Calling your musical project D/R/U/G/S is almost certain to attract attention, if not necessarily for the right reasons. Slightly controversial and unlikely to garner much daytime airplay, it is the kind of moniker that inevitably carries an air of prejudice within it. In this case, thoughts of Nathan Barley character Mandy singing the nu rave pastiche 'Bad Uncle' immediately spring to mind. Thankfully we're also wrong. Very, very wrong as it happens.
Not to be confused with the American cliche rock outfit D.R.U.G.S., this D/R/U/G/S is actually the brainchild of one Callum Wright, London-born but more often found in Manchester these days. Although initially a duo - former accomplice George Haydock seems to have mysteriously disappeared altogether - there's something endearing about Wright's sparsely crafted, ambient techno that not only draws comparisons with fellow incumbents of hypnotic electronica Gold Panda and Mount Kimbie, but also harks back to the more eloquent days of Squarepusher's earliest releases or The Orb's less transient moments.
Take Love/Lust's pulsating title track for example, has a gradual build-up into late Nineties tranceworld that elicits memories of Alex Paterson's halcyon period without resorting to the vacuous hedonistic tendencies much of that era was emblazoned with. The more cynical among us could even suggest that maybe if James Blake's debut long player had followed a similar trajectory we'd be hailing it as a masterpiece rather than ruing over what might have been, but I guess that's a discussion best left for a different arena.
Its on the double whammy of 'Velodrome 1' and 'Velodrome 2' that Wright's singular vision becomes fully realised. The bass-laden heaviness of part one coupled with its hypnotic sensuality provide a more delicate, uplifting passage into the sashaying guitars that follow, heralding a brief encounter with Manchester's heroic past. The second part of 'Velodrome' offers Wright's most club-orientated composition to date, mixing a pent up rhythm and submarine bassline with bleeps more commonly associated with early Warp acts like Sweet Exorcist and LFO. Throw in a penchant for disturbingly menacing synchronised vocals and you've one of the most diversely orchestrated pieces of electronic music this nation has produced in years.
Of course its still only early days yet for Callum Wright and D/R/U/G/S, and as the nervous performances at last year's In The City showed, his project aren't quite the finished article just yet. Nevertheless, Love/Lust represents a significant step forward towards that ultimate goal, and with it one of the UK dance scene's most visionary releases so far this year.
8Dom Gourlay's Score