed of tracks released when the artist has finished each track. But this release feels like a proper album release and something Dom Smart (Neurodriver) has been working on for a while now and is not releasing the full album until 30th June. And believe me when I say the wait will be worth it –this is one to buy whole and play in order like the old days when you bought an album on vinyl or CD and sat there intently listening. The only things missing are sleeve notes to mull over…but now you have this review.

1. Red Sky. From the first track you get the feeling you’re in for a ride on a journey into an aural landscape (this was the first track that has been pre-released of two to listen to so get a feel now by clicking above). This track evokes Middle Eastern music with a drum sound on it that sounds a bit like a tabla. The melody also brings to mind hotter climates and a feeling of mesmeric trance in its repetition that slowly starts to echo and distort into a more psychedelic almost acid sound – are those voices in there or is it just the distortion playing tricks? This is an unexpected sound for anyone who knows Neurodriver for his psy-breaks sound (I hate that term as I have never considered him psy anything but it has a sound that has always been loved by the psytrance crowd) but it is a track that sets you up in anticipation for the adventure about to come.

2. Ball of Judgement. The tabla sound of the first track is continued on this track but now the pace has started ramping up a bit. The bass has started kicking in – it’s like that moment when a great DJ comes on at a night and you know this is going to build into a great set that you’ll remember for a long time (or not at all but you know it was great). The breakdown has an ominous tone that is cathedral like in its tone before it starts to build again and you’re soon back on the ride but suddenly the key changes on the drop and the track has become slightly discordant but brilliant for it. This left me just longing for the next track as I knew there would be more delights.

3. Pointilliste. The drums and percussion gives a sense of something wicked this way comes and sure enough the bass comes in – a dark rolling wave of sonic deliverance. “My god this is excellent” you’ll cry as the percussion chimes and distorts at the same time and each time that bass rumbles you’ll want to have Dom’s babies. It is all so unlike Neurodrivers’ previous oeuvre you’ll forget who it is at times. I so want to hear this on as loud a system as I can get – it makes me excited and so glad I’ll be seeing him at Noisily Festival this year on the main stage to hear this LOUD. That percussion I understand is the pointillism of the title pinpointing the sound and painting a picture that can only be appreciated at a distance (or the bass will deafen you –maybe).

4. On The Level. This starts on a firm techno kick drum with a building sound underneath that reminded me of Green Velvet’s Laser Beams. Then the sound builds until it breaks with a vocal sample that twists and turns like he is manipulating it on tape like George Martin did for the Beatles in the 60s (but obviously it’s not done the same way here). This reminds me of Meat Katie or early Mike Hulme and those are two of my main squeezes so I can’t recommend it highly enough. At this point you’ll be thinking you’re not even half way through the album and you’re this psyched up you need some relief.

5. Through The Prism. And here it comes – a slower more chilled beat with echoing Tibetan type bells which slowly give way to a more bouncing beat and it builds and builds with overlays and overlays and before you know it you’re no longer in the chill zone but bouncing along to an acid track with full on distortion and you wonder how did I get here. I guess this is what he means by Through The Prism – as light gets changed and bent by a prism so does the sound here as it goes through of Dom’s music prism.

6. Singularity. This is the first track that hints at Neurodrivers’ previous sound but even then it is moving on. The basic beat is his signature sound with bleeps and an insistent beat but after that second break the bass kicks in hard and the whole track echoes and throbs like a jelly fish on acid (I imagine).

7. Cognitive Dissonance. This title relates to a psychological theory that, according to Wikipedia, is the mental discomfort experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs. It starts off so far so techno a lovely bubbling acid tinged beat and the bass kicks in on cue – lovely. Your mind is now set up for a rolling tech funk monster when suddenly it breaks in that distinctive Neurodriver way and another more dissonant sound comes which builds and more dissonance comes in and your mind is truly discomforted – in a nice way. The discordant and slightly off key beat bobbles along in its wonky way until it fades in a cacophony of dissonant dissidence …but wait from deep down comes an almost anthemic series of chord progressions which builds and takes the tune on until losing ground again to the discord. This track truly lives up to the name – Leon Festinger would be proud.

8. Smooth Oscillator. At last a cover of the great Sade tune…only kidding although this wouldn’t be out of place as a background to a dinner party (well one of mine anyway). It is almost Acid Jazz Techno with an organ sound laying down some chords –Daddio. But it maintains enough of a beat to keep you interested and dancing and those jazz chords drift ever so slightly so you know everything isn’t going to run into Jazz funk just yet. Out of the breakdown comes a kind of house beat which intrigues and is a real change for Dom. This may take a couple of listens to truly appreciate. Not that it’s bad it just may not be to everyone’s taste.

9. Vanishing Point. I love a track that starts with a menacing sound coming from deep down in the mix and that’s why this is a great track in my mind. It has a great progressive techno feel to it with a lovely chilled break that would be great on a summery afternoon until that beat starts again and builds with rises and the percussion takes it away into another sphere and you can lose yourself in the beats like all good progressive music should. I can see this appearing in many mixes this summer.

10. Morning Tracer. This track bounces along to start with a great percussive rhythm and the bass and beat move in with a great rise moving through it until it breaks and moves into a progressive arpeggio that wouldn’t be out of place in an Ibiza trance tune. But just as you’re thinking this is where it’s going along comes a bit of acid to wake you up and the rhythm grabs the tune and shakes it up a bit until along comes that arpeggio again but this time a bit more twisted and the rhythm comes back in hard and takes you away for a final fling on the journey before fading away ever so slowly until you are left with nothing and you feel a bit empty…but you know what you can listen to it again because you’ve bought it – you have bought it haven’t you?

The whole album makes me glad to be living at this moment in time and if this is what living in the future will be like then I’m looking forward to it.

Music to very much BUY and enjoy

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